TL; DR: San Francisco-based Webflow was founded in 2013 to enable users to build professional-grade websites regardless of their coding skills — and the mission has resulted in the further democratization of the online marketplace. The company’s visual web design platform, CMS, and hosting service fuse code, content, and design for more than 850,000 users and is backed by a comprehensive educational unit and enthusiastic customer support team. We recently sat down with Bryant Chou, CTO and Co-Founder of Webflow, who gave us the scoop on the one-stop shop for creating and launching sites.
When Adobe InDesign was released in 2000, it raised the bar for desktop publishing software, providing editors and graphic designers more power over print media than ever before.
“It essentially revolutionized the way print publications were built and designed,” said Bryant Chou, CTO and Co-Founder of Webflow. “Finally, magazine editors could essentially go into a software product and — down to the last pixel — control how their magazines would be displayed.”
Fast forward two decades, and, today, Webflow is doing for websites what InDesign did for print.
“That’s kind of how Webflow was designed,” Bryant said. “A web producer, content editor, or content strategist can go into Webflow and essentially control, down to the last pixel, how their website is displayed.”
Bryant conceived of the company after previous struggles creating websites on the job.
“In all the projects I was involved with, building a website involved a ton of boilerplates and onerous tasks that were repeated — taking a Photoshop file, translating it over to HTML and CSS, designing the site, and figuring out how to host it.”
The platform was launched in August 2013 with the help of startup accelerator Y Combinator as a one-stop shop for creating and launching sites.
“Webflow was built to solve two different problems for two different personas,” Bryant said. “First, it’s to solve for the fact that designers need to learn how to code in order to build a production website. Second, it’s really to take the pain out of website hosting. We didn’t want users to worry about setting up CDN services or making their images responsive. You get all of that right out of the box.”
Today, Webflow’s 850,000 users have created more than 1 million sites that receive 50 million page views a day. Bryant told us the company’s web hosting scaled roughly 300% last year, and Webflow’s growth shows no signs of slowing.
Where Control Meets Simplicity: A Suite Built for Professional Designers
“We’re focused on power and simplicity; and, typically, you don’t get the two in the same package,” Bryant said.
Bryant told us the Webflow Designer is a visual abstraction of fundamental web elements that puts users in full control. The goal, he noted, is to help users develop a strong understanding of the building blocks of the web.
“Things like the box model, CSS class names, class inheritance, media queries to make your site responsive — these are all things that Webflow is giving you guardrails around so you can actually leverage the technology of the web to help you achieve a very professional bespoke website,” Bryant said.
Businesses that depend on web design agencies to create dynamic, data-driven sites often face long turnaround times and the burden of figuring out where to host their site. Contrast that to the Webflow experience:
“You sign into Webflow, click ‘create new project,’ and build the data model in our visual CMS in accordance to how the business is structured and its needs are,” Bryant said. “You add forms, add integration to MailChimp and Google Analytics, attach your custom domain by pointing DNS records to our servers, and publish your site in one click.”
In an instant, the site is hosted on 168 edge locations throughout the world, complete with free and automatic SSL certification.
“That’s the future that we’re building for you with Webflow.” Bryant said. “Businesses are not beholden to a lot of the hula hoops that they’ve jumped through in the past and can focus on what matters, which is building a web experience; building a digital brand for your client that matches your customers’ needs instead of thinking of the technical considerations and costs.”
Empowering 850K+ Users To Enjoy Flexibility Beyond WYSIWYG
Bryant described Webflow as a “next-generation WordPress” that helps users build whatever they like without forcing them to learn code. But there’s a key difference: Webflow doesn’t lock users into templates.
“Businesses have started to realize ‘Hey, instead of figuring out how to detangle WordPress templates and install all these crazy plugins to help me to do custom fields, to help me do SEO, let’s just have it all baked in,’” Bryant said. ”
This allows users to create a data model that fits their business model. Bryant noted this gives users complete flexibility and customizability, removing the need to choose an off-the-shelf plugin and try to figure out how to tailor it to their needs.
The platform is trusted by businesses, agencies, and developers alike.
“We’re really focused on B2B businesses that actually care about how quickly their changes are propagated across the world, that actually care about developer experience, so we have an API that you can also integrate with,” Bryant said.
Today, some of Webflow’s most vocal champions are developers. And Bryant said he’s proud his company has been able to change perceptions of tools like Webflow in the dev community.
“Four years ago, developers would scoff at us as just another WYSIWYG editor that spits out garbage code,” he said. “Now, developers are pointing their designer counterparts to Webflow because those designer counterparts are actually creating a live result, as opposed to something that’s mocked up in Photoshop or such.”
Polish Up on Your Design Knowledge with Webflow University
Ultimately, Webflow’s goal is to make the web accessible for professionals to design, build, and launch websites regardless of coding experience.
“We want to handle all the heavy lifting for you,” Bryant said.
To that end, the company recently launched Webflow University, a free resource that delves into the fundamentals of web design through comprehensive tutorials, answers to frequently asked questions, and detailed featured documentation. With more than 120 videos organized into eight in-depth courses — and plans to add more content this year — Webflow University’s approach is centered around education rather than bare-boned help center information.
Users new to the Webflow platform and/or web design itself should start with the Webflow 101 Crash Course, an introductory look at HTML, CSS, and the Webflow user interface. Those looking for a more comprehensive view can turn to the Ultimate Web Design Course, a five-hour compilation of every Webflow University video in a single stream. Course topics include Building a Business Website, CMS and Dynamic Content, Interactions and Animations, SEO fundamentals, and more.
A World-Class Customer Support Team Composed of Brand Enthusiasts
Webflow’s tools have proven so popular with users that its entire support staff is made up of former customers.
“They love the product so much that they left their freelance careers or agency jobs to join us on the customer support team,” Bryant said. “We have over 100 support cases a day and an extremely fast turnaround time. If you email us, we’ll get back to you in less than an hour, and sometimes less than 15 minutes.”
Customer support of that caliber typically comes with a high price tag, and users know it, judging by their enthusiastic five-star reviews on Webflow’s Facebook page.
Consider this one, from freelance designer Seth Opperman:
“I can build extremely complicated, intricate websites with CMS functionality, or build simple one-page landing pages,” he said. “I can’t tell you enough how great this tool is.”
Bryant attributes the staff members’ dedication to their own satisfaction as former customers.
“Their love for the product is what really shines and differentiates them,” he said.