As a recent Graphic Design graduate, I’m still recovering from the chaos of trying to whip together a solid portfolio all while looking for jobs and cramming for exams. Not only was my last semester an overwhelming whirlwind, but I decided to build my portfolio in Webflow, rather than a more beginner-friendly platform. While my peers selected templates on Wix and Squarespace, I was frantically googling what a style selector was. Needless to say, as someone who had no previous experience in web design and was working on a time-sensitive project, Webflow was a frustrating challenge at times.
I was recently reminded of that experience when I attended WordCamp US. Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, talked about the future of WordPress and demonstrated some of the new features and functions. The new layout seemed very similar to where Webflow is now. I decided to give Webflow another try now that I have more experience in web design and see how it compares to WordPress. Here are some observations from my experience.
1. Setting Up the Page
One main difference between the two is that WordPress is broken up into two main editors, the backend and the frontend. The frontend editor lets you build and interact with the site as the user would see it, whereas the backend contains all the hidden information that affects the design of the site but is not seen by the users. Webflow only has one editor that works as a combination of the backend and frontend. In this way, it almost seemed more similar to Wix, in that you are always interacting with what is seen, but are pulling blocks and elements from a side panel.
2. Creating the Main Navigation
The backend of WordPress makes it very easy to create pages and add them to primary or secondary navigation bars. Once you publish your pages it’s as simple as selecting what you want to show up and this menu stays consistent on every page. In Webflow the main navigation is just another block you grab and drag onto the top of the page. I always make sure my main navigation is exactly how I want it before I start copying and pasting it to my other pages. The Webflow header design options are much more malleable and customizable, but it can be frustrating if you need to make changes later on down the line and forget to create style tags that will reflect the change across all pages. I remember in the first site I built on Webflow I forgot to label my elements, and every time I made a new page I had to go to every other page and manually add it to the main navigation across the whole site.
3. Adding to the Page
I find that adding elements to build out the page is where WordPress and Webflow are the most similar. Both offer customizable templates to help you speed up the process, and both offer individual elements so you can create handmade sections. However, I find that certain templates or elements on WordPress are not as easy to customize if you do not know CSS. This makes Webflow easier to use for people new to web design or for people who are not as familiar with code.
4. Plugins, e-Commerce and Support
WordPress was developed in 2003 giving a 9-year head start over Webflow, which was founded in 2012. Because of this, there are far more plugins, advice, and support available to WordPress sites. Additionally, the Woocommerce plugin is much more apt to handle large and complex shops. Webflow continues to grow its e-commerce capabilities, but right now it is much more suited for smaller, simpler shops.
My personal takeaway while exploring these two platforms is that it really depends on your preferred style of web building, and what kind of site you are building. I will probably keep my design portfolio on Webflow because I want to be able to inject more of my personality into it without having to know anything about code or downloading any plugins. However, when it comes to quickly building a site, dealing with e-commerce, or having a larger site with a lot of pages WordPress will always be my go-to.
Written by Ali Reimer