Webflow vs. WordPress: Which one is for you?
Webflow and WordPress are the two biggest names when it comes to building custom websites without coding.
The internet argues over them like PC vs Mac, iPhone vs Android, and blue or gold dress optical illusion. After you try both of them, you’ll settle on your tool and argue its merits over the other one for the rest of your life. It’s inevitable.
Or you’ve already made up your mind, and you’re here to find arguments to support your tool. Either way, read on. I’ve got arguments for both sides. If you haven’t settled on one yet, you should be able to after reading this post.
Webflow Designer vs. WordPress page builders
Unless you can code, to design a web page, you’ll need to use some sort of a page builder. This is where you’ll spend most of your time when creating a website. Your final result will depend on the chosen page builder’s potential and how well you can work with it.
Let’s compare these two platforms and see what sort of page builders they have to offer.
Last Updated September 2021
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Webflow calls its page builder simply the Designer.
It has a Photoshop-like look where you do nearly everything. This allows designing to building custom content management systems (CMS).
If you land here untrained, you’ll have a hard time figuring out what’s what and what is going on. Fortunately, Webflow has a helpful video library for every option in this designer. You’ll need to watch video tutorials, take a Webflow course on Udemy, or both. Then you can begin to do great work with the Webflow Designer. Once you understand how it all works, you’ll feel like you’ve gained superpowers.
Custom coding will always be leaps and bounds ahead of any page builder. Possibilities are limitless, and you get total control over your designs. Webflow Designer is the closest thing you get to experience that power of code without actually writing a single line of code.
What makes it so good?
You get total control over the design.
If you just want a blog or a website for your business idea, then most likely, this is not a good thing for you. You’re better off with a template-based design.
But I’m a UI, or user interface, designer. I design mockups of my websites in Figma or Sketch first and build them later. To keep my clients happy, I need to get creative and try interesting designs and out-of-the-box layouts. I won’t be able to do this if I have to worry about the limited options offered by a page builder or a plugin. With Webflow, I get total control. If I can think it, I can make it.
When it comes to design, Webflow is far ahead of any WordPress page builder. The Webflow websites the community showcases are stunning and unique. You don’t have to go too far. You can compare the site Webflow and Elementor built with their respective tools.
It uses CSS classes to style elements.
On almost every other page builder, if you style one element, the styles apply to that element only, and that’s it. But Webflow uses CSS selectors to style elements.
You style a class, for example, a “button” class, and with one edit, you change all such buttons across your entire site, even if you have 100 of them. This efficiency is exactly the reason why CSS exists in the first place.
Interactions and animations
A website without animations and interactions can feel a bit dead. Webflow has one of the most elegant interactions and animations builders right in the designer.
Yes, WordPress page builders often have animation tools too. But usually, these only provide animations and not interactions. The difference between the two is that with animations, you apply both the effect and the trigger to the same object. For example, when an image slides it as you scroll down to it.
With interactions, you can set one element as the trigger and animate other elements. For example, when you click a signup button and a pop-up modal opens up.
WordPress page builders
The most popular WordPress page builders are Elementor and Divi. Divi costs money. Elementor has free and paid versions. But the free version is missing a handful of important features. Either you’d have to supplement it with extra plugins or pay $49/year for the full version.
WordPress page builders are just like what you’d expect page builders to be like:
- They are intuitive to work with. Unlike Webflow, they don’t demand a lot of learning and getting used to.
- They come with lots of drag-and-drop components and widgets. You don’t have to build anything from scratch. You drag an element you want: be it a list, accordion, tabs, or dozens of others, and start editing.
- You can choose from many sections and block templates to save your design time.
In a nutshell, WordPress page builders like Elementor and Divi get the job done. They’ll take care of most of your needs. If there’s something they can’t yet do, there’s going to be a plugin that will fill that gap.
My verdict on Webflow Designer vs WordPress page builders
This is my very personal verdict. WordPress builders are not for me. I’ve always struggled with them. They feel slow and clunky and not having total control over designs is a deal-breaker.
They also don’t give me that sweet satisfaction that I get from making something from scratch. For me, WordPress page builders are like assembling an IKEA table. And Webflow Designer is more like crafting a wooden table in a workshop, not that I’ve ever attempted that.
If you want fast design and are fine with design limitations, WordPress page builders are for you. If you want total control and have time to learn, Webflow Designer will show you how much you can do.
Speaking of learning. It’s a thing many overlook, yet it’s an important factor if you want to make any tool work for you. If we had more time and willpower, we’d ditch both WordPress and Webflow. Instead, we’d learn to code and build websites from scratch. But we probably don’t. So we use such platforms to help us build powerful websites efficiently.
Webflow learning curve
Webflow starts off more complicated than WordPress. If you’re looking for a simple, template-based website that you can set up on your own without a lot of learning, then don’t touch Webflow. Webflow is a build-from-scratch builder. The logic is like coding. You add HTML elements like Div blocks and style them using classes just like CSS.
Unlike coding, you’re doing all this visually in a fancy designer. But just like coding, everything obeys HTML and CSS laws. These laws aren’t intuitive. They are weird, to say the least.
You’ll need to carve out some learning time to get started with Webflow. The learning curve of doing simple things to complex things in Webflow is almost the same. Once you get some practice under your belt, it’s smooth sailing onward. You may want to add to your knowledge, but you’ll have a much easier time after getting over the initial hurdle. It’s not like learning guitar, where it gets harder as you attempt more difficult tunes. It’s more like learning to drive.
If you’re familiar with HTML and CSS, you won’t need a lot of time to get the hang of Webflow. The physics and architecture of designing will feel familiar. You’ll just need to get acquainted with what’s where.
WordPress learning curve
WordPress starts very simple and becomes more and more overwhelming. This, of course, has to do with plugins. With more than 58,000 constantly changing plugins, learning is all you do.
For every new component you want to add to your site, you need a plugin. Add a simple email form? A plugin. A tool-tip on hover? Plugin. Edit search engine optimization? Plugin. Image gallery? You get the point. Every new plugin comes with yet another learning curve:
- You need to research many plugins to find the one that suits your site the best.
- You need to check their limitations. Otherwise, you might go with a solution that becomes useless when your client asks you to remove rounded edges from the fields.
- You need to compare prices. Many are free but require an upgrade for added features. Some ask you to pay to even test them out.
- Finally, you have to watch video tutorials and learn how to use the plugin that you picked. If you find the plugin buggy or you find something better, you have to go back and learn that new plugin. Ugh!
WordPress needs deeper knowledge.
Any platform that is as flexible as WordPress will require deeper knowledge. For example, the big advantage of WordPress over Webflow is the cost. But to take advantage of this, you’ll need to self-host your WordPress site. This opens up a whole cavalcade of new topics like servers, security, DNS, SSL certificates, content distribution networks, storage spaces, bandwidth, and site backups. The list goes on.
Most WordPress plugins, in reality, have limited customization options. Plugins usually come with a few versions and style customization options. For extra customization, they provide a CSS field. That requires learning CSS.
Having a website isn’t free. Many people don’t know this. We’re used to having free Facebook accounts, emails, and YouTube channels. The expectation of some of my clients is that a website isn’t going to have any running costs. When it comes to websites, there’s no free lunch.
There are two main costs:
- Domain. www.vako-loves-cupcakes.com is a domain. It’s like getting an address so people can find your website. This costs something like $15 a year, regardless of WordPress or Webflow.
- Hosting. This is the house where your website lives. It’s where your files chill on the couch, stuffing their faces. Hosting is what matters when it comes to costs.
WordPress hosting in a nutshell
The WordPress content management system itself is free, but that doesn’t mean owning a WordPress site is free. You still need to host that CMS and your website on a server. And that costs money.
WordPress holds a big advantage over Webflow in this respect. You can make your WordPress site cost you as little as $2.59/month. You’ll have to pay three years upfront. The month-to-month price is $4.95/month. Not that big of a difference.
This price is from DreamHost, one of the most popular hosting providers. You can find something even cheaper if you dig deeper. That may lead to sketchy hosting, so I wouldn’t try my luck with those. Server security, speed, and uptime are important. They mean your website can load fast, not have downtimes, and not get hacked.
Webflow hosting in a nutshell
Webflow is an all-in-one solution. The website builder, CMS, and hosting are all from one company. Yes, Webflow allows you to export the site code and host it elsewhere. This only works for sites without CMS. So, I’m not going to take this into consideration for this comparison.
Webflow hosting starts at $12/month. But that’s for sites without CMS, so let’s ignore that. The hosting for the Webflow CMS site is $16/month. That’s if you pay annually. If you pay monthly, it will be $20/month.
How do WordPress and Webflow hosting plans compare?
$5/month for WordPress hosting and $20/month for Webflow is quite a difference. If you just look at the price, then WordPress seems like a no-brainer. But the comparison isn’t level. $5/month gets you the most basic hosting. Webflow’s hosting is a higher-tier hosting.
Webflow’s hosting comes with features that basic WordPress hosting doesn’t come with. Namely, these three important features:
- Automatic backups & versioning. This automatically backs up your site. If anything goes wrong or you break something, you can easily restore the older version.
- Content distribution network (CDN). If your site is only for locals, then you’re fine without this. But if people around the world will visit your site, then this is pretty darn necessary. If you live in New York and visit an Australian website hosted on local servers, it will be like the old days of dial-up internet. The bytes will have to travel through cables from Australia to New York. Trust me; it’s slow.
The CDN hosting saves copies of your website’s content on 100+ data centers worldwide. It serves each visitor from the closest server. This way, your site will load as fast as possible, no matter where they are on the planet.
- Staging environment. Making big updates on a live website is risky. You might end up breaking something and have people visit a website that’s looking odd or not working properly.
Webflow comes with a staging environment. Any changes you make to the site save in the staging environment. They won’t go live until you publish to the live domain. Instead of publishing to the actual domain, you can publish to Webflow’s subdomain. This way, you’ll be able to test the new version properly. You can get feedback from your colleagues and clients before you push the updates to the live site.
You can get these three features from DreamHost and other hosting providers. But that’s going to cost you $29.95/month on DreamHost. Now that paints a totally different picture. Webflow becomes the cheaper option with its $20/month plan.
Webflow’s free plan
Webflow actually has a forever free plan. Yes, you lose some features on the free plan. You can only publish the site on Webflow’s subdomain, but this is still big. It gives you a lot of freedom to test and learn Webflow without any investment. It lets you build every new project for free, not needing to pay until you’re ready to go live.
As for WordPress, hosting providers don’t have free plans. You pay upfront. Even when they offer free trials, you still pay up. You can do something similar with WordPress if you install it on your computer (localhost.) This starts to get more advanced very quickly.
Multiple websites hosting advantage
There’s one advantage in pricing that WordPress will always have. You can pay for one hosting that allows housing multiple, sometimes unlimited websites. The price increase isn’t big.
Those in the web design business can generate extra income through this. Freelancers and agencies can host all their client websites under one plan. Then they can offer hosting as an added service and pocket the difference.
You can do something similar with Webflow — charge clients extra for hosting. But Webflow’s pricing is always per site, and you don’t get a chance to cut the costs down per unit.
Webflow vs WordPress pricing conclusion
In conclusion, pricing is a complicated topic when comparing these two web design giants. Most of my clients don’t have an issue paying $20/month for Webflow. But I do work with clients in developed countries that pay me for designing premium websites.
If you plan on working on low-budget projects or running multiple websites for yourself, then WordPress might be a better bang for your buck.
Security may seem like a boring topic, but you can’t even imagine how big of a factor this is. So keep reading.
WordPress is open source. That means anyone can see what’s under-the-hood and play around with it. This gives hackers an easier time to find and exploit vulnerabilities. Plus, WordPress is like 30% to 40% of the world’s websites. It’s quite worthwhile for hackers to find ways to exploit WordPress.
Someone can penetrate a WordPress site from many different sides. A hacker can get in through the CMS itself, through plugins, through the theme you’re using, or through the servers that you’re hosting at. It’s no surprise that every year hundreds of thousands of WordPress sites get hacked.
To keep your site secure, you need to be constantly on top of it. You need to update the CMS, the theme, and all your plugins as soon as new versions come out. These updates are very frequent and truly a pain in the neck. You’ll always worry about having your client’s website down out of the blue and getting an angry, emergency call from them. As one of my students put it, “I can’t take it anymore.”
Webflow security is a whole different story. I know nothing about it, and that’s an amazing thing.
The Webflow team takes care of security. It’s a closed system run by one of the best developers in the world. If there are vulnerabilities, they’re on top of it. They are fixing it, instantly updating it, automatically applying it to all my sites. Meanwhile, I am sleeping peacefully in ignorant bliss.
I’ve never had Webflow sites hacked or down. But I’ve had WordPress sites chewed up and spat out by malicious bots.
WordPress sites are slow.
WordPress sites are notorious for their slowness. All the plugins, clunky theme files, additional tools — they add up. Very quickly, the source code behind the site becomes awfully inflated. Unless you know what you’re doing and put effort into cleaning it up, your site will be slow.
Webflow sites are blazing fast.
Web designers who switch from WordPress to Webflow often mention that their sites load much faster on Webflow, even though the site is exactly the same but built in Webflow. There are several reasons for this:
Reason #1: Closed system
Unlike WordPress, there are no third-party plugins on Webflow. Webflow sites are closed and very lean.
When on WordPress, you can have a code for the form component generated by one plugin developer, navigation bar by another, and SEO by another. You may have 20 other components on the site by 20 different developers. Things can get messy and inefficient. You get a lot of redundancies and plugins that often conflict with each other and end up breaking something.
On Webflow, it’s always one tool and one team behind it. Any conflicts between components get remedied before most Webflow users know about them.
Reason #2: Clean code
Webflow generates extremely clean code. That has to do with how we design in Webflow. Since the design logic is already based on HTML elements and CSS classes, you end up building the site the way a developer would code the site by hand.
Reason #3: Efficient hosting
The Webflow team manages Webflow servers. Unless you are a top-notch infrastructure engineer, I think we can agree that Webflow’s team can manage our hosting a lot better than we can.
Plus, Webflow servers are fully tailored for Webflow sites. You see, regular servers need to be ready for anything. Users may install WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or even all three of these systems — and run them all at once. This poses no problems for the server, but it does mean that it cannot be fully optimized to run one particular system really well.
Webflow servers need to run only one system — Webflow. So it’s highly fine-tuned to run it as fast and as efficiently as possible. This makes not just Webflow sites load more quickly, but designing inside Webflow too.
We can’t compare the two and not mention limitations of what can be achieved by each system. But mainly, this is about Webflow.
WordPress is an open system. Plugins are allowed to change basically anything. With more than 58,000 plugins, most of your needs will be met by WordPress. You could even build a social networking site using the BuddyPress plugin.
If you find needs that can’t be met by any of the plugins, you can code them if you know what you’re doing or hire a developer who does.
Webflow is a closed system. We can’t alter Webflow’s page builder or add features to its CMS.
We can add custom code to Webflow sites and integrate them with third-party applications to enhance what we can do with Webflow. But it doesn’t compare to the freedom WordPress plugins have over the system.
Here are key Webflow limitations to consider:
- Webflow does not yet have user login functionality. This means you can’t build sites on Webflow that require user registration and account management.
- No user-generated content. Website visitors can’t submit or alter the site’s content. For example, you can’t create sites like IMDB and collect movie ratings and reviews even if you don’t require them to create accounts. Or a real-estate website where you can collect listings.
Now, there are third-party applications that we can integrate with our Webflow site and achieve both of these functionalities. For example, with applications like MemberStack, we can add user logins and membership functionality to our Webflow site. Or, with Zapier, we can collect content from users and feed it back to our CMS. However, these sorts of apps are rarely free, and they also come with limitations.
So, which one should you choose?
The answer depends on what you want it for.
When to choose WordPress
Choose WordPress if:
- You want it for a personal website. The learning curve is shorter, and you can install a ready-made theme and start editing the content.
- You want to get a full-time job as a web designer. Most web design agencies and studios use WordPress when they’re not custom coding sites. If you’re aiming at getting a job at such companies, then mastering WordPress is the way to go.
- You want to build a complex site. Anything you can build in Webflow can be made in WordPress. But the opposite isn’t true. Read chapter 6 about Webflow limitations.
When to choose Webflow
Choose Webflow if:
- You’ve already had it with WordPress. Many WordPress users are vexed by issues that are common with WordPress. If this is you, then make the switch to Webflow and don’t look back. You won’t ever have to worry about plugins, updates, servers, or your site being down. It will be smooth-sailing in that respect.
- You are a designer. Webflow is a deadly tool in the hands of designers. It was originally for designers who wanted something other than a template-based approach to web design.
- You want to be a freelance web designer. Webflow has super-charged my freelancing career, so I have to give this point to Webflow. Although, to be completely fair, WordPress stands equal on this one too.
You plan on learning how to code. WordPress plugins and page builders don’t bring you any closer to coding. Webflow plugs you right into the workings of HTML and CSS. You’ll work with tags, classes, CSS properties like flexbox, CSS grid, and positioning. Yet, you’ll practice all these in a simple, visual way.
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