Today we're taking a look at a Design and Content Management system for the web called Webflow. We're gonna cover all of the most important factors when it comes to functionality. We went hands on with the tool to assure the information presented is of the highest quality possible. Without further ado, let's jump into the review.
Table of Contents
What is Webflow?
Webflow is a drag and drop web development tool designed to allow even novice level web developers to design and produce highly capable web pages. It’s most comparable to services like Wordpress and Wix, mixing the two services together into an entirely new type of tool. I would call it a CMS (Content Management System), however, it covers a lot more ground by also providing hosting, e-commerce support, and design and interaction features that set it apart from most other CMS systems.
✔️ Drag and Drop Designer
✔️ E-Commerce Support
✔️ Content Management System
✔️ Web Hosting
The only way to really understand Webflow is to use it, but I’ll do my best throughout this review to give you a clear picture of its capabilities, use case, and any pitfall it may be hiding behind the curtain.
Breaking down each of these features will help give you a better idea of how their system works:
This particular tool is the bread and butter of Webflow's tool set. Creating the layout for all of your pages is it's main purpose and it does so with a very comprehensive user interface design
You get access to the other tools inside of their designer and it incentivizes the use of motion and intractability which results in better web pages for your end user
This is most likely the first core tool you will be using if you decide to use Webflow. You'll become very familiar with it if you choose to go with Webflow.
Not all users will have a need for an E-Commerce system. For those that do, having a dedicated E-commerce system already in place, rather than requiring a 3rd party solution, is a big plus.
The CMS that comes with Webflow is an interesting one. It uses a pseudo database that allows you to organize all your data into "Collections". You also get easy access to editing tools and layout creators with each collection you decide to make.
Setting up a blog and laying out an easy to fill out format is one of Webflows strong points.
In order to get the most out of Webflow you need to use their hosting service. There are option to export designs and publish them elsewhere but you lose the ability to update your designs and use their CMS. Luckily it's a good quality host with plenty of speed and bandwidth for most users.
This is yet another way that Webflow covers all of it's bases. You don't need to gather a bunch of different components together to create your site. It's a one stop shop, and hosting is a big part of that.
Along with the above noted tool, you also get access to a good number of templates and easily integrated addons. It can be limited in some regards, but it's nice to have just in case.
What's It Good For?
Webflow really thrives when time and money are limited. It allows users to go from plan to finished web product without a lot of resources. You don’t need to be a genius backend developer, or designer. It’s designed with the laymen in mind. However, it also has enough depth to allow those with the aptitude to really leverage their skills.
Small businesses and those with limited experience are who I would recommend this software for most.
You may also find interest in Webflow if you are held back by the limitations found in other similar tools. It has a better user experience than Wordpress, while still providing a good amount of flexibility that you’d expect from a developer grade tool. I’ve often found it frustrating while using Wordpress when I found myself stuck in a sort of limbo between oversimplified limitations and complex roadblocks. Webflow balances these two well and gives depth where needed and simplicity where possible. You may find, however, that there are a limited number of plug and play tools out there for Webflow. Unlike Wordpress, Webflow doesn’t have a library of hundreds of unique plugins. If you need something that isn’t included on their list of integration products you will need to find a way to embed custom coded plugins yourself, which can be tricky for those of you not familiar with front end code.
Webflow Review: My Experience
The first thing you will run into when working with Webflow is their proprietary drag and drop design system. This is the most robust and comprehensive front end design system I’ve seen that doesn’t require any knowledge of programming. It gives you full control over your web page's look and feel. It makes it easy to understand the available tools as well. As a front end developer that’s built a lot of web pages from scratch and has gotten his hands dirty with CSS a great number of times, I’ve never seen a design tool that provides this much customizability with just a drag and drop system. It’s one of the few tools around that gives you complete control over all major CSS styles without the need for actual CSS. Not to mention, the user interface is amazing. Lots of quick action buttons, no stumbling over cumbersome components, just a nice smooth experience, which makes it pretty easy to get a hang of.
Content Management System
Much like the front end design tool, the CMS included with Webflow does its job well. Flexibility for developers, and simplicity for the common folk. You can easily create your own formats and content fields. It also smoothly integrates with the design tool, creating a seamless experience without jumping between pages. If it sounds like I’m just singing the praises of this product, it’s only because it’s refreshing to see something that just works well without any fuss.
Community & Resources
Webflow has a ton of tutorials available to help you understand their tools. They do a good job of explaining the inner workings and giving you a full picture of how it works. As for community tutorials, they are few and far between. This may change as Webflow gains popularity but as of the time of writing this article, there aren’t many resources outside of the Webflow University that give you solid information on how to operate it.
As stated previously, you don’t have many plugins that are designed with Webflow in mind. Many of the most important components are available but everything else you’ll be left to either create your own functionality or embed code you find. Their template library has a good number of options, but again this is still a little on the limited side. Webflow is still a fairly recent creation, and as a result, you only have a few hundred options to choose from. More than likely this won't cause many issues, but don’t expect thousands of options when it comes to premade designs.
Who Is It For?
For those of you on a time crunch or if you're unfamiliar with web development programming, than Webflow might just be the right tool for you. With it you can quickly get a site designed and ready for use.
✔️ Beginners + Advanced Users
✔️ Those looking to simplify their web creation process
❌ Larger companies looking for the maximum optimization and versatility.
- Overall, Webflow is a great tool for front end development.
- It’s great for beginners and advanced users alike.
- It’s easy to navigate, has powerful functionality and is a great overall tool suite.
Webflow Alternatives & Pairing
Square Space, Wix, and Wordpress are the main alternatives available that cover much of the same things as Webflow. All of them have their pros and cons but I would choose Webflow hand and foot over the alternatives because of the great polish and functionality you get. The only alternative I would give a chance is Wordpress if you are more development focused. Webflow does have tools to help developers, but that isn’t who it’s made for, so you have to dig a bit to get into the inner workings of your site.
As Webflow is an all-encompassing web solution there isn’t much room for other products to assist in making your experience better. They cover content creation, management, hosting, and design so you don’t really need anything else. Whether this is positive or negative is up to you to decide. I personally would rather have a tool that has everything that I need, included, rather than needing to piece together a system from community created parts.