Wordpress, Squarespace or Webflow?
I really thought a lot before writing this post, but I think that as current user and designer that have tried all 3 platforms, I need to make my comments and I’m pretty sure you will make yours too.
This CMS was one of the first ones to do it right (back in the day) when we all started and need it to have some sort of control in your designs. A great solid system in general but you need to learn and do a lot with coding as well as knowing how to set it up in the server the right way, (if you got with the self-hosting version) so you don’t end with a hacker trying to change your content with something else — even worse masking your URL just because you have no idea how to create and maintain a secure site. After over 20 years working in the field, I still discover every day new things when I need to install and create secure sites and is always a headache.
Wordpress in another hand, offers a variety of templates that help you somehow get “ahead of the curve” when you can potentially “swap or change” content and get your site running in no time, also the marketplace for plugins with third-party platforms is really big, you could find virtually anything in there, the key feature is to get to know how each one of them works (good luck on that).
In general, the platform is great but you will still need to have a developer to create things for you —
you can create 60% of the site without coding but that other 40% makes a big difference when you know how to throw some code in there. Wordpress is a great platform but I personally think they need to evolve in what “design with no code” means.
Learning curve: High
Level of simplicity: (not simple)
Development time (average)
For developers (Awesome)
For designers (not that good)
For consumers (difficult)
pricing (Free if you download the code or paid if you opt-in to use their servers)
built-in templates (yes)
Whitelabel for agencies with payment (no)
I remember the day that I discover Squarespace, it was a WOW factor for me, coming from Wordpress. The way these guys thought about “us” was incredible. You can virtually create a website with literally no coding whatsoever in a few hours.
Squarespace is getting better and better as it moves along. The platform offers you the alternative for “developer mode” giving you access through all the API for all the templates via GitHub providing even more flexibility to download the entire template (anyone template you like) manage and make adjustments and changes “off-line” as need it and re-upload them to their servers — without having the hassle of knowing anything about security features or SSL or any of that crap. Pretty cool!
Squarespace templates offers not only a difference between layouts but also features — not every template have the same “ability” for doing certain things, so you have to take a look really carefully and get to know each one of those templates so you can understand what includes each one of them and how they work as well as how you can benefit from that.
Like I said before, templates are great — the problem that I see here is that at the end (when you do a lot of sites) you have the feeling that all of the sites ended up looking like each other — if you don’t get custom code that makes something radically different, you will have “just another Squarespace site” looking like your template — don’t get me wrong, those templates are nice, is just that they are not “unique” and as a designer that is something that you are always looking having that level of “uniqueness”.
In another hand, Squarespace gives you the flexibility to work really fast — you don’t even have to create a wire-frame (and as a matter of fact, I suggest not to do it, ’cause you will get frustrated later down the road, as you will discover that there are going to be plenty of things you are not going to be able to do or accomplish just because you don’t have 100% the control without coding, as simple as that), you can choose a template, move things around, change with your own content and make it live, and done, your site is up.
I think Squarespace is missing a few great features the platform should have one way or the other, for example;
White-label platform for agencies where you can provide access to your clients without disclosing the source. Why? ’cause all the clients think that working with a CMS is not really work and does not required knowledge or effort and you won’t get paid the way you need. It’s time that Squarespace thinks about US in a different level.
Design tool; this is very restricted to a lot more things it should have in order for you to control your styles better.
Responsive: very poor, you cannot hide or change things in responsive mode unless you do it through the source directly but not with the tools provided to you.
e-commerce: is getting a lot better but is not there yet to compete with Shopify for example.
Learning curve: (Low)
Level of simplicity: (really simple)
Development time (Fast)
For designers (Awesome — nice tools, drag and drop features that makes you run with your project)
For consumers (great UX)
built-in templates (yes)
Whitelabel for agencies with payment (no)
I just start using this platform and to be honest I haven’t published 1 site yet. I’ve been using most of the time creating sites in the last 4–5yrs in Squarespace, but I’ve been looking for something “better” in terms of customization, and a platform where I can manage most of my clients moreover, a good platform that produces good code (without coding) not the case of Adobe Muse (these guys are really far from that). I found a bunch of different platforms out there and have been trying most of them and let me tell you that so far I’M IN LOVE WITH THIS PLATFORM. Web flow gives me everything (so far) that I need to create, produce and maintain all the sites with white-label features and complete control of the design in most of the phases (mobile, tablet or desktop).
Now, I have to be honest there is a learning curve, yes, for us designers that have not really too much knowledge about development, we need to learn basic things, like what is a DIV or a Container or a section or a class, etc, etc and not because you will need to code, but is more to understand how things work around the platform at the time you start bringing elements in the main canvas.
I’ve been watching Webflow’s videos every night for the last 2 months and I think I have a pretty good understanding now. I’m creating a project just for the sake of having something to work with so I can start applying everything that I’m learning and let me tell you that there is a HUGE difference by using this platform. You can pretty much create ANYTHING you can imagine in any scale. Wait, let me retract for a bit, not everything, the platform is still missing things like e-commerce features and pagination and merchant integration (square-up, stripe, authorized.net, etc) between others, but you can use third parties for that meanwhile the platform releases those features (I’m sure they will, and it’ll be really stupid not too) but guys, do yourself a favor and try it — and if you are going to try it, make sure to do the following;
First of all, as designers, start doing your drafts, in a paper or board or anything you want.
Move into Sketch, Illustrator or whatever the design tool you use and make the design you want.
Once you have a clear definition about your design, make sure you allocate all the content and have it ready in a folder (this will expedite your deployment significantly) and get ready to start assembling everything in Webflow, that should always be the flow, the creative thinking should happen before you upload content — once you have that part ready — then your focus should be about “how can we bring this to live”, makes sense?
Webflow have a feature they call CMS but truly is a “database creation” where you can virtually create anything and automate the process of publishing and merging data. Webflow have also some presets for those databases that you can choose from and will help you expedite the process. It also offers templates (free and paid) the free ones are ok, nothing cool or fancy and the paid ones are nice but expensive (around $70 each). The thing here is not about the templates because remember, you’ve already created your design, so fuck templates, you can create anything you want the way you envision your design with precision with NO CODING.
The platform is 100% white-label, really a great feature to have for us designers, freelancers and agencies — someone is thinking about “us” here.
and last but not least, you can export the entire code and hosted somewhere else if you want (I personally don’t think is a good idea ’cause you lose the CMS capabilities but is possible).
I exported an example that I was working on and send it for review to a developer and he told me literally “men you are getting better at coding, this is impeccable” lol didn’t tell him my secret :)
Things that I think Webflow is still missing could be a mobile app where you can control everything including your own client management through Webflow.
Ability to have e-commerce (a must)
Native integration with MailChimp (don’t tell me to copy this part of the code and use zappier, no, I want to use the way Squarespace does it, natively)
Blogging mobile app that communicates with your site.
Merchant integrations (stripe, squareup, amazon, authorize.net, etc)
Shipping integration (shipstation probably?)
but in general, I can only imagine the future of this platform and is Brilliant! Now, can you imagine if Webflow creates an “extension” or “arm” with the same principal for creating web but now for creating mobile APPS without coding, whaaaat? I think these kiddos have the recipe and who knows if they are working in something like that or not, but I’m crossing my fingers.
Yes, I’m in the plans to migrate to this platform 100% as they are rolling out more features. For more information about what the community is requesting go to https://wishlist.webflow.com/ and take a look at the list, is extensive.
I’m planning as a UXr to even use Webflow in some cases to prototype and test live and collect data and feedback from users in a more efficient way. Think about it — it’s brilliant!
Learning Curve: Mid (yes, you need to see the videos and understand all the terminologies before you decide to jump and build something, it will take a few weeks)
Level of simplicity:(simple)
Development time (Quickly)
For developers (great)
For designers (awesome)
For consumers (awesome)
pricing (low — you pay for what you need and you can control the pricing for your clients)
built-in templates (Yes)
Whitelabel for agencies with payment (Yes)
My choice in order.
There are a few others platforms out there like Wix (too basic for my taste and technology is not there yet), Weebly (looks like a “Webflow” kinda thing — but if you are an agency they want to charge an upfront cost plus some crazy monthly fee, something around $400 and something dollars a month!) honestly too much. I think they didn’t study that part in their business plan well — “pricing” part of the 4 Ps of marketing!
Last but not least; no, i don’t have anything to do with webflow other than being a current user, and no, I also don’t make any proof reading, I type and type and type and publish. If you see any mis-spelling or grammatical issues sorry.
’til next time.