What is Webflow? CMS or Development Tool?

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Webflow is more than a CMS, although that is likely the simplest term to describe it. A content management system is usually just that, an online platform for managing the content on your website, which is usually setup with templates for that content to sit in. Where Webflow differs is that it primarily opens up the development and design capabilities of the website, where you can start with a blank page and quickly scale out the CSS, HTML and even javascript of a website, before any actual content is even added. That immediately would scare a lot of people off, but bare with me here.

No code first CMS

No code is a relatively new term and in short it’s really describing a wealth of new applications that carry out the job of custom technology a developer may build for your app or business, where combining a select few applications can enable anyone to build a basic app infrastructure. It’s an exciting time for would be entrepreneurs, although No Code is not strictly true, not for production products or products that bring powerful enough solutions for premium services.

Webflow has positioned itself at the forefront of the no code CMS market, where Joe Bloggs can join, build a website, manage content and be online without touching a line of code or a server. That’s a pretty epic offering in all honesty.

Is no code really enough?

We’re experienced developers at Searched and we’ve explored no code as a way of helping low budget clients. Making use of something like Zapier is often the key to making things tie up together but the overwhelming experience so far has been we always hit roadblocks in what’s possible for custom client requests – which is always, always going to happen.

We recently developed a low budget wellbeing application for a client using the no code process. Off the shelf tools only did 30% of the job, where 1200 lines of javascript were still written to handle the custom requirements the client had. It’s almost impossible to get a client to sacrifice or alter their trail of thought in order to make use of an off the shelf solution.

No code apps certainly helped us get to a launched product quicker than we could have in any other way, but after just 1 month of customer testing, more custom requirements are now being requested by the client where a full spec React.js, Node.js and mongoDB build is almost certainly required.

It is absolutely possible that simple apps can be created in this way, but simple is the operative word here.

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Is Webflow no code?

It actually is. BUT, and it’s a big but, no prior knowledge of CSS or HTML will severely limit what you’ll be able to achieve, without pulling your hair out or at least losing a few weeks of your precious time. For a novice developer, but one with me minor CSS/HTML skills already, wow Webflow is an unbelievable option for you and your clients. Big thumbs up.

Where it is a little more complicated than simply being no code, Webflow is really just applying a UI to traditional code practices. Where a line of CSS may be:

<style>

padding-right: 20px;

</style>

Webflow is:

Webflow padding

And that’s really cool. But for someone who has never experienced padding before, where it’s applied and to what assets, then it’s really going to be limit what can be made.

So what is Webflow?

Well I actually believe that Webflow is a development tool with CMS functionality. For developers it can speed up processes significantly and for new developers and those without huge experience, it’s actually an educational platform as well. By educational I mean you may be able to build a simple website but do you understand the difference between Relative and Absolute positioning? In CSS code it’s not so easy to see or understand the difference between the two, even when viewing the output as a test.

With Webflow a simple click of the setting will visually demonstrate the result in real time in your worksheet.

Webflow positioning

Once a site is styled and laid out, setting up for the content management system is incredibly easy when compared to the likes of WordPress. We compare the two in a little more detail below.

Webflow CMS attributes are added within Collection templates. A collection can be anything from a category or blog post to a service, rating, review or even a listing. A collection is something that can have many versions of very similar content. Each collection comes with a template, which can be structured and laid out however you need.

Adding the content from the collection is a simple process of selecting the asset and applying the field from the collection, it really is very simple and even a user without much development experience would be able to make quick process setting up a collection template once they know where to find items.

Webflow CMS fields

 

Webflow CMS Collections

As a CMS Webflow is extremely easy to manage. The primary thing to get to grips with is fields, or attributes. These are so simple to understand and setup, for example:

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Blog Post CMS Setup

Title

URL

Main image

Main article content (Rich text – this simply means you can control the tags on text, such as title tags, links, styles)

Author (Reference or multi-reference – this means you can link up posts and categories or tags or authors)

Author image

Meta title

Meta decription

And there could be loads more like author bio, job title, custom date, colour (used for backgrounds or text when the post is linked around the site).

Custom features – JS & CSS

Once you push past just having a simple website, often something experienced developers will experience with Webflow, it can become limited. But it can still be extended a long way by making use of custom javascript and css – No code ends here!

As part of the wellbeing application we mentioned earlier, we were actually able to turn Weblfow into an application, purely by extending the functionality with custom code. So users and admins have dashboards, graphs, data from Google Firestore and member only areas extended by using Memberstack (off the shelf membership platform). Eventually, no code and code came together for a very very cheap production product that enables the client to fully test and drive revenue before investing in a more scalable solution.

Webflow for Startups

We’ve been doing this a long time and there is a massive issue with 90% of startups – they do not have the right advice when it comes to digital. Startups from developers spend vast sums on technology, startups with designers spend vast sums on design and styling and startups with both spend vast sums on both. Where they struggle is focusing on route to market via their tech or designs – long term growth and marketing strategies. But this is where Webflow can come in for a few reasons.

  1. Prototyping – Incredible for just getting going and building something. Do not underestimate the speed.
  2. Speed – It’s extremely fast for developers and designers to get things built. As a startup you’re not Apple, just get started and get content and your sales message online as quickly as possible.
  3. Price – Not only is Webflow pretty cheap, not free but cheap, the speed we have just highlighted saves on development and design costs!
  4. Deployment – It’s so so simple to get online. Pay the small hosting fee, add the IP’s and Cname to your DNS and you’re online.
  5. SEO – Webflow is ONLY SEO friendly if you do your SEO on it. So do your Webflow SEO and it’s not a bad platform for it.
  6. Updating/changing/testing – making changes is super fast. You can keep updating the site or prototype without significant development costs. Take this seriously, it can save you weeks and thousands in costs to just get started with Webflow, test, tweak, update and work towards your end goal.
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What is Webflow?

Well this concludes our little look into the platform Webflow. We intend to keep scaling out content to help those who want to explore it in more detail or understand whether your business should make use of it within your own organisation. Be sure to keep your eye out for Webflow vs WordPress and our Weblfow case studies.

Is Webflow free?

You can start working with Webflow for free and deploy to an online staging site. You only have to start paying when you want more than 2 projects or you need to host your site online. In theory though you can export the website to host it yourself, although this does move away from some of the benefits of Webflow which is making things as simple as possible to get online.

How long does it take to get online with Webflow?

Not long at all. If you have already built your website, about 15 minutes excluding the DNS updates, which you cannot influence and may take up to 24 hours. But it’s rapid, much quicker than trying to start with local WordPress files and get online, especially with a slow internet connection!

Do I need to understand code to work with Webflow?

This might be controversial for a no code CMS but to build a site on Webflow, make sure you understand the basics of CSS and HTML. For a client who just needs to update the CMS, then no not at all and it’s far easier for clients to edit than Drupal, Umbraco or WordPress.

Does Webflow have templates?

Yes it has a few. Not as many as WordPress but it’s also easy for a web developer to start from a white blank page and build an entire site. Something not many WordPress developers can or want to do. So templates are far less important on Webflow, in my opinion.