Forget the days of coding HTML sites or using website builders like Weebly and iWeb (anyone else remember that?), today, website builders are sophisticated. Webflow, a CMS, website builder, hosting service, and ecommerce platform all rolled into one, likely takes the top spot. While it certainly is comparable to Showit, Squarespace, and Wix, Webflow has a few features that put it in a different league. So, is this robust website platform right for your business? Read on to find out!
What is Webflow?
Webflow is a website builder that combines the sleek design of Showit with the CMS skills of WordPress, AWS level hosting, and Shopify’s ecommerce skills, all inside its own platform. While you’ll find that most successful creative small businesses online are now using Squarespace or Showit, Webflow has landed an impressive list of large businesses. They count Dell, Zendesk, Upwork, Rakuten, and Hellosign on their client list – certainly names many companies aspire to be counted amongst, but it should also be a little bit of a red flag for some. Why? Because Webflow isn’t always suitable for smaller businesses.
What are Webflow’s features?
The Design Interface
Webflow’s design interface is comparable to Adobe’s suite of tools and Showit’s design interface. It is designed for designers – meaning it can look a little complex, and someone new to websites likely wouldn’t know where to start. It’s a little like a word processor or canvas – you get a blank page, and it’s up to you as a writer, artist, or designer to bring that blank canvas to life.
While Webflow is much more designer-focused than business-owner-focused, it is highly usable. Your designer should be able to give you a few quick tutorials (and Webflow has a library of information) when they hand over your site to you and/or your team and then you’ll be able to manage your website for day-to-day additions and tweaks. Like Showit, you can simply click on an image and trade it for another, so you won’t be stuck waiting for your web designer to have a spare 5 minutes to do it for you.
The Content Management System (CMS)
A CMS is the system your website uses to manage dynamic content, such as your blog. WordPress is the most famous CMS and often believed to be the best, but Webflow’s CMS is actually more customisable. Webflow’s CMS is actually very similar because it also allows you to edit your site’s content without diving into the design editor. It’s made up of collections and fields – collection templates can be things like a blog post, article, recipe, listing, event, and more. You need a custom template for each of the collection types you plan to use, so you need to make sure your designer knows which collections you’ll need, and which you won’t.
The eCommerce Tools
Webflow’s ecommerce tools allow you to seamlessly integrate products, shopping cart, and checkout to your website and works similarly to Shopify and Woocommerce. Adding ecommerce to your Webflow site means you add two further CMS collections – products and categories. Again, all of these need to be designed by your web designer, so you can’t suddenly decide to add a store if you didn’t plan for it when your designer initially built the site.
Webflow’s ecommerce tools are currently a great fit for selling products, but not for selling subscriptions and other more complex needs. If your entire site is a store, you’d likely be better off looking at a platform that’s ecommerce focused, unless you have a really good reason to need Webflow’s tools.
Webflow’s hosting is another place where the platform really stands out, largely because it uses Amazon Web Services to host the site, making it fast and reliable, even when under the strain of large volumes of traffic. It also includes the things you would expect from a website platform serving large businesses – such as a free SSL, free backups, SEO management, as well as a built-in content distribution network.
How much is Webflow?
Webflow’s pricing has developed a bit of a reputation for being confusing, largely because their pricing is currently (as of October 2021) broken down into account plans and site plans.
You need an account plan to start using Webflow, which allows you to have an unlimited number of projects (in the Pro version), access all their assets, and more. This type of plan is best for designers and costs $35 a month billed annually, or $42 billed monthly. They have a “Lite” version, but it is limited to only 10 projects.
A company that only plans to have a single site on Webflow can get the free account plan, and then get a “Site Plan” which allows you to connect your custom domain to your site and access all their other hosting benefits. Again, there are multiple types of Site Plan, they are:
- Basic ($12-$15 per month) – allows you to host your site, but doesn’t include the CMS features. This is limited to 25,000 monthly views and 500 form submissions.
- CMS ($16-$20 per month) – adds the CMS features, boosts monthly views to 100,000, and form submissions to 1,000.
- Business ($36-$45 per month) – you can have up to 1,000,000 monthly visitors, unlimited form submissions, and more.
It’s worth noting, however, that the 99.99% uptime they boast is only guaranteed for enterprise customers (a custom tier above Business) – that’s not to say other plans won’t get it, but it’s definitely worth noting.
Their ecommerce plans are separate, though all include the CMS, and range from $29 – $235 a month, depending on how you pay and the features you need. The Standard ecommerce plan will suffice for almost any business considering using Webflow for their online store, as it doesn’t miss any features of the higher plan (just limited to 500 items), and is priced at $29-$42 a month.
What are the benefits of using Webflow?
Here’s a breakdown of some of the best features:
- Fully custom site (you can do just about anything you can imagine) with no coding
- Easy for everyday people to manage (you can see what you’re editing)
- You don’t need any plugins
- A huge library of support and training videos
- Setting up hosting is fast
- Embed almost any third party content (such as Calendly)
What are the downsides of using Webflow?
- Fairly expensive (not drastically so, but worth noting) and may need multiple accounts
- Big learning curve if you want to do more than tweak your designer’s work
- Many people believe that the person-to-person support is almost non-existent (no live support, getting a response can take days) unless you’re an enterprise
- If you have a problem, it may be up to you to find the right people to fix it (so you may need your web designer or a developer available to help you)
Who is Webflow for?
Webflow is extremely user-friendly for such a robust platform, but it’s not out-of-the-box template-based. That means you need to be a designer with a full understanding of what makes websites *work* and what doesn’t, especially where UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) are concerned. Designers also need to have a solid understanding of how HTML and CSS works, even if they’d rather not code the entire site by hand (which, thankfully, is not often necessary thanks to tools like Webflow).
That said, maintaining a site built on Webflow and making basic edits is easy, so provided you’re working with a Webflow designer, looking after your site can be done almost entirely in-house.
Generally, Webflow is not going to be a cost-effective solution for small businesses. If you’re a 1-5 person company, Showit, Squarespace, or Shopify will often be the better platform for you, as it will provide everything you need and is a little easier to use. If you want to be able to add pages and features without contacting your designer, Webflow probably isn’t the best choice for you.
However, if you’re a large business that needs a robust, custom website and other features, as well as fast hosting on AWS servers, Webflow is a great choice. It can also be suitable for SMEs, but you need to dive into the features and what you need from your website before you make that decision.
If you aren’t sure, don’t worry I (or your chosen website designer) can guide you through all the available options to ensure you find one you can grow with.
Webflow is a platform that empowers designers to build fully custom websites from the ground up, without the time-consuming task of coding every piece. If you’re a business that already sees thousands of views a month, Webflow may be the perfect choice for you and your team.
Interested in learning more about how we can work together to build your new site on Webflow? Learn more about my process here. If you’ve decided that Webflow is not a good fit, find the platform that is right for you by reading Which Website Platform Is Right For Me? Squarespace, WordPress, Shopify & Showit Compared next.