What is Webflow? Are No-Code Platforms The Future?
What is no-code?
By now you’ve probably seen the term “no-code”, “no-code platform” or “no-code automation” being thrown around a lot in the recent years. In simple terms, no-code platforms allows you to build an application without knowing how to code, hence the name “no-code”, by using a graphical interface that is provided by the platform.
The no-code world starting gaining popularity in early 2019 as shown in the image below from Google Trends, and now it has become significantly more popular as new platforms emerged (which we’ll get into shortly).
History of no-code
The concept of no-code has been around for much longer than we thought, it just there wasn’t a standard term for it at the time.
In the early days of internet somewhere in the early 2000s, you would need programming knowledge to build a website or an application, but eventually platforms like WordPress emerged, where you can setup a website without knowing how to code. All you had to do is create an account and pick a template for your site, so it become a revolutionary tool to build websites for many people. Today, WordPress is the most popular web platform, in fact, almost half of all websites are hosted by WordPress.
Fast forward couple of years to mid 2000s, new web platforms came along, one of them was WIX. The WIX platform introduced the popular drag and drop feature, where you can drag and drop elements on the visual canvas to customize your website beyond what a template offers, still without requiring any coding expertise. The drag and drop feature was and still is marketed heavily today, so this goes to show the potential no-code (which wasn’t a word at the time) and what an average person could create on their own. Then other platforms like Shopify and Squarespace also implemented the drag and drop feature into their platforms.
Most recently, there’s a somewhat new platform to the block that takes this level of customization without code even further, but before talk about it in detail, lets break down why no-code is beneficial.
Benefits of no-code?
So we know that a node-code platform will let you build a custom website, software application or automate software tasks without having to code. But why should you go with a no-code platform?
- Much faster prototyping. Secondly, is that you can rapidly prototype different designs or functionality by using the visual elements that are provided by the platform, so you can implement things as fast as ideas coming to your mind, which significantly reduces the time for prototyping compared to coding it.
Limitations of most website builder platforms
Website builder platforms such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc. are more than enough for most people or businesses looking for a website that gets the job done. However, if your business, especially if its a new business, relies heavily on getting customers online, then you need to make sure your website is fully optimized wherever possible to have the best chance of getting exposure when someone is looking for your products/services.
The common web platforms that we know of are a good fit for most people, but if you’re looking to take your site to a whole another level, you may encounter some limitations mentioned below:
- Limited design control. Often times when you’re working with templates, your design choices are limited within what a particular template offers, so you can only add what the template allows you to put on the site. Sometimes, you may like to integrate some designs from other templates into yours, but this will require customization with code. Another issue with templates is that your website might have a good chance of looking like someone else’s website, so it can be hard to differentiate your business.
- Slow website. Despite how easy it is to use templates, they can potentially slow your website significantly. This can happen because some templates are coded on the back-end very inefficiently and have a lot of unnecessary features that slow down the site which you might not use at all.
- Require coding for custom features. If you want to integrate features or customize the design beyond what a template offers, you’re going to have to learn how to code at least with HTML, CSS, and more frameworks depending on what type of functionality you’re looking to integrate. You can hire a web developer to take care of it, but that is going to cost you money and hope that the developer wrote the code in a way that doesn’t break your site.
- Security vulnerabilities. When templates are coded inefficiently or not using the best coding practices, which is common from hiring developers to develop a custom template, can leave pieces of vulnerabilities in the code that hackers can take advantage of to get into your site. This can be even a bigger issue if you’re using plugins/apps that need to be constantly updated to the latest version.
So you might ask yourself, how can you build a custom website without coding and not deal with limitations found in web builder platforms? This is where Webflow comes in.
What is Webflow?
Webflow is an advanced no-code web development platform that lets you develop custom websites from scratch without having to code by placing elements on a visual canvas, and the ability to control the HTML/CSS properties for each element.
The company was founded by three co-founders in 2013 and it is based in San Francisco, California. Today, the platform is used by more than 3.5 million designers and teams. Some of their customers include Dell (yeah, thats right), Discord, TED, HelloSign, Zendesk, and bunch of other big hitters. They’ve recently received a Series B funding of $140 million in 2021, and reaching a company valuation of $2.1 billion. So even though the company is relatively newer than the other platforms that we know of, it is safe to say that Webflow has a large community and a strong reputation in the industry, but also revolutionized it, and no-code starting to become a thing.
Speaking of no-code, check out this nicely animated video published by Webflow during their no-code conference back in November 2021.
Why should you switch to Webflow?
As mentioned above, the other platforms like WIX or WordPress should be enough for most of the people who just want a simple website. However as your business grows, so should your website, but you’re going to hit a wall fairly quickly with those platforms.
Common issues with other platforms:
- Website is hacked because either the template (whether you bought it or hired a developer) is not using secure/efficient code or the plugins are outdated which left security vulnerabities in the site code.
- People are leaving your website because the site is slow due to the template is over bloated with code and many unnecessary features that aren’t used and the site is using too many plugins/apps that can slow down the site significantly as well was make it open to security hacks.
- You’re constantly relying on developers to make the changes on the custom website because the platform is blown with features and settings that make it very confusing that you don’t fully understand. Developers can cost money and sometimes take a lot of time to make the changes. You don’t feel any control over your website.
Benefits of Webflow:
- Fully customized website without the drawbacks of coding. As mentioned above, when you’re building a custom website on other platforms, there is a chance that the code leaves all kinds of issues such as the site breaks or gets hacked. Since there isn’t coding involved with Webflow, you can have a piece of mind building your custom website without worrying about the code that is generated on the back-end by the platform.
- Website loads super fast because the platform generates a very clean, semantic code on the back-end as you’re developing the website and it is hosted with top of the line servers from Amazon Web Services (AWS). Search engines like Google favor websites that are built very efficiently and load fast, so this will help your chances with higher ranking/traffic and higher conversion rates.
- Website is secure because not only the code is very well built on the back-end, but its also because of the clean code that makes the site very safe from security attacks.
- You can easily make changes on your own because despite how advanced the platform is, it has a place for people such as marketers or business owners to easily make changes to the site without having to deal with any complicated dashboard. Its as easy as editing a word document, literally.
How does Webflow work?
So now you intrigued how much freedom you have to have a site built on Webflow, but you may be curious how does it work, specifically how can you have the same capabilities of coding a site but without the coding?
Webflow works similar to WIX, where you can drag and drop elements on the visual canvas, but it has distinct differences and a deeper learning curve than WIX. We don’t want to get technical here, but for example in WIX you can move an element anywhere on the canvas like in photoshop, but in Webflow the elements follow a structure and can be adjusted from the properties.
Take a look at this tutorial from Webflow to get an idea elements play out:
How much does Webflow cost?
You can create a Webflow account and a site for FREE, without any trials. This will give everyone the chance to explore and learn how to use their platform. You can even publish your free site, but it’ll be published under the .webflow.io domain.
If you want to get serious about building website on Webflow, they have a range of plans for you to pick from that suits your needs. Webflow has two types of plans: Account plan and site plan.
Individual account plans
Individual plans are for people who provide web design/development services using the platform, because an account plan allows the designers/developers to create multiple websites under the same account, and gives them the ability to transfer them to the client’s Webflow account.
Team account plans
Team plans are the same as Individual plans, but they’re more suited for agencies or companies with teams of designers and developers that build websites for other businesses. Team plans also have real-time collaboration features.
NOTE: If you’re just a business looking to build a website, you don’t need to worry about account plans. Account plans are suited for freelancers and marketing/design companies who build websites for others.
Site plans are self explanatory. Site plans allow you to connect a custom domain to the site, increase your site’s pages limit as well as monthly traffic and bandwidth. However, all site plans give you the same features available to build a custom site, password protection, advanced SEO controls, fast hosting and reliable security.
The list of features is pretty long, so we recommend checking out Webflow’s pricing page to learn more, and see which plan might suite you best.
Is No-Code The Future?
So back to the original question, is no-code the future? We think it definitely is, because no-code platforms like Webflow are skyrocketing in popularity year by year. There are also other popular no-code platforms like Zapier that allow you to connect all kinds of applications to work together seamlessly without any code. A lot of corporations and startups are using no-code to take their marketing efforts to a whole another level without having to invest hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, they now have tools that their marketing teams can use without knowing any code. However, traditional coding will stay nor it is going anywhere anytime soon, but it will be for a much smaller percentage of projects. Even though the no-code platforms offer almost identical capabilities of coding, there will still be times when coding will be required for highly custom work that is common with large complex projects, but also note that no-code platforms do require coding to be built in the first place as well.