Webflow: The Best Website Building & Hosting

Webflow: The Best Website Building & Hosting | SparrowBoost
Daniel Wade

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Daniel Wade

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August 18, 2020

Think of a website as the office building of an online business. Like a standard office, it has to look and feel professional.

First impressions are crucial when attracting new prospects; that's why most offices have a dress code and a code of conduct.

It also has to accommodate the needs of the organization, whether that means having a homepage, a blog section, one or two landing pages, an online shop, or an online forum.

In a physical establishment, these dissections are not unlike offices, showrooms, and conference areas.

Google, for example, understands that its greatest asset is its human resource, which is why all its offices, including the global headquarters in Mountain View, CA, have meditation rooms.

If you want to grow a successful online business from scratch, your first and only imperative is to build an attractive "office building."

It doesn't matter how many years you've been in business on the brick-and-mortar front; if your website isn't up to scratch, you're not going to gain an audience.

Building a website is perhaps the most complicated aspect of starting an online business.

Thankfully, site-builders like Wix and open-source systems like WordPress have lowered the bar, making it possible for people with minimal coding knowledge and website design skills to build beautiful sites from scratch.

A particularly attractive option when it comes to site builders is Webflow, a brand new web-building/hosting platform.

Although relatively new, it is bound to be a game-changer simply because ANYONE can use it to build a beautiful, highly-customized, and responsive website, even with no prior knowledge on coding and website design.

This guide sheds light on what the Webflow site builder can do, its strengths, its shortcomings, and why it is one of the best options for anyone looking for a good site builder.

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What is Webflow?

Although we casually refer to it as a "site builder," Webflow is a little bit more than that. It borrows a little bit from Wix, WordPress, and manual website coding and combines it all into a marvelous online toolkit that lets you create and run websites like the pros.

Other than that, Webflow also provides hosting services, so if you choose to build your site here, you won't have to enlist the services of another WebHost.

Is Webflow Cheaper or More Expensive than Other Options?

Truthfully, it all depends on what you compare it with. With the basic plan going for $12/month, Webflow is slightly more expensive than WordPress ($4/month) and SiteGround ($3.95) when it comes to hosting.

However, that fee gets you much more than just a custom domain name and other hosting perks. We will get into the benefits of Webflow hosting later on in the guide.

Why Webflow?

With the numerous options out there, it's easy to wonder why Webflow is worth your time, especially since it is a newcomer in the whole site-building and hosting game. Well, the main reason you should consider using Webflow for your website is this: few tools are as powerful, flexible, and customizable as the Webflow site designer.

To better understand that, let's take a deeper dive into the specifics.

Webflow's Main Components

1. Web Design Tool

When you open the Webflow Site Designer, you'll be taken to an HTML/CSS automation tool that looks a lot like Photoshop (HTML and CSS are coding languages-you don't even need to know about them if you're using Webflow).

This is where the magic happens. Within this window, you can customize and tweak your site's appearance and functionality by adding, removing, and positioning style and navigation elements as you please.

Full disclosure: it will take you some time just to get used to the interface if you have never designed a website before. It's not that it is complicated, but rather that it has a steep learning curve.

As much as you can move, shape, and configure style elements to your liking, there are some limitations. Remember, Webflow is still building these sites using HTML and CSS, so the underlying code behind each component has to stay clean to make a responsive and functional website.

That means you can't draw in random shapes or cram visuals however you please. Webflow gives you the freedom to put together your dream website element by element, but you have to respect the fact that everything you see in the semi-visual site editor is limited by its code.

Still, you can add damn near anything to your website if you know how to go about it. For instance, if you need an entry box within a web page, you must first add a new "section," which is known as an <div> in code. You must also set its positioning and adjust its top-right-bottom-left positioning. If you need it centered, the value to input is 0.

Before you start fretting about how you don't know the first thing about adjusting elements on a webpage, Webflow gives you a choice to get started as a complete newbie. When signing up, you can check the "I don't write code" box if you want Webflow to automate most of the web building process for you.

Apart from loads of automated processes, Webflow is pretty conscious about its users, so they use user-friendly wording to describe some of the more complex jargon. Unfortunately, this is a give and take. In lieu of simplicity, the web builder sacrifices many CSS features and instead boils down web building into frequently-used parameters and pre-defined options.

You can build your website from one of the 30 free templates and 100 paid templates that you'll find in the Webflow library. Premium templates offer more in terms of assets, styles, and the level of detail. You may have to shell out as much as $40 - $80 to buy one of these, but, on the upside, these premium themes come from professional developers, not from an open-source community like WordPress.

If you're an absolute beginner, creating a website from an existing template is recommended. However, anyone with a bit of practical HTML/CSS experience can comfortably build a website from scratch using Webflow's toolkit.

The beauty of Webflow is that while you tinker with the visual style elements in the builder panel, the system creates the appropriate code and markup automatically.

2. Content Management System

Webflow runs circles around classic CMSs like WordPress simply because it offers multiple content types with NO plugin requirements. Apart from blog-posts, you can use Webflow CMS to manually define the type of custom content you want on your site, whether its projects, a team member section, testimonials, etc.

This freedom to customize content to suit your organizational needs is crucial. Remember what we said about office buildings? The most successful organizations learn to adapt their premises as their needs evolve. That's precisely the kind of flexibility you get when you use Webflow CMS to populate your website.

You create content by first picking one of the numerous CMS Collections available (click on the stack icon on the tab). The collection is basically the type of content you want to populate a page with. Next, you can add items, set fields (for informational input), and customize everything from the layout of your content to the type of content intended for that specific page.

Webflow CMS supports on-site editing, which means you can change media or text on any page you're building. This CMS back-end, along with another useful tool called the Webflow Editor, which lets you add new content on an already published site, gives you unprecedented control over your website.

The combo also makes collaborative projects possible and easy. Not many site builders out there offer the ability to edit static pages or to select from a dynamic range of content types, including portfolios, blog posts, and team member pages without the use of a plugin.

Don't expect to get the hang of it right away. There's a lot of head-scratching involved in the beginning, but you can save your scalp by looking up guides in the Webflow University, which is an incredibly useful resource to learn how to use Webflow.

3. Hosting and Deployment

Once your site is set up and ready for deployment, Webflow makes the next few steps even easier. First of all, there are a few options available. For the free plan or for testing purposes, you may have to go with the webflow.com domain. But there is a custom domain option too if you decide to cut to the chase.

Webflow allows you to create and stage your website on a webflow.com domain without as much as spending a dime. When you're ready to go live, that's when you pay for Webflow's hosting services. Upgrading to the basic package, which costs $12 a month, lets you connect your own domain name to the prototype (or test site). The basic package has a 25,000 monthly visit limit, and if you need to increase this, you can do so by upgrading to the $36-per-month business tier, which allows for up to 1 million monthly visits.

Both plans are billed annually, and there's a 20% discount involved if you choose to pay this way instead of monthly.

Here's the million-dollar question: why would anyone want to host their website on Webflow?

  • Webflow has an advanced content delivery system built into it. Even without paying extra, you can ensure that your audience receives your website from the node closest to their geographical location. It results in a very responsive web experience.
  • The built-in CDN ensures your website is faster than your competitors, and that it stays live even when traffic spikes or hackers try to take down your site.
  • Webflow utilizes the infrastructure of leading cloud providers like Fastly and Amazon Cloudfront, so it is incredibly scalable. It's nice to have the assurance that you will never need to upgrade your hosting server.
  • Last but not least, Webflow has a built-in secure sockets layer (SSL) that puts your website in compliance with modern web security measures immediately it goes live. You can save yourself a lot of headaches with such a nifty setup.

To sum it all up, Webflow hosting is advantageous because it is scalable and can potentially save you hundreds of dollars annually in SSL and CDN costs, which it supplies at no extra fee. Furthermore, the ready-to-use nature of the platform makes it widely accessible.

Webflow eCommerce

Webflow recently rolled out an eCommerce version that allows entrepreneurs to build online stores from the ground up in the same simple and cost-effective manner.

There's a lot to be said about how much control it gives you over elements like custom carts, inventory management, and endpoints like the checkout page, especially when you consider that it takes tremendous effort and coding prowess to achieve the same level of customization using ecommerce builders like Shopify and WooCommerce.

Upcoming features for the Webflow ecommerce builder include digital downloads, subscriptions, and discounts. Soon, there will be multi-currency support as well as Amazon integration.

How Much Does Webflow Cost?

Here's a quick breakdown of Webflow's pricing:

  • Basic plan ($12/month)

Included: automatic SSL and CDN, custom domain deployment.

  • CMS Plan ($16/month)

Included: the ability to deploy static pages and CMS content.

  • Business Plan ($36/month)

Included: up to 1 million monthly site visits.

Pros and Cons of Webflow

The Good

  • Professional web design tool with real-time editing, built-in mobile-friendliness, and automatically created code, which is exportable.
  • Granular controls over site elements like animation and styles, thanks to advanced JavaScript (JS) and CSS managers.
  • Integrated and highly flexible CMS that supports static and dynamic content.
  • World-class distributed hosting powered by tech moguls like Amazon Cloudfront guarantees stellar page load speed and virtually no downtime.
  • Integrated CDN at no extra cost makes your website faster and more secure because it is transmitted from optimal geographical locations.
  • Quick two-click deployment from the designer to a staging environment or your custom domain.
  • Dozens of free and premium templates available from professional web developers.
  • Free SSL certificates (typically cost around $50 to $100) makes your website safety compliant out of the box.

The Bad

  • No native multilingual support; you need a Weglot extension for this.
  • The steep learning curve for first-time web developers.
  • Low compatibility with Edge and Firefox browsers.

Final Thoughts

After our in-depth analysis of Webflow, it is safe to say that it is one of the most advanced integrated web-building toolkits out there. Its main appeal might be how much it packs into a single package (site-building, CMS, CDN, SSL, hosting, eCommerce) and how affordably it prices its services.

But what puts it far above the competition is that Webflow is a hybrid, an amalgamation of a traditional web-builder and a CMS that fulfills your wishes through a mixture of flexibility and automation. You may not even need professional coding, web design, or marketing training to get your website up and running.

Overall, this is the web-building tool you need if you want to build your website yourself, from scratch, and using only one resource.