WordPress vs Webflow? The Winner Isn’t Who You’d Think.

PIN wordpress vs webflow

I stand behind wordpress for my sites, unless they are true e-commerce and then I love Shopify. Yes, WordPress is harder to customize without a developer, comes with a few stupid plugins that have to be disabled in order to have “clean code” and doesn’t have the easy drag and drop builder that Wix, Webflow and many other tools have right out of the box. So why do I use it? Because I do what works, and that makes life easier in the long run. Yes, it’s possible to rank a site built in almost any platform including Microsoft Word, but it doesn’t mean it will be easy and the more flexible the platform is the more you have to get right. Search engines want to see a website it can easily crawl, a site that’s Relevant to a topic without being so keyword heavy it makes it hard to read, and lastly they want to see the Authority of your content that comes from having quality references (links) as votes of confidence and investment in site quality, mobile attributes and load time. For simplicity, I’m only going to discuss crawlability and site quality here.

First, let’s talk about what makes a website easy to crawl. For starters, it needs to be cleanly written without excess code, it needs to load fast, render properly and also avoid excessive scripts that take more time and resources to render out. Search engines doesn’t read images, so any text needs to be hard coded and not photoshopped. In a nutshell, according to the google webmaster guidelines, the focus should be on creating a great website for users and not just search engines. But it certainly can help users get there if Google likes the page too. So let’s talk about clean, crawlable code.

So what is “clean code?” The term “clean code” is subjective unless it’s held to a standard. Typically these are published in GitHub, but the standards are made by the developers who create the framework. This is like saying a paper is well written. It’s subjective unless your criteria is based on a standard. For example, spelling is based on the dictionary and formatting by the MLA Handbook. But in the same way that APA or Chicago Manual are different, code can be written to the requirements of different frameworks. But, since they all use the same language, there can be similarities and standards universal across each framework that aren’t subjective like spelling and punctuation use. Let’s talk about a few things that make code “dirty” no matter what framework it’s in.

Bloated code is when excessive code is used when a shorter version could express the same thing. Bloated code takes longer to download, render and index. To over simplify, while 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 is the same as 10, it is much simpler to read and understand in the latter form.  But, blaming bloat code on the platform that holds it is like saying it’s the calculators fault. The issue isn’t a problem inherent in the framework, it’s an issue with who or what programmed  it.

With more freedom comes more responsibility and the more a website is customized, the more details matter. WordPress let’s you install a theme, Webflow let’s you drag & drop to create a theme from scratch. In wordpress you can start with a great well coded theme, or the theme could be poorly coded, and not follow good design standards. In the case of CDF and FP I created the themes from scratch. Sure they could always be better, but given the time and resource constraints they’ve done pretty well. Now if you understand both platforms as a blank slate, then what makes code bloated & dirty? Human error. It can definitely cause issues, but a drag and drop builder can also create “cleanly coded bloat” because the design was cluttered and the builder adds code to handle an infinite number of possibilities. This is mostly in the form of Javascript and credit to Webflow, it’s about 100x better than most drag & drop builders, but it still has a ways to go. There are a lot of things both Webflow and WordPress can’t do right out of the box. When that happens, you add additional code in the form of a plugin (pre-built), injection or write custom code.

What makes wordpress so awesome is the community of developers behind it and the plugins available. There are great plugins and bad plugins that are poorly written. Probably the best SEO plugin out there is by Yoast. This tool helps to make sure that critical seo elements aren’t missed or forgotten and marks in red things that are. Another great plugin is woo-commerce, an open source e-commerce plugin that expands the capability of wordpress into an e-commerce engine. But, as much as i like wordpress, it’s not built for e-commerce, but neither is webflow (yet). Both of them require add on code.

Ecwid is also add on code that is pasted (injected) into whatever platform you want to sell on. Just like jotform, it’s extremely easy to customize and get it to do almost anything you want, but it comes at a price sacrificing the clean concise code, cluttering it with script not easily rendered by google and slowing the website down. The biggest reason for the slowdown is that the bulk of the code is on Ecwid’s server and requires a separate action to get it. It’s the same as not keeping a special order door in stock. The server gets the order for the website, but behind then it says ok I have this part of your request, but I’ll have to have this other vendor ship you the other part. Can you hold while I call them to set it up? It just works better when all of the code is “in stock” on one server and is native to the platform being used.

When a website is broken across multiple servers or cluttered with Javascript it’s harder to crawl. It’s safe to assume that google would say if we have trouble opening it and loading it, so would the user. Crawlability is the sites ability to be understood by the search engine, and while they’re getting better at rendering scripts out, why gamble on google’s ability vs feeding it what we know it can easily handle?

In conclusion, I’m actually not against Webflow and think it’s quite an impressive tool for developing and prototyping websites that didn’t exist when i started, but I don’t think it’s best for the xpresslocks.com site and the reason is simple. While webflow is spitting out clean simple code, it’s not natively capable of e-commerce in it’s present version without something else cluttering it. The fact it’s not built in is the same reason I don’t think wordpress is the best option for e-commerce. When you add the layer of Ecwid code on top of webflow, it becomes slow, bloated and loaded down with javascript. Ecwid is made for small mom & pop shops that need to add one product to their old website. It’s not an enterprise capable solution. Sure it made it easy to build express locks, but i promise a good theme in shopify would have been even easier, looked cleaner and the integrations with books, adwords and built in marketing tools would just work. Shopify is an amazing platform with a lot of money behind it and a lot of successful sites using it. The only thing seemingly argued against it is that I picked it out. I want to see the success of this site and sure it’ll sell a lock or two going the way it’s going, but it could be so much more.

PS: The Ecwid quickbooks integration is listed as “coming soon.” I hope Wayne likes the extra book keeping.

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