Tools like Webflow have reportedly been set to replace web developers for decades.
Each iteration of a successful website builder is always pipped to put web developers out of business.
The no-code movement is in its infancy at the moment but getting a lot of traction with entrepreneurs looking to bring their ideas to life without the technical know-how. Webflow is one of many platforms that helps people build customized websites using a what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) visual editor.
But will Webflow replace web developers? Webflow is used by 0.4% of all websites online but won’t replace the need for professional web developers. The expertise, experience, and level of customization web developers provide won’t ever be replicated by a platform like Webflow.
However, Webflow, and tools like it, definitely pose a challenge to some types of web developers and software engineers. There is only a finite number of websites to be built and Webflow allows designers and relative newbies to build a functioning, stylish website.
Let’s take a look at how Webflow will affect web developers and change the tech industry going forward.
Why Webflow won’t replace web developers
There are numerous reasons why platforms like Web flow will never completely replace web developers.
Unlike Wix or Weebly, Webflow is aimed at more experienced users and web designers. However, like many website builders, it is beginning to gain traction with a wider userbase.
So bear this in mind when we discuss the items below.
One of the key reasons people hire a web developer is because they don’t have the time to do the work themselves.
Business owners are too busy running the day-to-day of their company to shift focus and start making a website.
The learning curve for Webflow is steep, so a would-be client is going to have to spend a lot of time just getting to grips with the platform. Then actually put together a website that provides a great user experience, and is easy on the eye.
Most clients don’t want to waste time learning the ropes of a platform they won’t use again once their site is built.
There is more to a website than a drag and drop interface where you can position elements on a web page.
You need people who know what they are doing. Whether it’s deciding on the user flow of a website or the best features to optimize revenue, only experienced developers can get you these answers.
When using a web developer or software engineer, you get their previous experience as part of the package. They can guide you to the best solution for your business, whereas platforms like Webflow are “take it or leave it”.
They have a set number of available solutions that may or may not be right for your business.
Using a tool like Webflow leaves you on your own as someone looking to build a website and the devil is in the details for large-scale projects.
3. Complexity & Customisation
People always want something more. Webflow won’t replace web developers because it will never be able to support unique client requests.
Developers can provide custom solutions to your demands. Whether it’s reaching out to a customize API or building a bespoke feature, nothing is off-limits with web developers.
In contrast, if a client needs the functionality that doesn’t exist yet they have to wait for Webflow to build it.
Most small businesses don’t need anything fancy and this is why we have seen page builders become so popular. However, Webflow will never be a replacement for the customizations offered by an experienced software engineer.
Websites are also just one part of web development. Web apps, e-commerce stores, workflow tools, and are all built in the browser. Serious development is complex and Webflow isn’t equipped to deal with projects of that difficulty.
As long as there are unique or complex requirements in a project, we will always need web developers.
Webflow and other tools like it are fairly limited in their scope. They are good for static sites and provide some dynamic widgets. But they won’t allow you to handle complex tasks.
4. Long Term Flexibility
What may be perfect for your business today could spell disaster in a few years. The ability to adapt and change is what sets exceptional businesses apart from mediocre ones.
As a business grows the ability to be able to scale is crucial. You want to be able to make changes without being locked in.
Webflow offers a content management system, hosting, and website builder among other services. Users may face serious hurdles if they ever want to move away from the platform.
You essentially build a website the “Webflow” way and moving away from this can be very difficult. As can modifying your content to fit another CMS.
The lack of flexibility in these areas means that Webflow is unlikely to ever replace web developers. A software engineer can build you a bespoke solution or make use of open-source platforms like WordPress or Drupal. They offer far more flexibility and are future-proofed when compared with things like Wix, Webflow, and Weebly.
5. Lack of control
For businesses having control over proprietary content can be the difference between make or break. You want to own and have control over everything you post, whether it’s today or in ten years.
A quick look over Webflow’s terms of service and you will see it states “but we get a license to anything you upload to the Service”. That should be a major red flag to anyone serious about maintaining control of their product.
On top of that, they also state “We have no obligation to store, maintain, or provide you a copy of your User Content”. So if a company gets into Webflow’s bad books they could be saying goodbye to their website.
Compare this to a site made using WordPress. You have total control over every aspect of the site at all times. You can change hosting provider at will, use whatever plugins you like, and generally do as you please.
Using an engineer to build your site, or even a page builder on an open-source platform gives you much more control.
7. Lack of quality
It is possible to make visually appealing and functional websites with Webflow. Designers can provide a fantastic service to their clients using platforms such as Webflow.
The platform has enough features to appeal to a lot of businesses who need simple websites.
However, these types of platforms appeal to inexperienced consumers who are on a budget. High-end customers seeking top-quality results rarely rely on page builders.
Webflow will never be able to take the place of web developers in projects where high-quality customizable products are the end result. It simply is not robust enough and is too limited.
Tools like Webflow offer a cheaper alternative to a high-quality developer and provide cheaper results.
8. Creating the future
The products of the future aren’t going to be made on Wix or Weebly. It is software engineers who will build the products everyone will use ten years from now.
Creating the technologies of the future will be done by web developers, not by Webflow. You will always need developers to understand what is going on under the hood and spot ways to improve things.
Programmers are always going to be needed in some capacity. The role of a front-end developer has expanded and changed massively over the last decade. Software engineers are going to be even more important as the world becomes increasingly digital.
Tools like Webflow have allowed people to automate a lot of the repetitive unfulfilling web development work. It was allowed software engineers to have fun by giving them time to focus on more challenging tasks.
Is Webflow good for web developers?
We’ve pretty much settled on the fact that Webflow isn’t going to replace web developers.
But can the introduction of platforms like Webflow benefits programmers and software engineers?
Let’s explore how a front-end developer may benefit from Wix, Weebly, and others, and how they can be negatively impacted.
These platforms do the basics of webpage creation very well. It is easier than ever for a non-technical person to put up their own website.
While this seems like a negative for programmers, a positive light can be shed on it. It opens the door for specialization.
Much more is now required of front-end developers. From API calls to single-page applications, the role has changed a lot. Part of this is because of the advancements made on the front end.
Front-end developers can now forge out careers making small micro-sites that use a SaaS model of monetization. Or build plugins for platforms like WordPress or Shopify that can be highly lucrative because of their popularity.
From a developer’s perspective, the biggest issue with platforms like Webflow is that they lower the barrier of entry for web development.
Now designers can get in on the game and start providing websites as a service to their prospective clients. It saturates the market.
Not only are programmers competing with each other but now they have to battle against designers with a great eye for a user interface. Plus the competition from clients who are happy to spend 45 minutes messing around on Wix rather than forking out for something custom.
Race to the bottom
It is hard to push a $3000 customized website when a client can pay $40 a month for something like Wix or Webflow. So in that sense Webflow is bad news for web developers, especially if building websites is their bread and butter.
Platforms like Webflow start a race to the bottom for price. It has become more important than ever to be able to prove to a client how you providing them with value.
Otherwise, you end up with clients unwilling to pay developers a living wage because they can build a basic site themselves.
How will Webflow affect designers?
Webflow markets itself as a no-code web development tool for designers. So what impact will it have on them?
Realistically platforms like Webflow empower designers. It allows them to bring their ideas to life without the need to fork out for a developer.
If you are a designer and aren’t sure about Wefblow, I’d highly recommend signing up and checking it out, even just for a test run.
We may see more and more designers slip into the pseudo-development world and start making websites directly for their clients, rather than outsourcing the development world.
While designers are one of the key targets for Webflow, it’s hard to see if we will see millions of them flock to it.
UX and UI Design is a broad and dedicated field. A lot of people who work in that area want to stay within its confines.
Picking up Webflow as a skill would only be relevant for a designer looking to open their own agency. For personal sites, there are more mature options on the market that are easier to use.
So overall, Webflow is unlikely to affect the day-to-day of a designer much. For the specific few who want to go the agency route, it could be a game-changer.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.