When it comes to getting websites up and running, WordPress is an undisputed popular champion – but is it really worthy of the title? Webflow might be poised to claim the crown thanks to its strong combination of built-in features, high level of customizability, and ease of use. Here's why we think it's the better option for implementing an efficient, end-to-end web design process.
No comparison would be complete without exploring the underpinnings that make these options different. Let's start by taking a quick look at their backstories.
WordPress has been around since 2003, and when it launched, it was fairly unique. Although other content management systems, or CMSes, already existed, WordPress made it easy for non-technical users to create websites featuring regularly updated content, such as blogs.
Over time, the system's popularity led to a massive ecosystem that includes tens of thousands of themes, plugins, and templates. You can customize everything from a site's appearance to its search engine optimization, or SEO, features.
Webflow's debut lagged that of WordPress by a decade, but it immediately capitalized on the growing trend of responsive development. This tool has a richly featured visual editing platform that people can use to design, refine, and launch all kinds of websites.
Webflow incorporates a CMS, but it also manages site data without plugins and offers integrated cloud hosting. In contrast to the plug-and-play oriented WordPress workflow, Webflow users get to build in a more freeform manner without worrying about the code unless they need to.
At first glance, it's hard to argue against using WordPress. After all, it has an extensive plugin library and powers a significant chunk of the web's content. Webflow, however, packs a few punches in key areas:
One of the biggest reasons we favour Webflow is that it offers a greater degree of control. Creativity is a bit more convenient, even if you're building something complex.
While WordPress lets you customize the visuals to your heart's content, you're still locked into its underlying templating system. The only way to truly break free is to design your own template, in which case you might as well build a site from scratch.
With Webflow, you just drag and drop elements as you go. The appropriate code shows up automatically – without you needing to install plugins. This gives the tool more flexibility for designing sites that don't adhere to the conventional blog, gallery, or article layout.
Designers might also appreciate the fact that they get to work directly with their page content. Since there's no need to switch back and forth between a preview and editor dashboard, it's easier to keep your train of thought chugging along as you make changes and hone your vision. One neat feature is that you can apply quick filters to only display certain types of content, making it simple to stay focused.
WordPress contains some pretty handy tools for designing and managing page layouts. The problem is that they're the exception to the rule, available primarily in the plugin realm.
Webflow seems to cater more towards visual design. The editor has native support for positioning, resizing, and otherwise modifying page elements, making it far more straightforward to build something truly unique.
The designer-accommodating workflow also extends to general branding and theming. You can:
Customization is also a highly organic, rewarding experience. For example, when you want to create an animation, you can start with one of the prebuilt options and then make tweaks from there.
Plugins are a mixed bag. Although they add functionality, these third-party ecosystem contributions also heighten risk. There are countless known WordPress plugin vulnerabilities, with dozens more rearing their ugly heads by the month.
Adding plugins also increases complexity and maintenance overhead. When you want to update a WordPress site that uses plugins, you need to make sure the changes won't conflict with what you've already installed. Also, not all plugins are guaranteed to work together – or receive consistent updates from their developers.
Webflow's approach overcomes these problems without clamping down on your power to create and customize. You can add custom features on a case-by-case basis, embed content, and accomplish everything else you'd normally have to use a plugin to achieve. The best part is that you actually retain an awareness of what's going on under the hood. This is far better than having to cross your fingers and pray you didn't cripple your site with hidden malware just because you wanted to add a contact form or SEO widget.
All of that being said, it's important to point out that a Webflow project isn't some abandoned digital island. When you want to connect to third-party services, you can use Zapier to integrate with your choice of apps. This is our preferred choice for making the most of automation workflows that would prove far more complicated in WordPress setups.
WordPress and Webflow both accommodate creators who want their pages to rank highly in search results. The key difference is that with Webflow, it's easier to understand, and thus refine, your SEO practices.
Webflow eliminates the barriers between designers and the internals that make their websites functional. If you want to add optimizations, you don't need to enable some extra feature or install a plugin; you just add the appropriate HTML tags, meta elements, links, and other elements right there in the code. This results in trimmer sites that are easier to debug, faster to load, and more conducive to use, which ultimately promotes better rankings.
It's easy to build a Webflow site that works seamlessly on mobile and desktop. The system's creators integrated responsiveness into their philosophy from the start, and the dashboard even lets you preview how your content will look on different devices.
WordPress, on the other hand, predates the mobile-device-ridden modern internet. In other words, its responsive design features feel like somewhat of an afterthought.
Mastering WordPress eCommerce can be tricky. It's not always simple to get payments working, and sales pages can appear somewhat at odds with the rest of your layout unless you spend extra time tweaking them. These disparities can potentially lead to consumer confusion.
Webflow provides a fuller package for selling online, and you don't even have to mess around with third-party tools. In addition to including the most popular payment methods out of the box, it lets you customize things like your shipping policy, interactive product widgets, and even follow-up email templates. The Zapier integrations also facilitate streamlined shipping label creation, engagement tracking, and customer relationship management. Although the Webflow team is still working on its eCommerce offerings, the fact that these integrations are native might make them feel a bit more stable as new features become available.
WordPress's open-source model has historically been one of its big selling points. Arguably, it wouldn't be nearly as popular if it hadn't left the gates open to contributors augmenting the ecosystem with plugins, themes, and improvements.
By contrast, Webflow is proprietary software. Even though you can design your site for free, you have to pay a monthly fee to take it live, and these costs can add up.
We won't delve too deeply into the open-source vs. closed-source debate here. What's worth noting is that if you're running a business page, you'll end up paying no matter which option you pick: Adding premium plugins or themes to WordPress still costs money, and you'll inevitably have to pay someone to host your site. Using Webflow, however, might help you predict these expenses more readily since you can budget for them from the start.
Finally, don't forget the hidden costs of maintenance. If your site is likely to change beyond adding new posts or content, Webflow's ease of editing and native customization perks make it a better choice. This is particularly true when you want to add revenue-driving features, like gated, members-only content, without a hassle.
WordPress still has its place in the digital world: It's great for personal sites, blogs, and other basic content. If you're like us, however, Webflow's ability to generate standards-compliant code from a drag-and-drop interface makes it the hands-down winner. When prototyping a site and trying to keep everyone from the design team to the backend engineers on the same page, being able to work directly with the code is an invaluable asset.
While it's certainly true that you can create awesome-looking sites in either tool, Webflow may ultimately help you go farther: Its streamlined workflow is ripe for experimentation. Although learning the ropes may take some doing, you tend to gain more for your efforts – like a more intimate understanding of how to optimize what makes your sites tick.