When an entrepreneur thinks about creating a new website, one option pops up right away: WordPress, the number one CMS in the world. With 38.4% of websites using WordPress, there’s no room to doubt its prominence. WordPress is to content management what Microsoft is to operating systems, Amazon to ecommerce, or Google to search.
However, in the last few years, a new contender has started to challenge WordPress’s throne: Webflow. While WordPress continues to lead in the blogosphere, Webflow has become the young prince of a new small but fast-growing kingdom known as the “the no-code movement”.
Inspired by millions of code-averse internet users, Webflow has grown rapidly to the point where some industry insiders started to question WordPress’s future as the primary option for non-technical website owners.
Is Webflow truly a contender to WordPress’s throne? Or is it a temporary threat that will never hurt WordPress’ dominance? In this article, we’ll look at what makes each company popular and the main threats to their respective positions.
WordPress: The Standard of Websites
WordPress started as nothing more than a pet project for Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, two young developers who wanted to create an open-source blogging platform after b2/cafelog, the platform they used, stopped updating its code.
From this innocent beginning, WordPress grew to the point where today, companies as diverse as Zoom, The Walt Disney Company, and Zillow use it daily to power their blogging efforts. Media giants like Vogue, Techcrunch, and Rolling Stone see WordPress as much more than a CMS, but as the core of their entire online operations. Thanks to WordPress’ popularity, it’s safe to say that without it, much of the Web as we know it today wouldn’t work as it does.
But if you look beyond the big brand names and overwhelming statistics, WordPress continues to be nothing more than a glorified blogging platform. Up to this day, WordPress’ CMS capabilities are the reason that justifies its high adoption. Creating a website with WordPress has become the industry standard. Read any guide on starting a website, and you’ll see the same steps repeated over and over:
- get a cheap blog hosting provider
- install WordPress in one click
- install a WordPress theme
- customize it
- add content
- launch your website
As a non-technical person, I remember when I created my first website around 2010. It was daunting, even a bit scary. Not having a one-click WordPress installation didn’t help. But after I followed each of the steps my hosting provider shared, I got my first WordPress-powered website up and running. To me, that was the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with WordPress — one that I continue to keep up until today.
That’s not to say that installing and using WordPress for non-technical people like myself is easy. Working so closely with PHP feels like cleaning the engines of a submarine while immersed deep underwater; you think that if you touch the wrong screw, the whole ship can sink.
Automattic, the company behind WordPress, understands these fears very well, which is why it has developed a massive community of experts and hobbyists that steer non-technical people like myself in the right direction whenever they run into any issues. This tight-knit community is one reason why, despite its technical nature, WordPress continues to stay popular among non-technical people.
If we look beyond the brand names and overwhelming statistics, WordPress’s functionality is quite limited. It was created as a blogging platform, and it continues to be so. But this hasn’t stopped it from allowing others to develop unique ad-hoc functions whenever they need them.
With over 57,000 plugins, developers have transformed WordPress from a mere blogging platform into a versatile one capable of fulfilling almost every website owner’s needs. For example, if you need a contact form, you can install a free plugin like WPForms in a few clicks. There’s no need to open the engine and code a form with HTML and PHP.
WordPress is to websites as Apple is to phones. They succeed because of a few basic reasons. 1) Market share. They dominate the current market, and word of mouth sustains it. 2) They are plug and play! You can fire up a simple WordPress site in an hour, download 10 free plugins, and have your site optimized for conversions and more. The learning curve is almost non-existent for most functionality, providing an incredibly low barrier to entry.
WordPress’s limitations become apparent when you need in-depth custom changes, either on the front or the back end. Changing a theme’s aesthetics or adding unique functionality that no existing plugin offers requires hiring developers — people whose high-value services come at a high price.
Matt Medeiros, a WordPress entrepreneur and industry expert, has observed that WordPress has stopped being the best option for entrepreneurs due to the technical hurdles setting up a WordPress-based website.
There’s a fast and furious debate going on about WordPress’ up-and-coming REST API, and whether or not it’s making it to core anytime soon.
These discussions are for the 1% of the 1%, but they send ripple effects through the future timeline of our beloved software. In fact, I’d argue this is the most defining discussion to come along in a while, which will shape what WordPress is for the next decade. If you’re someone that doesn’t live and breathe WordPress like I do, why do you care? You probably don’t and quite frankly, why take on this cognitive load?
As you’ll see, the disconnection between WordPress and its non-technical community is one of the reasons that explain Webflow’s rise.
Besides the mental stress of managing a WordPress site, serious vulnerability issues have also changed WordPress’s public perception. One study found that at least 30,823 out of 42,106 WordPress websites analyzed had security vulnerabilities that put them at hackers’ mercy. Considering the costs of a data breach, the effort of keeping up with WordPress security challenges may not be worth it.
For almost 15 years, WordPress has seen cut-throat competition from Drupal and Joomla in the CMS field to Squarespace and Wix in the page builder industry to the traditional HTML template websites found in ThemeForest. Yet none of these competitors have been able to stop WordPress from becoming the primary option for website owners and developers — until Webflow showed up.
Source: Site Point