WordPress alternatives for business: Why we've moved on to Webflow

Goodbye WordPress, hello Webflow

At Tension Design, we’ve built websites in WordPress for almost 15 years. But everything about the web has changed in that time: digital capabilities, online security requirements, and the demand to easily manage your own company’s website, ongoing, without constant hassles and headaches.

In 2018, we set out on a quest to find viable WordPress alternatives, specifically for our clients. They (and we) were wasting too much time and money on problems that always traced back to WordPress shortcomings. What we heard over and over:

  • “Some of our plugins no longer work with our current theme.”
  • “Our site got hacked. Can you help?”
  • “We can’t update anything without breaking something else on the site.”
  • “Our forms all of the sudden stopped working.”

It’s 2018. There has to be a content management system (CMS) that is more turnkey, right? After researching literally more than 30 platforms, we confidently settled on Webflow.

The following are the three primary reasons we made the switch:

1. Security: 90% of hacked sites are managed on WordPress

WordPress powers about 35% of the Internet, but accounts for 90% of online hacks. These hacks can:

  • Expose sensitive customer data
  • Take down your site or critical functions of your site
  • Create hundreds of spam pages that appear to live on your domain
  • Inject malware onto your site

WordPress is constantly targeted by hackers because it’s fairly easy to “break in” to sites when they aren’t continuously kept 100% up-to-date with the latest WordPress themes and plugins. Staying on top of that is a chore.

WordPress also falls short when it comes to supplying its customers with the full “toolkit” of security resources that are needed today. At minimum, every site should have a reliable host, an SSL certificate for HTTPS, and a fast CDN to ensure content is loaded quickly. All three of these are included in Webflow; they are add-ons or third-party purchases if you go with WordPress.

As a business, moving away from WordPress means better security and less risk — for us and our clients.

2. Cost: Webflow is cheaper than WordPress

Why WordPress is so expensive

The primary reason WordPress websites are more costly to manage over the long run is maintenance hours. This includes two areas:

  1. Security (see above)
  2. Plugins (more on this below)

We estimate that a typical WordPress site — for a small or medium-sized business — will cost more than $3,000 per year for proper maintenance and security.

We estimate most SMBs would spend 70% less per year with Webflow.

Additional hidden costs of WordPress include:

  • Ensuring altered themes have constant child theme backups
  • Maintaining efficient caching
  • Optimizing bloated code
  • Anything premium (themes, plugins, etc.)

The downside of WordPress’ flexibility: Plugin fatigue

WordPress boasts that it is an extremely flexible platform because you can download any one of 50,000 plugins in its store to add features or capabilities to your site.

True, but this “flexibility” comes at quite a cost: WordPress has democratized plugin development, so anyone from any country can develop and sell a plugin. What we now have is the online equivalent of the Wild West — a marketplace with extremely limited oversight, and no central governing body that can reel in the chaos:

  • There’s an infinite amount of combinations of WordPress plugins you could have on your website, so there’s no way to accurately manage if those plugins will conflict with each other today, tomorrow, or two years from now (hint: They will).
  • If you find a plugin you like/need, there’s no guarantee that that developer will continue to keep that plugin updated.
  • Verifying the quality of plugin A vs. B is left up to the masses. That’s fine if you’re downloading iPhone apps, but it’s not OK when plugin A could crash your site or plugin B could lead to malware.

The WordPress model of democratizing software development simply no longer makes sense in today’s online landscape. Whether demanded by customers, shareholders, or regulations, businesses today are required to have excellent data security and privacy when it comes to their online platforms.

That’s why we believe a centrally-managed, dedicated company that oversees code is the better way to go in 2019.

How Webflow approaches upgrades differently

Take the “Apple” model for example. When you purchase an iPhone, you get a slew of built-in capabilities that were built by and approved by Apple:

  • Phone
  • Texting
  • Camera
  • Internet
  • Maps
  • Calendar
  • Calculator

If WordPress built your iPhone, it would come with a calculator. And that’s it.

Webflow follows more closely the Apple model. 95% of what a small or medium-sized business would need is built into the platform. For the remaining 5%, you can either add Webflow-approved third-party integrations, or you can add your own custom code. No more plugins!

WordPress is a spread out community of volunteers, while Webflow is a dedicated web company that is continuously developing new features and functionality, with new code that is thoroughly tested and approved.

Breaking down the costs of WordPress vs. Webflow

If you want to use Webflow, they require that you host your website with them. While that’s expensive at a little over $250 per year, the lack of plugin maintenance more than makes up for the cost.

We estimate most SMBs would spend 70% less per year with Webflow. Here’s the breakdown:

WordPress costs per year

  • Hosting + CMS: $144
  • Security + plugins + themes: $2,300
  • Website updates + maintenance: $720
  • Total: $3,164

Webflow costs per year

  • Hosting + CMS: $255
  • Security + plugins + themes: $0
  • Website updates + maintenance: $0
  • Total: $255

3. Ease of use: More drag and drop, less code

Used by Adobe, CBS, Dell and NASA to name a few, Webflow has been around since 2013. It has two primary modes: editor mode and designer mode.

  • Editor mode allows web novices to update content, edit images, improve SEO, and more — all with zero coding knowledge. This means you’re not handcuffed to your web design agency for every single website update.
  • Designer mode allows web design companies, like us, to create your website’s design, layout, structure, mobile responsiveness, and back-end code. It’s essentially the “admin” mode.

Having both of these modes available is a big deal, because it means no more confusing DIVI themes and faux “visual editors.”

Webflow is the real deal: When you’re editing your web page, you’re looking at your web page — not some coded representation of it or a world of boxes. Basically, if you want to edit something on one of your web pages, you click on it, and make the tweak. It’s the definition of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) on-page editor.

When you’re editing your web page in Webflow, you’re looking at your web page — not some coded or 'box' representation of it.

Howard Steele of Superb Website Builders says Webflow is “more flexible and functional thanks to a combination of its designer and editor tools wisely integrated into the CMS.”

This means no more digging around your WordPress trove of menu items — including appearance, plugins, tools, toolset, templates, themes — to determine how to edit one single component of your website. Look at the following WordPress mess!

Webflow is extremely customizable when it comes to content types — you can create templates for blog posts, staff bios, events, listings of any kind. According to an excellent Webflow review by Satori Studio:

“Webflow eats WordPress and other open-source systems like Drupal for breakfast when it comes to CMS flexibility.”

Why we no longer build websites in WordPress

At Tension Design, we believe our clients deserve better than the headaches and frustration of WordPress, a platform that lacks quality control and is behind the times on security, code, and features.

We also believe in saving our clients money. Why should they pay us thousands of dollars a year, so our web developers can conduct lengthy investigations about their website’s unique setup, only to fix the platform’s same shortcomings over and over?

To quote our friends at Satori Studio just once more: “Webflow looks like a more well-rounded solution for anyone who is serious about creating websites, and values smooth workflows and seamless experiences.”

Well said. Seamless is what we’re after, too. For ourselves, for our clients, and for our clients’ customers.

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