Anyone used Webflow?


#1

Has anyone used Webflow to design and build a site and used it as the CMS? Any thoughts? Thanks


#2

I haven’t built a new website with Webflow but I have updated an existing Webflow site. If you have a good understand of HTML and CSS, you’ll be fine with Webflow.

Webflow also has the ability to export sites. You could build your site in Webflow, add the Surreal CMS classes, export it and then host it elsewhere. Clients will then be able to update the site with Surreal CMS.

I don’t have any experience with the CMS. I only used the designer interface to make changes.

Any reason as to why you want to use Webflow? I might be able to suggest better alternatives.


#3

Thank you!

At present I hand-code client sites from scratch using HTML and CSS. For less complex sites I then plug in Surreal. For more complex sites I have to bring in a developer and probably use Wordpress.

I’m beginning to wonder if there is a way to remove my dependence on developers and speed up my process.

Webflow promotes itself as being able to do both these things. Although when I had a few minutes play with it, I hated that I couldn’t see the code, that it can’t do some of the things I want it to do with code (set base HTML font-size to use REM measurements etc) and the CMS looks limiting (a client can’t simply add a page, they have to add to a ‘collection’ and there is no way to limit different editors to different parts of a site). So I was quickly put off.

Any alternative, that might cut out my dependence on developers and speed up my process would be gratefully received!


#4

If you’re looking for a no developer solution, there will always be limitations with the solution you choose. Why not upskill and learn a programming language? Sure, it will be time consuming but you’ll be able to build more complex websites and charge higher fees.

I think Webflow is aimed at graphic designers who have a limited understanding of HTML and CSS.

CloudCannon is a CMS for static site generators Jekyll and Hugo. You can define editable regions in a similar way to Surreal CMS. Instead of cms-editable, you use editable. It also has a visual editor that’s similar to Surreal CMS. The downside is that the paid plans are really expensive (starts at $250 / month) but they have a free plan which may match your needs. You would also need to learn Jekyll or Hugo and Git.

I have not used CloudCannon.

There are a lot of other CMSs for static site generators out there. CMSs for static site generators are about as close as you will get to Surreal CMS.

If you’re happy to learn some PHP then I would suggest Kirby CMS. It’s a flat file CMS so your content is stored in text files. It’s lightweight and can run on cheap shared hosting and has good performance. The admin interface can be customised to your client needs easily. It’s open source but requires a paid license. You only need to purchase a license when the website goes live. The support is excellent and there’s an active community as well. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to choose Kirby is that the owner of the CMS actually still does client work so he knows what clients want from a CMS.

There’s a tutorial series on YouTube that goes through building your first website with Kirby. I would recommend watching it if you’re considering Kirby.


#5

Thank you!

I fear my brain would explode. I can’t really get it around Javascript.

Yes my hunch is if you can write HTML and CSS then Webflow would just get in the way.

To be honest I only understand every other word on these sites.

Kirby
I’ve been looking around their website, which I really like: clean and clear and looks like something I could use. I’m glad you’ve mentioned mentioned this as it backs up what I’ve been thinking.

Perch
I like the look of Perch, but it hasn’t been updated in years and their forum is in revolt. Although a new version is imminent - so I’ll keep my eye on that.

Surreal
I love Surreal. I find it so easy to use, but I have a strange feeling that it isn’t “proper” or “robust” enough. Clients seem to thumb their noses up at it and want WordPress. What would I / clients be able to do in Kirby or Perch that they can’t do in Surreal?


#6

You don’t need to learn a programming language fully. If you can understand the basics like variables, functions, for loops and if statements, you’re 90% there. When you get stuck, just do a Google search.

I would honestly recommend you try Kirby before anything else. It ticks a lot of boxes.

Too many red flags with Perch. New owners and slow updates. The new version will make or break the business in my opinion.

Yes, I love Surreal too but it lacks some of the most basic features like sitemaps and image manipulation. It’s suitable for basic websites that have infrequent changes to the content.

Kirby adapts to your project. You could build a blog or even an online shop with Kirby. If you try to do the same with Surreal CMS, you’ll run into the limitations of the CMS. For example, a basic blog with Surreal CMS involves a blog index (the page that shows a list of blog posts) and a post template. If the client wants to make a post, they create a new page with the post template. After saving the page, they go to the blog index and add the post in manually. With Kirby or Perch, the client just creates a post and it will show up where you want it to. This opens up new possibilities like showing a featured blog post on the home page or having blog posts in an RSS feed.


#7

Many thanks again for your insightful help

In Surreal version 5 you could specify a width and height attribute on an image, and the CMS would maintain the width, height, and aspect ratio when the image was replaced. And allow the user to select where to crop the image. Is this the sort of thing you are talking about?

What else could Kirby (or a more feature rich, complex CMS) do that Surreal can’t? You list sitemaps, image manipulation, blog and shop. Anything else? If that is all I’m missing then I can probably stick with Surreal.

Oh, I had a case recently where different editors required access to different parts of the site. Contact forms are a pain as well – would Kirby deal with them without me having to write PHP?


#8

No problem. Glad I’m helpful.

Not quite, I’m thinking responsive images. Google is now recommending websites serve different sized images depending on the screen size. It doesn’t make sense sending a 1000px image to a mobile phone that’s 320px wide. It’s a waste of bandwidth. This can be done with the <picture> tag. Here’s an example

<picture>
  <source srcset="img/books-fullhd.jpg" media="(min-width: 1408px)" />
  <source srcset="img/books-widescreen.jpg" media="(min-width: 1216px)" />
  <source srcset="img/books-desktop.jpg" media="(min-width: 1024px)" />
  <source srcset="img/books-tablet.jpg" media="(min-width: 769px)" />
  <img src="img/books-mobile.jpg" loading="lazy" alt="books" />
</picture>

On screens 768px or smaller, books-mobile.jpg will load. On screens 769px or larger, books-tablet.jpg will load etc. You would have to manually resize the images for each screen size if you’re not using a CMS or static site generator. An example of how to do this in Kirby is below.

<picture>
  <source srcset="<?php $image->crop(1920); ?>" media="(min-width: 1408px)" />
  <source srcset="<?php $image->crop(1407); ?>" media="(min-width: 1216px)" />
  <source srcset="<?php $image->crop(1215); ?>" media="(min-width: 1024px)" />
  <source srcset="<?php $image->crop(1023); ?>" media="(min-width: 769px)" />
  <img src="<?php $image->crop(768); ?>" loading="lazy" alt="books" />
</picture>

How easy is that? Different screen sizes will get different sized images. Image manipulation opens up other possibilities like the following.

Blurring an image

$image->blur(30)

Greyscale image

$image->greyscale();

Image manipulation is a standard feature in most CMSs. WordPress, Perch and Kirby all have it. Surreal does not. It seems Cory was considering it when support for <picture> was requested in 2017.

You don’t have to build every new site in Kirby or move existing sites to Kirby. If a client is happy with Surreal’s capabilities then just use Surreal. A static website that uses Surreal will require less maintenance compared to a Kirby, Perch or WordPress website. Use Kirby (or another CMS) for the websites that need a blog, online shop, search engine or navigation management.

Yes, both are possible. Kirby is a PHP CMS so you will need to learn some PHP and if you get stuck, you can always get a PHP developer to help you.

I mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating. If you’re unsure about Kirby CMS, watch the tutorial series on YouTube to understand the development side of things. It will clear a lot of confusion. Also if you have Kirby specific questions, you should ask them on Kirby’s forum.


#9

Thank you. That has been really helpful