Which is better: Webflow or WordPress?

Written by Jenny Claxton
Posted

Find out more about how Webflow measures up against WordPress and if it's the right CMS for you.

A laptop displays a screen with the Webflow logo on it.

Choosing the right content management system (CMS) for a website is a tricky, so we’re always interested to find out about new platforms and how they measure up. As web professionals, we want a system that is highly customisable, adaptable and powerful, but we know our clients want something intuitive, user-friendly and within their budget. We’ve seen a lot of great sites built using Webflow lately, so we decided to sign up for a free plan and give it a test drive.

Red Spark Digital Logo What Is Webflow?

Webflow is a website development and hosting platform that takes the standard HTML, CSS and Javascript setup used by most websites and presents it in a more user-friendly visual editor. You can drag and drop elements onto your page, create custom styles that can be reused across your site, and control exactly how your site appears on different devices, rather than relying on automated responsiveness. You can also use Lottie files and a range of triggers to create interactive or animated elements.

Red Spark Digital Logo Why Use Webflow?

Webflow stands out from other web platforms for being highly customisable, even on the most basic plan. Custom fonts and typography meant we could make our written content fit in perfectly with our overall theme. It was easy to add pictures and apply filters, borders and other design elements to them. We were also able to build animations and interactive elements for our demo site quickly and easily, and linking new pages was no problem.

We were impressed that we could precisely control the way content boxes moved from side by side on desktop to vertical stacking on a mobile device, including changing the order or size, or even forcing them to remain horizontal on a smaller device. This is often a huge sticking point for us when working with other ‘user-friendly’ platforms. Often the tiny adjustments and code tweaks that make a design really work across a range of devices are either unavailable for clients on certain plans, or are hidden inside a ‘developer mode’ that uses non-standard syntax. While we can usually find a way around it, it’s hugely frustrating to have to learn a whole new type of code just to make a heading an exact size.

Another impressive feature was the CMS post builder. It’s possible to create any type of post and set custom fields. This meant creating a series of events with start and end times, or a book review site with publisher and ISBN details, was very easy. This is something that can be complex on other site builders so it was great to be able to set up a custom post type with specific data fields so quickly.

You can export Webflow code to another hosting provider, but Webflow sites are designed to be hosted in-house, and they also sell custom domains. This means you can start building a site in the morning, and it can be live later that day on your own url, as soon as you press “Publish”. The Webflow servers are managed and optimised for Webflow sites, which really keeps everything fast and quick to load. If you don’t want to deal with a hosting server, a domain registration AND your website code, Webflow has done a nice job of packaging it all in one neat box.

As Webflow is based on the CSS model, the code of the finished pages is very clean and fast to load. You can easily set your SEO metadata and paid plans also allow you to add custom code and structured markup to each page. Webflow can connect to webhooks and APIs, as well as offering a range of apps to further extend the functionality.

Red Spark Digital Logo Who Uses Webflow?

Webflow is used by individuals and organisations of all shapes and sizes. It’s adaptable enough to create pretty much any kind of website, from a simple static site to a complex e-commerce or booking site.

We often see it used by designers and agencies to create demo pages or minisites. The built-in hosting means if you already have an enterprise account, it’s easy to make new standalone sites for even the smallest project.

We’ve also seen Webflow used to create some high-profile sites with huge levels of traffic and advanced functionality. Spoonflower, a digital printing company, uses Webflow to allow customers to upload their own files, create and preview personalised items and buy off-the-shelf products, so Webflow is certainly capable of some very heavy lifting.

Red Spark Digital Logo What Are The Downsides of Webflow?

For us, the immediate downside of Webflow is that it felt too much like code. This might sound strange given how much we liked the precision customisation aspect, but we are also thinking about our clients’ point of view. There was a lot of information on screen, and clicking items often brought up unexpected options. Not a huge issue for someone confident using code, but quite offputting if you just want to edit the text on your website quickly. While switching to “Editing” mode removed many of the more intimidating options, it also meant new pieces of content couldn’t be added, essentially stopping clients from creating any new sections for their sites.

Webflow advertises itself as giving you the power of code without having to learn code but without a solid understanding of the CSS box model and block/flex/inline display some of the options were pretty confusing. If you just want to put in an image, heading and paragraph advertising your new product, should you start with a Section, Container or V-Stack? How many non-design professionals understand the difference between padding and margin? The reusable selectors are easy to use if you are familiar with CSS, but for complete newbies they aren’t explained very well.

We also found the interface could be a bit glitchy, with right-click not working as expected. A grid of 3 columns wouldn’t let us add any content in the third column, for no obvious reason. Images were not compressed by default on upload, but instead had a file size warning next to them which looked clickable, but wasn’t. We also struggled to find any information about what size images should be compressed to. For us as confident coders, Webflow added an extra layer of complexity to working with a website, without really making things easier for our less tech-experienced clients to handle.

A screen recording of the Webflow editor. The user repeatedly tries to right click on a heading, but the menu only flashes up for a split second, making it unusable. Only when the user holds down the right click does the menu stay still for long enough to read.
The right-click menu only works when you click and hold…

Another bugbear we have with many web platforms is their use of apps. While these can offer powerful additional functionality, they often charge monthly subscription fees. Webflow has quite a limited app selection, and although most offered a free option, it was clear that for many you would need to subscribe to get any kind of usable functionality. Having some code skills might mean you can skip the apps, but surely the whole point of Webflow is that you don’t need code skills, right? So you get into a situation where the free video app only lets you upload 5 min videos, but your product showreel is a bit longer, so let’s just upgrade to the pro video app, everyone loves videos so it’ll be worth it. Then you realise you are paying $240 per year to potentially host 500 videos of any length and only actually displaying one 10 min product demo. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

Finally, the price structure of Webflow is confusing. Like, off-the-scale, WTF confusing. Sites are different from Workspaces, and e-commerce sites are different from general sites. If you want more than 2 pages, and for someone else on your team to help you add new content to the site, you need to buy a paid site plan AND a paid workspace plan, unless they only edit the content, in which case you can use a free workspace. If you are running an e-commerce site, then you get staff accounts included, but you’ll also have to account for Webflow transaction fees on top of your payment gateway costs. (We told you it was confusing!)

With the cheapest paid plan coming in USD $168 per year, Webflow is not hugely expensive, but it’s not the cheapest way to get your business online either. The number of CMS items and form submissions are restricted on cheaper plans too. Prices rise pretty steeply for relatively small upgrades in this functionality, and some of these would be considered very basic – CMS restriction means you can’t even have a blog until you reach the USD $276 per year tier. For a small organisation looking to test the online waters, Webflow doesn’t offer great value for money.

Red Spark Digital Logo Webflow Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Red Spark Digital Logo Is Webflow better than WordPress?

We can see some scenarios where Webflow would be a better choice, but on the whole, we think WordPress offers better value for most of our clients.

COSTS

WordPress is free open-source software, so you could potentially build a site for nothing. However, most people will need to add in hosting and domain costs to get their site online, but you can shop around here to find the best deal for your specific needs.

This gives you much more control over your costs and means you can scale your site more smoothly. Webflow (and other site-building platforms) often have quite big jumps between plan levels, so someone with 501 products in their online shop is paying the same as someone with 5000 products. For example, a t-shirt business selling 10 designs in 5 sizes and 10 colours doesn’t sound that complex, but has 500 products once every colour and size option is taken into account for every design. Therefore, even a relatively small business without many sales could find itself needing an expensive high-level plan. On WordPress, you would only need to upgrade when your server began to struggle with the size of your site or the levels of traffic, so you could run a niche site with lots of content or a small site with lots of visitors for a relatively low cost.

FLEXIBILITY

WordPress offers fantastic levels of customisation, with opportunities to edit every single aspect of the site if you have specialist knowledge. While Webflow makes a lot of these changes more accessible, such as the CMS custom post setup, it doesn’t let you customise the dashboards and edit screens until you get to the enterprise level. It also makes the main dashboard quite intimidating with the potential for an inexperienced user to delete or damage components, and there’s not an easy way to cycle back changes.

WordPress does offer plugins to extend functionality, but the market for these is much more mature. This means you have much more choice, including a wide range of free options. This is great if you have a very specific piece of functionality in mind, as you can often find a plugin that covers your needs for free or at low-cost.

USABILITY

The main editor of WordPress has improved in user-friendliness in recent years, and the popularity of WordPress means there are loads of tutorials and help articles online if you are struggling. Conversely we found getting specific answers about Webflow issues tricky.

We also offer all our website package clients a training session where you’ll learn exactly how to edit your site and add new content. We encourage clients to attend this as a group, so multiple people can update the site. WordPress allows you to have as many editors, contributors and admin accounts as you need, so you don’t need to pay for this functionality like you do in Webflow.

by Jenny Claxton

Jenny specialises in user experience and web design. Her sites balance the user needs against the business goals to make sure everyone gets what they want. Jenny believes that the internet should be accessible to everyone, and that running your website should be an easy part of your general admin. As a result, she has developed the Red Spark Digital training packages to help website owners feel confident and empowered to make basic changes and updates, as well as knowing when the time is right to call in extra help. When not being extremely online, she makes art and writes questions for TV game shows.

Read More

A glowing hashtag symbol, decorated with lightbulbs, against a black background

Integrating Your Social Media and Website

Using social media content on your website is an easy way to build a coherent brand and develop your online audience.

Read Full Article

A view across a beach - there is a red warning flag planted in the sand.

Red Flags When Hiring A Digital Agency

What's normal when working with a digital agency and what should make you run a mile?

Read Full Article

A padlock holds a light blue door shut

How Secure Is WordPress?

There are lots of scary statistics about WordPress hacks, but our easy tips can quickly improve the security of your site and deter the most common attacks.

Read Full Article

Ready to start work?

Book a free consultation call to find out how we can help you achieve more online.