Who is Webflow For?

September 7, 2020
Webflow seems to be a hot topic for debate as of late. Maybe it's because different CMS solutions have been on the rise lately, or maybe it's just papa Google showing me Webflow related posts because of... Algorithms. Almost every ad or post for Webflow I see has one of two reactions, the first being as follows - "When did everyone forget how to code?! I prefer good ol' HTML in my websites. Taking a shortcut never works!" - and so on and so on. You get the picture. There are a lot of people that love to brag about how they know how to code. The second group of commenters is the polar opposite - "Webflow is 100% the best way to create a website! There is no other way that you should ever build a website, and nothing you can say will change that!". In this article, I want to talk about both of these points of views, and what I think about Webflow, as well as who the product is meant for.

What is Webflow?

Responsive web design tool, CMS, and hosting platform | Webflow

I've been using Webflow for just over a year now. Being a full stack developer, it was incredibly easy to pick up. Even though the company boasts "Zero Code" as their selling point, I found it incredibly useful having that coding background going into designing using their software. When you are using the Webflow designer, it is creating HTML for you behind the scenes. This means that you can't just go and place things wherever you want instantly. The way you control fields is much like how you would need to using HTML and CSS. You need to select the align, the display type, the float, the margin, and so on. This is very true to form when coding a website from scratch. This being said, Webflow has an incredibly intuitive interface to help you accomplish the design you are going for.

With Webflow, you as the designer have a space meant for just that, the designer page. This is your interface for building your website. Here, you are able to design your pages, put together your CMS Collections, and add your styling in as well.

Let's talk about that CMS Collections feature I mentioned above. A collection in Webflow basically acts as a small database for your website. This blog as an example, is sitting in a collection. You get to design the format for your collection, including what type of fields it will have, where the images go, etc. Doing this gives you a huge advantage when building a dynamic site. After setting all of these fields, you can go onto a page that serves as your collections template. Here, you can select each field you've made, such as a title, or a banner image, and choose where they should appear on the page. This makes something like a blog incredibly easy. You just go into the collection editor, add your information into each field, and it will automatically style it onto the page. This isn't the only thing you can do though. You can insert a collections tag anywhere on your website. Then, using that tag, you can select what from the collection you want to pull. You can pull the title, description, and thumbnail from your blogposts for an example. This is what allowed me to create those blog post cards on my main blog page.

Probably the most compelling feature of Webflow has to be the editor. This is single handedly the easiest way to sell Webflow to new clients. The editor is your custom designed portal for the client. This allows you to give the control of the website to your client, where they can update text, images, and other aspects of their site. There is an even better part to this though. You, as a designer, can choose exactly how much they are allowed to edit. This is absolutely incredible! Think about that for a second. You have the power to allow your client to edit their own content, limiting the time you have to spend going in and making changes. This gives the client the feeling that they are in control, which is exactly what a business owner wants for their site. The problem with this most of the time is that clients have a tendency to break things. We have all seen it before - A client goes into the site to make a few changes, and next thing you know your title formatting bleeds into the header, which bleeds into the paragraphs. Next thing you know, the images are three times larger, and the font is half the size. What happened to that beautiful site you designed!? Well, with the editor, you can allow the client to only change the text, not the style. You can allow them to change certain images, but not all of them. The amount of control here is simply amazing.

Who is Webflow NOT For?

Coding course looks to improve diversity and inclusion in tech
Webflow isn't meant for everyone, or even meant for every project for that matter. If you have been coding for years, and you're just making a static website or webpage, then I guarantee this isn't for you. Although I can create a website much quicker on Webflow, I truly understand having the full control of your code. Webflow is great, but it's no secret that it doesn't output 100% efficient code. If it was a single page static webpage, I would just code that from scratch. You won't be getting any of the benefits of Webflow for something like this anyways.

Another con of Webflow is the price point. As a designer, you need to have your own paid account. If you use it for work, this quickly becomes a mute point. As with any tool for work, it really quickly will pay for itself. If you're just starting, you have the option of making a few websites for free, but beyond that, you really need to have a paid account to make the most of the service. On top of the developer cost, you also have a pretty pricy hosting model. This will fall on your clients, not you, but it can still make it a little harder to sell this to them. It is more expensive than a traditional hosting site, but in my opinion it still makes sense because of the custom editing features that this gives your client. It's a pretty easy sell to tell your client that they need to pay more for hosting, but can have such granular control over their content. When talking to a client and discussing how you are going to build the site, you need to explain to them the value that they are getting from each service. Some companies don't need that control, and that's okay. Webflow isn't for that client, no harm no foul.

Who IS Webflow For?

Webflow Web Design & Art History - CSS Design Awards

Webflow is for any client that wants to have easy control of their website. Most clients I work with want this to be a simple process. Unless your target market is tech savvy, such as tech startups, chances are they don't want to dig into code to make small changes to their site. This inevitably means you'll be sitting there, enjoying your coffee on a brisk Sunday morning, and you'll get a call from a frantic client asking you to change their headline on a page. You really don't want to be wasting your valuable time on changing little things like this. They should have the ability to make these little changes whenever they need to, and only have to call you when things really go south.

I have found that Webflow works great when you use it like you would a program such as Figma. Using it as prototyping tool can be incredibly powerful. If you don't want to bite the bullet and use it to create your websites, it can be an incredibly quick way of throwing together a prototype that your client can actually use right off the bat. You'll find that this impresses clients so much. When you tell them you have some website ideas, and then you throw it together in a night and actually have a website to show them, their jaws drop. This way you can use Webflow for the planning and prototyping of the site, without the high costs of hosting with Webflow.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters when using a tool to help you make more money with your website business is that it ACTUALLY helps you make more money. If Webflow feels natural for you, and you can build quicker sites, and convince clients to buy in on it, then it can be an incredible tool. If you find it confusing, or are a coding wizard, then it isn't for you! There really is no way that you can definitively say that Webflow is inherently a good, or a bad service. This truly depends on each use case, and each person individually.

One great thing about Webflow is the in house tutorials they offer. On their website, they have something they call "Webflow University". This is probably the easiest to follow tutorial series I have ever watched. They blend humour with information, and it was honestly a joy to watch. I whole heartedly recommend you go through their library of videos if you are trying to learn how to use Webflow.

Finding the right tools for you takes some trial and error. You may find that you can build a website way quicker with Wordpress. That's okay! Go ahead and use Wordpress. People are different, so just let them use what they want to use. Give Webflow a try, and see for yourself first hand if it's for you or not.