Both of these website development & CMS platforms can help you build a great business website - but which one is truly the best for your company?
This episode of Business Talks aims to help you discover that by looking at both platforms from an honest perspective. I review the pros and cons of each website builder and detail which use cases I believe may prompt you to pick one over another.
- CMS: Pretty much infinitely customizable and can fit every sort of use case you would ever need to have on a website (event listing, booking directory, ecommerce, etc.). The built-in CMS will give you everything you need, and you can expand the functionality a lot with custom post types and advanced custom fields.
- Plugins: Open source / 3rd party plugins extend functionality endlessly - easily able to add a lot more functionality to your website with little to no knowledge of code. Think of plugins like apps for your website.
- WooCommerce: eCommerce functionality for WP is much better compared to Webflow. While not as good as Shopify, it’s pretty damn close and you have a lot more customization over the design if you use a tool like Elementor or Oxygen. WooCommerce is a great (free) way to start an online shop.
- Design & Development: Newer page builder tools like Oxygen and Bricks are bringing visual site editing to WordPress similar to Webflow. Gutenberg (WordPress Core's version of a visual page builder that comes pre-installed on all new WordPress sites now) also looks to be very promising but is still likely a few years away from something you want to be using across your site. At this point, you have pretty much full control over the look and appearance of your WP site - something that was not the case just a few short years ago (when you would have had to rely on themes offering templated based designs).
- Maintenance: The biggest con with WordPress is it’s a lot more difficult to manage/maintain. And a lot more can go wrong technically. You will need to keep up to date on best development practices and the whole plugin ecosystem to keep using the best tools for your site. Troubleshooting these technical issues can also become a huge pain - because every WP configuration is different (ex. different hosting set up on a different server, running a different set of plugins with a different page builder, etc.) this can become very tiresome. And getting an answer to your issue can be hard, because the open-source nature of the software means there is no dedicated support team.
- Hosting: Hosting will run through a separate company, and you will be responsible for configuring your setup and going into the hosting settings to configure any changes you would want to make. If you are not familiar with managing a hosting account than this is going to be an added technical challenge for you. Further, if you ever wanted to migrate to a new hosting platform (for improved site speed, for example) this would require the help of a developer to do it right.
- Site Speed: While you can make your WordPress site fast, it will take a lot of research and trial and error as you first start out to fully optimize your website. You will also probably need to purchase some paid plugins that will increase the cost of the site.
- Cost: While WordPress itself is free, certain plugins are not. If you are not careful, the cost of several paid plugins can quickly add up and you will end up paying a lot more yearly for your website than with Webflow.
- Ease of Use: Overall, Webflow just "works" better than WordPress in normal, day-to-day usage. The software is proprietary (not open source like WordPress) so it is a lot more controlled and polished in many areas. With Webflow, there are no conflicts with plugins, themes, or hosting environments because it's all controlled end-to-end by one company.
- Design + Effects: While WordPress has visual site builders, none of them are simply as much of a joy to use as Webflow. Webflow's Designer interface UI is very well made and makes for an efficient workflow. You can also build very advanced, custom interactions with it visually without knowing how to code. There is simply nothing else like it in the web development space at the moment. Even the top WordPress page builders like Oxygen have said there goal is to replicate the Webflow development experience, just inside of WordPress and its CMS.
- Little Overhead: Compared to developing a website with WordPress, there are very few technical tasks you need to do other than developing your website to actually get it online. With WordPress, there are a lot of small admin tasks and settings to configure that add up to a decent chunk of time. Hosting is also fully integrated and is completely handled by Webflow which makes life a lot easier. Nothing illustrates this fact better that if you built a Webflow site and didn't touch it for a year, it would probably be totally fine. However, with WordPress you could have lots of issues if you went that long without updating plugins, themes, and other areas that need maintenance.
- CMS Flexibility: Webflow has its own CMS for creating templated content which can then be easily updated by team members or clients. You need to set it up yourself, which is pretty straightforward (there are a ton of tutorials on Webflow University). In the end, it's worth it though because the CMS is essentially "tailored" to your needs and you won't end up with lots of settings and options that you don't use like in WordPress. It essentially allows you to build a custom CMS for yourself. And while there is no plugin ecosystem to easily add advanced functionality to your site, there are tons of custom code libraries you can use to accomplish the same objective in most cases.
- Need Experience: Webflow is great - if you know what you're doing. If you've never built a website before, you're going to be much better off with a tool like Elementor which essentially holds your hand (if you want it to) while building a website. Definitely knowledge of how the web works, responsive design, UI/UX best practices, and some web development knowledge is needed to create something good in Webflow. However, if you plan to hire a freelancer or agency to build your site and then you plan on managing it after (to publish & edit new content) than this isn't an issue.
- eCommerce: You can build eCommerce sites with Webflow - which is great for custom design. But the pricing plans are very expensive for it with very little functionality compared to Shopify or WooCommerce. And unless you're at the highest-priced plan, you need to pay extra processing fees (on top of the credit card fees) on each item sold which is a big red flag. So for the business side of managing an eComm store, it's got a lot of room to improve.
- Controlled Environment: Webflow is a first-party tool and the entire software is controlled by Webflow. As such, it's able to offer users a very nice and polished experience. However, everything you may want to do essentially needs to be allowed by Webflow. Meaning you can't customize it at all in the same way as you could WordPress. While this is a pro for many, it is a con for developers that really want full control of their website's functionality and CMS.
How to Choose
Recognize that neither is "best" - it comes down to your company's situation, preferences/needs, and what you ultimately want to achieve.
It's really the Apple vs. Android model - and both IOS and Android are great! Seriously, even if you wanted to it would be quite a challenge at this point to buy a bad phone running IOS or Android due to the maturity of both operating systems. And the same is true here.
Similarly, you could design the same type of website (for the most part) in both Webflow and WordPress. If you’re looking for a more streamlined option that allows you to achieve a higher end design (with custom animations & effects) that's also easier to use and requires less upkeep - go with Webflow.
If you want more control over every aspect of your website and your new website is going to require a lot of advanced functionality (and may need the headroom for more functionality to be added later) and don’t mind the extra work that will come along with this, WordPress could be a great fit.