Webflow Review 2023: CMS & Website Builder Combined?
Webflow markets itself as being capable of creating "the site you want - without the dev time", all thanks to its intuitive tools and ready-made templates. However, nearly every site builder makes similar promises. In this review, we'll take a look at what sets Webflow apart.
What Is Webflow?
Webflow* is a unique site builder/content management system (CMS) hybrid. In contrast to other platforms, Webflow doesn't compromise on features or design freedom, instead, rewarding users who have some programming knowledge.
This makes Webflow somewhat more complicated to use than beginner-friendly site builders like Wix or Squarespace. For anyone familiar with CSS or HTML (or willing to learn how to use them) Webflow's versatile toolbox allows dynamic websites to be created, designed, and managed, with its visual tools handling most of the tedious coding work.
In this review, we took a closer look at Webflow, and at the end, will let you know who we would recommend the platform for.
CMS/site builder hybrid
Offers nearly unlimited possibilities
Includes "Webflow University", an excellent learning platform
Easy ecommerce integration
Background knowledge in designing and programming extremely beneficial
Steep learning curve
Configuration and Usability
The first few minutes of using Webflow are best summarized as "sign up, set up, and start to build". Following the relatively quick registration, you'll need to answer a few questions about your level of experience and the purpose of your website.
When starting, Webflow asks whether you have coding experience, which comes in very handy when using the platform.
After that, you'll land in Webflow's editor, where you'll be shown an informative tutorial. This makes it clear that you can use the service without coding, however, will need to have some knowledge of programming in order to perform more complex tasks.
In the editor, you'll work with the all-important "box model", something which should be familiar to anyone with some web development experience. For those that aren't: Each Webflow element is located in a "container" (box) that you place by dragging and dropping it around the screen, with the resulting website a combination of these and their arrangement.
A brief tutorial outlines Webflow's most important features.
Once the tutorial wraps up, you can start building your website. Here, you'll be given the choice between using a template suggested by Webflow or continuing without one.
Webflow serves up a variety of both free and premium (paid) templates.
As mentioned above, containers form the basis for your Webflow website. Instead of managing these with code, Webflow allows you to achieve the same results by dragging and dropping them.
From this point on, at the very latest, it should become clear that Webflow is far more intricate than most of its competitors. In its user interface, which is reminiscent of Adobe Photoshop, you'll program visually on your site's front end, while the service translates your actions into backend code. In principle, this doesn't differ from any other website builder, however, Webflow stays closer to its programming roots.
Among site builders, Webflow's user interface is somewhat complicated, advantaging those with programming knowledge.
Webflow's learning curve is much steeper than those of other services like Wix or Squarespace. Should you be unfamiliar with the box model, or other basic web design concepts like hierarchies and floating, your first impressions will likely not be the best. The introductory tutorial only details the absolute basics, however, "Webflow University", the site builder's learning platform, offers video courses that help explain its more advanced features.
Since it's a combination of both CMS and site builder, Webflow takes more getting used to than most of the other platforms featured in our sample and doesn't appear to have been conceived with beginners in mind. For anyone with a background in web design, or who is ready to learn, Webflow offers a powerful tool for designing sites, having almost none of its competitors' limitations.
Webflow is a web hosting service, CMS, and site builder. Its Designer, which innovatively visualizes complex coding processes, is the platform's workhorse. Below, we'll take a closer look at some of its features.
At first glance, the Designer looks very similar to Adobe Photoshop or Premiere: The screen is filled with features and tools, each of which serves a specific and important purpose. With Webflow, you won't build your site by dragging and dropping random elements at will. Just like with programming, in which every element has a place in the HTML or CSS code, each element in the Designer serves a specific purpose at a specific time.
Owing to the service's breadth of features, examining each would require a far longer review. As a result, we've only looked at some of its basic functions. By clicking on the 'plus' icon in the upper left corner, you can add a new element, such as a ready-made container, button, form, or more. As opposed to individual content elements, Webflow makes it possible to integrate entire templates, such as galleries or contact forms.
As with other site builders, you'll drag and drop elements in the platform's interface.
You can adjust how elements are designed and laid out using the style panel on the right side of the screen. Using the navigation panel, it's possible to arrange on-screen elements by dragging and dropping them.
All sections and containers are listed in Webflow's Navigator.
By clicking on the monitor, tablet, or mobile device icons in the upper menu bar, you can check how your site displays. To preview your page, simply click on the eye symbol in the top left.
Webflow's Designer was definitely developed with current or prospective programmers in mind. It automates certain coding processes and through its visualization tools, makes it easy to create high-quality websites with clear code. Users lacking experience in CSS or HTML will only be able to scratch the platform's surface and are definitely better served by other solutions.
Webflow is not only a site builder but also a full CMS, like Drupal or WordPress, the latter of which it has openly challenged: According to Webflow, it is far more versatile than the market leader since it combines classic content management with innovative visualization tools.
In Webflow's CMS, you can create "Collections", which are different types of content grouped together. Should these be blogs, you can add a heading and permalinks, filling them with content afterward.
Webflow views itself as a "modern alternative to WordPress".
You can also make an "Author Collection" for your team members. This includes fields for images, short bios, and social media profiles. Such collections can then be linked to one another, in order to arrange blog entries by author.
Should you want to add new content to existing "Collections", or edit static site content on any of the published websites in your collection, you can easily do so with Webflow Editor. To access these, click on the Webflow logo in the upper left, which is actually a hamburger menu.
There, text can be changed, images uploaded, and a number of adjustments made without needing to trudge through complicated backend systems.
Complicated backend processes are kept in the background, making it possible to edit your website's content directly in the Webflow Designer.
You'll also create and manage blogs in the editor, for which Webflow provides all of the necessary tools and features. Should you have an editorial team, Webflow also offers several collaboration tools, allowing you to keep tabs on who does what.
Webflow doesn't have an app marketplace, however, it's possible to include thousands of third-party integrations.
By fusing web design and content management, Webflow provides a far more powerful site-building tool than most other platforms we examined. Since it's designed for those with some background in programming or coding and offers nearly limitless features users can create highly dynamic websites. This offers a number of advantages, but also some disadvantages.
For example, many things are easier to do with less-advanced site builders, such as creating a multilingual website. To harness the platform's full power, you'll need a decent amount of expertise. Should you lack this, your need will be better served by Webflow's competitors.
Templates & Design
Webflow offers more than 500 templates to choose from, of which around 45 are completely free. Premium templates can cost from $19 to $149. In terms of breadth, you'll find options for blogs as well as portfolio, event, and service websites, among others. Depending on the type of site you're building, some features come pre-installed, such as CMS in more dynamic templates, and the ability to easily add products in stores.
Selecting a template doesn't tie you to a certain look or style, as is the case with other site builders. Webflow's templates are highly flexible and allow for a number of different layouts to be chosen or manually configured in the backend.
Webflow's users can select from more than 500 different templates.
Plenty of design freedom
Using the Webflow Designer, you can modify any element of a ready-made site, including its color, background, effects, positions, and font size, to name a few. In contrast to other site builders, you'll need something of an eye for design though, since how your site looks is left almost entirely up to you.
Most changes are made using the Design toolbox off to the right. With it, you can select different layouts for your container(s), adjust the position of elements, or add effects.
Not for beginners: You'll have complete freedom of design with Webflow, however, editing isn't as intuitive as with other drag and drop site builders.
It is somewhat unfortunate that Webflow lacks stock photo integrations, such as those found elsewhere. As a result, Webflow doesn't have much to offer in terms of photo or video material.
Similarly to the above: For anyone with some talent in either web design or programming, Webflow won't limit your creativity. However, this sword cuts both ways since there isn't much hand-holding. For example, the ready-made designs offered by other providers that automatically take care of positioning and alignment won't be found in Webflow.
E-Commerce, Marketing & SEO
Another one of Webflow's claims to fame is its high degree of support for ecommerce. Should you want to add an online shop to your website, the CMS will automatically create new collections for products and categories.
A sort of tutorial walks you through the process of creating an online store step-by-step. In this, Webflow details what information and elements you need to include to have a fully-functional shop.
Webflow's setup guide helps in creating your online store.
New products can be added to your store and manually grouped into categories with just a few clicks via the product menu. You're also able to specify additional fields including product images, sizes, taxes, inventory management, and more. It's possible to offer both physical and digital products or services, as well as product variations.
Different kinds of products can be advertised and sold in multiple variations.
From products and categories to a user-defined shopping cart and check-out options; Webflow gives users plenty of control over their store, something that other site builders or CMSs don't offer, or do, but only through integrating dozens of extensions.
Webflow doesn't reinvent the wheel, however, its convenient integration of everything needed to create an online shop, and wide-ranging customization options make it far more versatile than other site builders, all the while being more convenient than CMSs.
More could be offered in terms of marketing: It's possible to add discounts, however, comprehensive features or email marketing aren't included. To augment what the platform has, be sure to check out all of the integrations and third-party apps.
SEO & Analytics
SEO features are built directly into Webflow's Editor, meaning that you won't need to install any external plugins. You can also easily add meta titles and descriptions.
Should you want to use an external analytical or marketing tool like Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, Matomo, Hotjar, Zapier, or Integromat, this is also simple to do.
As briefly touched upon above, Webflow University, targeted at self-learners and DIY types, sets a new standard for static support. This online university offers hundreds of courses and videos, logically grouped into lessons that allow users to become more familiar with the platform's features and capabilities, as well as the general principles of web design and programming.
In Webflow University, you'll find all sorts of courses and tutorials.
Should you need a more personal touch though, you can file a support ticket. Webflow's support team works from Monday to Friday, 12 hours a day, doing their best to answer each query within 24-48 hours.
Direct support is provided in the form of tickets.
During testing, we received a personalized and competent answer within around seven hours: The staffer who responded took the time to address each question we had posed and provided relevant examples.
We're big fans of live support chats, and Webflow's lack of one is a bit disappointing. The service's university, as well as its helpful and competent staff, saw it achieve a (nearly) perfect score in customer support.
Webflow's operating principle is something along the lines of 'build for free/pay for hosting'. The San Francisco-based service allows you to create two projects and publish them on Webflow subdomains for free; beyond that, you'll need to open your wallet.
Generally speaking, Webflow differentiates between rates for pages and those for accounts. For the former, such as a single website, you'll pay per project, whereas for accounts, you'll be able to create more projects, paying a lump sum for them.
A number of different subscriptions exist for each, divided into three website packages and three ecommerce ones (for pages) as well as three individual and two team plans (for accounts).
Special corporate rates are negotiated on a per-case basis.
Webflow's pricing structure is somewhat complicated, with the differences between each package not really emphasized. A current overview of the service's rates can be found below:
|Starter||Website Basic||Website CMS||Ecommerce Standard||Website Business||Ecommerce Plus||Ecommerce Advanced|
|Monthly Price||$0.00||from $14.00||from $23.00||from $29.00||from $39.00||from $74.00||from $212.00|
|Contract Period (Months)||0||1 - 12||1 - 12||1 - 12||1 - 12||1 - 12||1 - 12|
|Free of Ads|
Of course, how Webflow compares in price to its competitors might be a decisive factor in whether it will be your site-building platform. To assess these fairly, we took the most affordable plan offered by each provider from our sample that was ad-free and included a unique domain. Among these, Webflow was the most expensive.
Webflow doesn't offer money-back guarantees for its premium plans.
So far as Webflow is concerned, breaking the code barrier doesn't mean divorcing programming from site creation. Rather, Webflow visualizes all of these processes, intertwining them with the front end as tightly as possible.
This means that you won't need to have studied programming or web design to 'build' a website using the service, however, you shouldn't expect a cookie-cutter, drag and drop experience. For its target audience, Webflow is a highly useful and elegant hybrid solution that combines coding with design.
Practically no limits are set on what you can do with the platform, its ecommerce support is faultless, and the dynamic websites it can create are managed via a powerful CMS. The steep learning curve at the outset is also overcome to a certain extent thanks to the Webflow University learning platform.
WordPress has been challenged on several occasions, coming out ahead at each juncture, however, Webflow seems to be making the most convincing claim to the CMS throne.
A single review could never address all of Webflow's features and capabilities. For that reason, we recommend taking a look at various review portals where users detail their day-to-day experiences with the service.
Since Webflow is marketed as a competitor to WordPress, it's the readiest alternative available.
Apart from that, because Webflow is a mix between CMS and site builder, it doesn't really have many parallels with other services, or, at the very least, not enough to be called a rival to them (or vice versa). For those without any interest in coding or web design, a number of easier-to-use site builders are available, the most prominent of which is the top performer from our sample, Wix.
Below, you can find more of the best alternatives to Webflow: