Webflow was founded in 2012 and is an online visual editor platform allowing users to design, build and launch websites. Does this mean you can't get high PageSpeed scores? And what about the newest Core Web Vitals?
If case you're not familiar with Webflow yet, it is used by EventBrite, Zendesk and Facebook. If this isn't impressing you, the fact that they get more than 3 million views per hour will.
What makes Webflow interesting?
Webflow offers an online visual editor to maintain your website. You've got freedom in the visual presentation of your brand. Moreover, there are no updates to run, packages to install, or headaches to deal with. Just like Wix.
Webflow vs Wix
First of all, Webflow stands out from the crowd due to its strong designer focus. And unlike Wix, Webflow have built a community around its solution. It even comes with an academy, full with lessons. With 3,800,881 sites, Wix is 28 times more popular than Webflow at the time of writing. However, the stats are quite the other way around in The Netherlands, where 2,267 Webflow sites are in use, versus 54 Wix websites.
Webflow does come with limitations though. Although you can change some HTML next to changing presentation, possibility to change HTML is only limited. This means you can only do so much yourself when it comes to pagespeed and performance.
Webflow pagespeed and performance
Limitations would mean pagespeed, UX, conversion and ranking should be optimal within Webflow, right? Not necessarily. Google got better at measuring the impact on real user experience and changed Lighthouse as well as PageSpeed Insights accordingly over the years. This means an optimal pagespeed score alone might not be enough (and should not be your goal either, by the way).
How is Webflow doing themselves when it comes to pagespeed?
Let's start with the pagespeed score of Webflow's very own website. As Google is mobile-first for a while already, I tested the mobile pagespeed score of their homepage by running a PageSpeed Insights test.
- Webflow's overal mobile PageSpeed score is 28%;
- The First Contentful Paint in both Field data as well as Lab data is 3.1 seconds;
- Largest Contentful Paint is 4.1 seconds in real live, while the Lab data is showing 5.9 seconds;
- Real users are also experiencing layout shifts (CLS) on the homepage.
Does this mean the Webflow boilerplate isn't a good one from a pagespeed or performance perspective, or that Webflow did not anticipate on user experience or the way we measure the impact on user experience? Probably the latter, combined with roadmap prioritization, being a visual editor in the first place. And we all know where that generally ends up.
Passing Core Web Vitals assessment with Webflow
Looking at the Field Data, PageSpeed Insights is telling us that Webflow.com isn't passing the Core Web Vitals assessment. This means that:
- The Webflow website might have a 24% bigger chance of visitors leaving the website due to the way it is loading;
- Webflow.com won't benefit from ranking advantages, as Core Web Vitals is becoming a ranking factor in 2021.
Video chat service daily.co built their site using Webflow. Moreover, they even wrote about improving Webflow's pagespeed, so others could start improving the overall performance as well. Their efforts resulted in way better pagespeed score, being 83% on mobile.
It might be a bit ironic that a Webflow client is doing a better job than Webflow themselves when it comes to pagespeed. However, despite the optimization efforts they described, this website isn't passing the Core Web Vitals assessment either. They even had a regression in PageSpeed score, as the website was scoring 92% on mobile, as claimed by their article.
Although the Field data is a summary of the complete origin, this might still get in the way of ranking advantages when Core Web Vitals becomes part of ranking.
What is making Webflow slow?
When it comes to pagespeed or performance in general, Webflow isn't much different from Wordpress. Both solutions are embedding code in such a way that it already has performance bottlenecks to begin with. And these performance bottlenecks will become bigger within both solutions when you start inserting new plugins, features and visualization.
And just like Wordpress, Webflow seems to be using jQuery as well. This alone doesn't necessarily have to pose any risks when it comes to performance. However, changing this within Webflow doesn't seem possible at all. On top of jQuery, Webflow is always serving underscore library and an interactions object, bundled into one file.
Webflow PageSpeed help
Luckily, Webflow has a forum. But there were claims by Webflow that Google's tool is outdated or that slow websites could be your own fault. But that's a lie. I like to think that the technical boilerplate provided by Webflow is inefficient when it comes to technical UX. Maybe you're better of having a React or Gatsby site?
Although quite some Google results are to be found on the subject of Wordpress pagespeed as well, Wordpress does have one big advantage compared to Webflow: you can change almost all HTML. It only takes the right knowledge and mindset to address pagespeed at the same time, as plugins can only do so much.