Website Builder Review: Webflow
Webflow markets itself as "the modern way to build for the web". With its intuitive tools and ready-made templates, the service claims to be able to make creating and managing a professional website easy. However, nearly every site builder makes the same or 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 website builders, the service doesn't forfeit any features or design freedoms, instead, taking the opposite approach, and actually requiring its users to have some programming knowledge. For anyone with some experience in CSS or HTML (or willing to learn how to use them) Webflow's versatile toolbox allows for dynamic websites to be created, designed, and managed, with its visual tools taking care of most of the tedious coding work.
Pros and Cons
CMS/website builder hybrid
Offers nearly unlimited possibilities
Provides an excellent learning platform, "Webflow University"
Easy e-commerce integration
Background knowledge in designing and programming are necessary
Steep learning curve
Configuration and Usability
The first few minutes of using Webflow consist of signing up, setting up the service, and starting to build. Following the relatively quick registration, you'll need to answer a few questions in relation to your level of experience, and the purpose of your website. After that, you'll be allowed to choose from several of Webflow's recommended templates and shown a tutorial. If desired, you can skip over all of this and commence building immediately without a template.
Webflow's informative tutorial makes it clear that you can use the service without coding anything, however, you'll still need to have some knowledge of programming in order to perform more complex tasks. In the service's designer, you'll work with the all-important "box model", something which anyone with some experience in web development will be acquainted with. For those that aren't: Each Webflow element is located in a box, with the resulting website a combination of these, depending on how they are arranged or interact with one another.
Instead of managing these boxes using code, Webflow allows you to achieve the same results by dragging and dropping elements. From this point on, at the very latest, it should become clear to users that Webflow is far more intricate than most of its competitors. Using its Photoshop-esque user interface, you'll program visually on the front end of your site, while the service translates your actions into back end code. In principle, this doesn't differ at all from any website builder, however, Webflow stays truer to its programming roots.
As a result, Webflow's learning curve is a lot 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 or floating, the service will appear very demanding at first. The short introductory tutorial only details the absolute basics, however, "Webflow University", the service's own learning platform, offers a number of video courses that help to explain some of the more advanced features.
Since it's a mix of both CMS and website builder, Webflow is far more complex than most other site builders we've reviewed, and not really conceived with beginners in mind. For anyone who has some background knowledge in web design, or who is ready to learn, Webflow offers a powerful tool for designing sites, possessing nearly none of the limitations of its competitors.
Score: 4 / 5
Webflow is a web hosting service, CMS, and site builder all-in-one, whereby its designer, which innovatively visualizes intricate coding processes is the software's workhorse. Below, we'll take a closer look at some of the service's features.
At first glance, the service's design is very reminiscent of Adobe Photoshop or Premiere: The entire screen is filled with features and tools, each of which provides an answer to an important question that will eventually be asked, but at the moment, isn't even known. In Webflow, you can't start building by dragging and dropping elements without a plan or idea. As in programming, in which every element has a place in the HTML or CSS code, so too must every element in Webflow's designer be utilized at particular junctions or points in time.
Owing to the service's breadth of features, examining each would be impossible, or at the very least, require a far longer review. As a result, we've only analyzed a handful of basic functions. In the tool to the far left, by clicking on the 'plus' symbol, you can add a new element, such as ready-made content boxes, buttons, forms, and more.
You can edit the style and layout of your elements using the style panel on the right side of the screen. Using the navigation panel, you can arrange elements on the screen by dragging and dropping them. Near the top of the user interface, by clicking on the device icons, you can check how your design appears on computer monitors, tablets, or other mobile devices. To preview your page, simply click on the eye symbol in the top left.
Webflow's designer is a site builder for current or prospective programmers: It automatizes certain coding processes and through its visualization tools, makes it easier to create qualitative websites with clear code. Users without any experience in CSS or HTML will only be able to scratch the service'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 of different types of content, from various fields. In doing so, you can build a blog collection, which you can provide a heading and permalinks to, filling it with content afterwards.
You can also make a collection of authors for your team members which include fields for images, short bios, or links to social media profiles. These collections can then be linked to one another, in order to arrange blog entries on the basis of their authors.
Should you want to add new content, or edit the content on static sites on any of the published websites in your collection, you can easily do this using Webflow's editor.
In this way, you can add dynamic content to static websites, and enable your team or creator to go live with new content.
By fusing web design and content management, Webflow provides a far more powerful tool than most other website builders that we examined. Because it's targeted at those with some background in programming or coding (and not beginners), the service allows its users to create highly dynamic websites using practically limitless features that, even if available from its competitors, are only offered in app centers.
Score: 5 / 5
Templates & Design
Webflow offers hundreds of templates to its users, of which around 30 are completely free. Costs for premium templates range from $19 to $149. In terms of applicability, these include templates for blogs as well as portfolio, event, and service websites, to name a few. Depending on the type of site you're building, some features come pre-installed, such as CMS in more dynamic templates, or 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 back end.
Using the service's designer, you can modify all elements 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 as a result of the relatively few restrictions on freedom, you're left almost entirely in charge of how your site looks.
Similarly to the above: For anyone with some talent in either web design or programming, Webflow put almost no restrictions on your creativity. But this sword cuts both ways since this also means that there isn't a lot of hand-holding and the ready-made designs of other providers that automatically take care of positioning and aligning are nowhere to be found.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Marketing, SEO, & E-Commerce
Another one of Webflow's claims to fame is its high degree of support for e-commerce pages. Should you want to add an online shop to your website, the CMS will automatically create new collections for products and categories.
You can add new elements with a few clicks in the product menu, later arranging them into manually-created categories. Additional fields are offered for product images, sizes, taxes, quantities available, and more.
A sort of tutorial takes you through the steps for creating an online shop, telling you where you need to add information or elements to achieve the best results.
From products and categories to a user-defined shopping cart and check-out options; Webflow makes it possible for its users to exercise a high degree of control, something that other site builders or CMS don't offer, or do, but only through integrating dozens of extensions.
In terms of payment options, Webflow is somewhat limited, supporting only Stripe and PayPal.
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, while also being more convenient than CMSs.
SEO features are built directly into Webflow's editor, meaning that you won't need to install any external plugins. The service's SEO allows you to 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 easily accomplished.
Score: 4.3 / 5
As briefly described above, Webflow University, targeted at self-learners and DIY types, sets a new standard for non-live support. This online university offers hundreds of courses and videos, logically grouped into lessons that allow users to become more familiarized with the program's features and capabilities, as well as the general principles of web design and programming.
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.
During testing, we received a personalized and competent answer within around four hours: The staffer who responded took the time to answer each question we had posed, and to provide relevant examples.
We're big fans of live support chats, and Webflow's lack of one is a bit disappointing, however, the service's university, as well as its helpful and competent staff saw it achieve a (nearly) perfect score in customer support.
Score: 4.7 / 5
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 crack open your wallet.
Generally speaking, Webflow differentiates between rates for pages and rates for accounts. For pages, such as a single website, you'll pay per project, whereas for accounts, you'll be able to create more projects and pay for them as a single fee.
A number of different subscriptions exist for each, divided into three websites and three e-commerce packages (for pages) as well as three individual and two team plans (for accounts).
Corporate rates are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Webflow's pricing structure is a bit complicated, with the differences and similarities between each package not particularly clear. A current overview of the service's rates can be found here:
|Free||Website Basic||Website CMS|
|Base price per month||$0.00||$15.00||$20.00|
|Contract period (months)||0||1||1|
|Free of ads|
As an action, "building" takes on different dimensions depending on the context; for children, it's most applicable to sandcastles or Lego sets; whereas in the adult world, bridges or buildings are generally envisioned. Webflow falls somewhere in between the two; you don't need to have studied programming or web design to 'build' a website using the service, but it isn't a cookie-cutter drag and drop operation either. The service goes far in bridging the gap between site builders and CMSs, visualizing the most complicated back end processes, allowing them to be worked on in the front end. As such, it isn't designed for beginners or anyone who wants to build a paint-by-numbers type of site. For its target audience, though, Webflow is so useful that we don't hesitate to call it a gamechanger.
Practically no limits are set on the design possibilities in the service, its support for e-commerce is faultless, and the dynamic websites it can create are managed using a powerful CMS. The steep learning curve at the outset of using the service 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 usurpation of the CMS throne to date.
A single review couldn't possibly encompass or adequately address all of Webflow's features and capabilities. For that reason, we recommend taking a look at various review portals where users voice their daily experiences with the service.
Since Webflow is marketed as a competitor to WordPress, that well-known CMS is the readiest alternative available. Apart from that, since Webflow is a mix of 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 readily available.