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What Is Webflow? The Future Of Web Development?

The current state of web development

Traditional web development has its benefits for specific cases, such as for websites that require complex processes, but for almost all businesses out there it has a fair share of issues that are not worth dealing with, such as:

  • Requires coding knowledge. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as a minimum.
  • Designers have no control over how their designs will get developed.
  • Very slow and expensive to develop a website.
  • Performance and security issues are common.
  • Requires constant maintenance (costly).
  • Always reliant on developers to make changes.
  • Developers take forever to make changes on the site.
  • No streamlined flow between the design, development, and marketing teams.

The easier option would be to pick a website template to easily build a cost-effective website, but the site will look like it because many other businesses are probably using the same template as yours as well.

Your business isn’t a template, nor should your website. So what if you want to build a custom website exactly the way you want to represent your business, but you rather don’t want to deal with the issues that come from traditional web development? The answer is Webflow.

What is Webflow?

Webflow is a visual website development platform that lets you build custom websites on a visual canvas from complete scratch without a single line of code, which means designers can also become developers. The web development platform has gained massive popularity over the last few years, and today millions of users from small businesses to large enterprises are using Webflow as their choice for hosting their website.

History of Webflow

The company was founded in 2013 in San Francisco, California. Before the company’s founding, Webflow’s CEO Vlad Magdalin and his co-founder Sergie Magdalin started off as web design freelancers while in college, they were building websites for clients on a popular website builder platform called WordPress.

As they worked on more projects, the implementation of the design into WordPress became more difficult, for example, they had to find the right theme for the design they had, implement the code, work on bug fixes, do security maintenance, and all the other hurdles of web development at the time, so at some point, it became so much that they started thinking there must be another way to do it better. That's where the idea of Webflow got started.

The web development platform started off as a tool for freelancers, which gave designers the ability to convert their designs into a functioning website without any code, and it worked. In fact, it worked very well that it got the attention of Y Combinator along with other VC firms to invest $2.9 million and eventually a fund of $72 million from Accel into the company.

Fast forward to today, the company has managed to raise over $300 million in funding from major Venture Capital firms, which includes the most recent Series C funding of $150 million in 2021. Webflow is at a $4 billion valuation in 2022 with over 3.5 million users and over 400 members at the time of writing this post, so we probably can say that Webflow is now competing in the major leagues with WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and few other platforms.

How does Webflow work?

Webflow is built in a way that allows sophisticated customization that web developers require, yet it also makes it very easy for clients who aren’t tech-savvy to make changes on the site effortlessly without relying on developers, unlike WordPress.

The platform has two separate user interfaces:

  • Designer:  where web developers implement the website.
  • Editor: where clients can easily make changes to the site on their own after the development has been completed.

Webflow Designer

Even though Webflow has a drag-and-drop system similar to Wix, the level of customization that you can access for each component is far beyond what you get with other platforms that operate on fixed templates. The customization on Webflow is almost like coding in HTML, CSS, and Javascript, but without the actual code by using the visual toolbar that lets you control the parameters of HTML and CSS parameters visually.

As you're building the website in the Designer, Webflow generates a clean, semantic code in the background that doesn’t slow down your website and doesn’t leave any security loopholes in the code that could get the site hacked (which is common with WordPress sites).

See the image below to get a sense of what Webflow Designer’s user interface looks like.

Compile Marketing's website in Webflow's Designer

Webflow Editor

Say goodbye to the old days when you have to wait weeks or even months for developers to make changes on your website, even as simple as changing the text and images, so you have no control over the website that you probably invested thousands of dollars on and you’re constantly relying on developers.

With the Webflow Editor, clients can make changes to their site without involving a developer, such as replacing an image, video, descriptions, logos, and so on. The editing process is the same as editing a word document, you simply hover the mouse cursor over any element and make the changes. See the Editor’s interface in the image below.

Compile Marketing's website in Webflow Editor

Pros of using Webflow

Full design control

The main selling point of Webflow is that you can design pretty much any kind of website without any code and limitations that you may have come across with website templates from other platforms, so you can have a custom website exactly the way you want it to represent your business and differentiate it from competitors to earn the trust of new customers.

Edit a site without developers

As mentioned earlier, Webflow has two separate user interfaces called the Designer and the Editor. It allows developers to develop the designs and animations inside the Designer, and clients have their own simple interface called the Editor to make basic changes to their website content without needing a developer, it works like editing a word document, easy right?

Zero maintenance

Webflow websites require zero maintenance for a few reasons. The first reason is that the websites built on Webflow run on clean, semantic code, so you won’t have to worry about any security loopholes in the website code that attackers can take advantage of.

Secondly, Webflow doesn’t have a built-in plugin system like WordPress for a good reason, however, Webflow does integrate with third-party apps. The issue with plugins is they have to be updated specifically for WordPress and keep up with the updates of the WordPress platform, so if the plugins updates fall short, the plugins will start to leave vulnerabilities in the site code, which is very common with WordPress users that fail to maintain their site and getting their site hacked as a result.

Even if the plugins are up-to-date, they can still leave security loopholes on the site because their developers may have not implemented proper code. The same also goes for WordPress themes, where the code they’re built on can pose a security vulnerability, especially the third-party themes.

Super fast websites

Websites that are built with Webflow have a much better performance compared to other website builder platforms because Webflow works with clean, semantic code that makes your site loads fast, whereas other platforms have their code full of bloatware that slows down a website significantly.

Another reason Webflow websites perform so well is that they have over 100+ data centers and servers worldwide that are powered by the industry-leading cloud computing platform of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is also used by major companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, BBC Netflix, and more. Regardless of where your website visitors are coming from, the website will load fast anywhere on the globe, even during traffic spikes.

Customizable CMS

A huge and very important feature offered by Webflow is its own Content Management System (CMS). In case you don’t know what CMS is, it's basically like a database built on your website, and that database can be like a list of blog posts, portfolios, real estate listings, etc, so you get the idea, and every platform has its own CMS.

Webflow CMS is unique because not only do you get the benefit of the performance and security capabilities that the platform offers but it's also combined with powerful design tools where you can also customize the design of the content as well.

Ecommerce

Another major benefit is that you can build an e-commerce store within the platform called Webflow Ecommerce. We like to point out that it's not as advanced as a big player like Shopify yet (which is built specifically for e-commerce websites), but we’ll detail out the comparison in another post.

A big reason why someone would choose to build an e-commerce store on Webflow Ecommerce (which is very capable) over Shopify is that they want to have the design and CMS customization that Webflow offers. Shopify does have nice templates, but they’re very saturated, however, if you were on Shopify, you’re still better off going with their templates rather than paying for the page builder apps that are offered on the Shopify App Marketplace, because they’re not optimized, which will make your site slow and buggy, but also they’re not really a full suite design tools.

Cons of using Webflow

Learning curve

Since Webflow offers a sophisticated level of design customization without code that perhaps no platform offers, it’ll come with a steeper learning curve if you were to build a professional-grade website, but that only applies to developers since clients won’t be handling the development part of the website and instead use Webflow’s Editor that is made for clients to make edits on their own without needing a developer after the site has been fully developed, which A LOT of companies that used to deal with the headaches of WordPress will appreciate.

In many cases, the learning curve isn’t relevant because companies would hire someone to build their website anyways regardless of what platform (ahem we build sites too). If you are a developer, you’ll be very familiar with the platform since it has an interface for controlling HTML and CSS properties. If you haven’t coded websites before, then you’re also covered because Webflow has its own free educational website called Webflow University, It has super high-quality tutorials that make learning the platform a breeze.

Cost

The cost of hosting a website on Webflow is similar to other website builder platforms, but if you’re a freelancer, a web design agency, or a large team then it’ll cost more. Webflow has two types of plans, one is the Site Plan which you’re familiar with, and the other is Workspace Plan (formerly Account Plan).

The Workspace Plans basically let you build multiple websites under the same account before they get sent off to the client’s account, and they also have features that teams require such as collaboration, permissions, and an increased number of collaborators.

So if you’re a company that just hosts its own website and doesn’t have a large team, then you don’t need to worry about paying for Account Plans unless you’re working with multiple websites and collaborators.

See Webflow’s Pricing to learn more.

Major upcoming Webflow features

Memberships

You’ll be able to create a user login system on your custom Webflow website, where you can implement a free or paid membership(s), this way you don’t have to integrate a third-party software such as Memberstack, which streamlines your process under one platform and reduce the cost for using extra software. At the moment, Webflow Memberships is in a beta phase and there isn’t an official release date yet, but we’ll be expecting it to be released soon.

Logic

Logic is Webflow’s built-in Zapier-like automation/workflow feature. You can trigger specific actions based on conditions that you set on the site. For example, let's say you have a contact form, if someone contacts you for an inquiry, the email will be sent to the sales department, or if it's a customer inquiry, their email will be sent to customer service. That's just one example of what you can do with the power of Logic, there’ll be many more applications as it gets developed. Webflow’s Logic will be officially released sometime in 2022.

Conclusion

Is Webflow the future of web development? For the most part, yes. Webflow has revolutionized the web development industry by storm and solved many headaches that web developers and marketing teams dealt with for decades. Webflow became so successful that other competitors started to get involved in the no-code space, for example, Wix launched their own no-code web development platform called Editor X (we’ll talk about it in another post), and we’re expecting more competition down the road, so it’s going to be very interesting.

Despite the massive success of no-code platforms like Webflow, traditional web development is here to stay, but it’ll only be used for a much smaller percentage of websites where extremely complex systems are required, usually from large enterprises. On the other hand, simple drag-and-drop platforms will also stay, because many businesses, especially small local businesses just need a simple website that is cost-effective and gets the job done rather than investing a larger budget on a custom website that may not have an ROI as a larger company.