Webstudio: Best Alternative in the Webflow vs Framer Debate?

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Looking for an alternative to Webflow and Framer? Meet Webstudio. An open source advanced visual builder beating Webflow and Framer in 13/17 categories.

"Webflow vs Webstudio vs Framer" with each of their logos

Webstudio, Framer, and Webflow are three leading visual development platforms, yet they differ significantly.

I'm going to share my insights on why I choose one platform over another as there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" solution. As a bonus and fun/helpful addition, I'll provide a sentiment analysis derived from a Reddit forum to understand the consensus of many individuals.

With over 10 years of using website builders and custom coding websites, I obsess over questions such as:

  • Which one is best for SEO?
  • Which one lets me scale without having to worry about costs?
  • How do they vary in features and capabilities (e.g., Cloudflare compatibility, CMS, advanced features, etc.)
  • How does the trajectory of each platform look?
  • And much more!

Let’s dive into a comparison of Webstudio, Framer, and Webflow to help you find the perfect platform, whether you're seeking an alternative to your current choice or selecting your first tool.

The TL;DR version

Below is a detailed comparison of Webstudio, Framer, and Webflow across various features.

Pricing Webstudio Framer Webflow
Free plan ✅ Generous free tier with 5 custom domains and unlimited pages No custom domain and contains branding No custom domain and only 2 pages
Paid plans ✅ $20/month (unlimited sites & domains) $10 - $40/month per site + add-ons $18 - $49/month per site
Open source ✅ AGPL-3.0 license
CMS Webstudio Framer Webflow
Built-in CMS
Use data from any API ✅ Connect to any HTTP API and generate CMS pages
Generate CMS pages from API
Nested collections ✅ Unlimited 1 only
Building Webstudio Framer Webflow
Keyboard shortcuts Only a handful. More are on the roadmap.
Uses HTML and CSS naming conventions Style options and elements are proprietary. Uses incorrect naming such as calling links "buttons" and uses opinionated elements such as Section and Container.
Animations ❌ Need to use custom code
Reusable styles ✅ With tokens ✅ With classes
Reorder and delete classes/tokens N/A
Style without naming anything
All CSS properties
Design collaboration ✅ Multiplayer mode
Publishing Webstudio Framer Webflow
Performance
Dynamic sites ❌ Static only ❌ Static only
No hosting lock-in
Compatible with Cloudflare Proxy Supported, but workaround required. ❌ Not supported by Webflow
No jQuery ❌ Depends on jQuery

Below are various use cases and the platform that handles them best. Continue reading to understand the justification of the choices.

Best For Webstudio Framer Webflow
SEO
Performance
CMS
Design collaboration
Developers
Designers
Trajectory
Accessibility
Flexibility
Enterprise
Pricing
Animations
Localization
Consistency
Maintainability
Scalability
Community

Webstudio summary

Webstudio is an open source, advanced visual builder that gives users the full power of CSS, the ability to connect to any backend, and no hosting lock-in.

Webstudio is best for flexibility, performance, SEO, pricing, community, and CMS.

Webstudio pros

  • The most advanced of the three, exposing all HTML attributes,  all CSS properties, and has an Expression Editor, which lets users use JavaScript expressions in the UI.
  • Lets you use the best tools the internet has to offer with the ability to connect to any HTTP API, including headless CMSs, and generate dynamic pages (coming soon)
  • No hosting lock-in with its open source status
  • Perfect Lighthouse scores (i.e, performance, best practices, accessibility, and SEO) are the most achievable on this platform
  • Active Discord community (get help fast, help steer the product’s direction, build up your name/brand by helping others)
  • Cloud version is deployed to Cloudflare Workers
  • You can also enable the Cloudflare Proxy to use features such as Zaraz, transform rules, Workers, and more
  • Tokens, similar to classes, enables reusing styles and reordering/removing Tokens
  • Local Style which enables design without creating classes or naming anything
  • Fair pricing with generous free tier and paid tiers that let you scale without worrying about costs

Webstudio cons

  • Has only basic keyboard shortcuts
  • Less mature platform
  • Doesn't have many community templates
  • Animations require coding with GSAP
  • Doesn't have component editor yet (check the roadmap for the current status)
  • Doesn't have CSS variables yet (check the roadmap for current status)
  • Doesn't support real-time collaboration yet, although the foundation is built to add this feature (see roadmap)
  • Publishing changes currently takes ~40 seconds due to an entire app being built and deployed to the Cloudflare Edge

Framer summary

Framer allows designers to design and build websites on one platform using a Figma-like canvas and real-time collaboration.

Framer is best for designers wanting to create small websites with a familiar prototyping tool.

Framer pros

  • Works like Figma, but you can actually launch websites
  • Create responsive websites by seeing all breakpoints on the canvas at once
  • Combines design and building increasing velocity
  • Implements the View Transitions API which enables effects when moving between pages
  • Easily add effects based on scroll, interactions, and more

Framer cons

  • Website building can be overwhelming for users without prior experience in prototyping
  • The drag-and-drop editor uses absolute positioning (essentially letting you drag and drop literally anywhere), but this flexibility can sometimes lead to confusion
  • CMS is very basic (no relational data, limited field types, poor validation options, basic rich text, and more limitations)
  • Pricing appears to be inexpensive, but many sites will find their usage eaten up quickly requiring paid plans
  • Missing SEO features such as link rel and the ability to lazy load images

Webflow summary

Webflow gives developers and designers a powerful UI to create amazing websites without writing code.

Webflow is best for those looking for the most mature platform, a robust animation UI, and an "all-in-one" solution for websites.

Webflow pros

  • Lots of features such as no-code custom animations, intuitive grid UI, CMS, keyboard shortcuts, Membership, and Logic which lets you perform custom actions on certain Webflow events all with internal tools.
  • Large amount of tutorials and help forums (first-party and third-party)
  • Many pre-made templates
  • All in one tool (which comes with downsides we'll discuss later)

Webflow cons

  • Website performance is often slow
  • Clunky combo class system prevents reordering classes making website building and maintenance a struggle
  • Designer can be slow
  • Can't use third-party CMSs or data sources
  • Prices get very expensive for larger sites
  • Incompatible with Cloudflare Proxy
  • CMS is not good for advanced use cases (advanced filtering, advanced queries, mixing static content with dynamic content, adding components in rich text, and more we'll discuss in the CMS section)
  • Free website doesn't allow a custom domain and more than two pages
  • Only one person can be in the designer at a time (supports multiple editors though)

Various scenarios and the platform I'd choose

Because website builders aren't one-size-fits-all, It'll be helpful to go over various use cases, the platform I'd choose, and why.

Best for SEO – Webstudio

SEO results come from two categories:

  1. Things that happen on your site
  2. Things that happen off your site (e.g., backlinks)

"Things that happen on your site" is the only category the website platform has control over so that's all we'll discuss.

Here's the breakdown of every SEO feature and whether or not each platform can accomplish it:

SEO Webstudio Framer Webflow
Meta title
Meta description
Open graph
Semantic tags
Image alt text
All meta fields
Sitemap
Custom sitemap
No index
Auto exclude no index from sitemap
Robots.txt
Custom robots.txt
SSL
301 redirects
302 redirects
Canonical tags Custom Code Custom Code
Structured data/schema markup Custom Code Custom Code Custom Code
Href lang tag
Auto image conversion (performance)
Auto image compression (performance)
Auto set width and height (CLS)
Image lazy & eager loading options
Aria labels
Link rel
Favicon
All attributes

Webstudio is the best website platform for SEO given that it's the fastest platform and has the most amount of SEO features including all meta fields, best-in-class image handling, and all possible attributes. These SEO tools enable the best UX and allow search engines to best understand your website, without having to use third-party SEO plugins.

Best for advanced CMS – Webstudio

Up until now, every website platform has approached CMS wrong.

Website builders and CMSs are my two favorite subjects, so indulge me.

Here is what usually happens:

A website platform needs a CMS, so they build it from the ground up and make very few improvements to it.

Users are then locked into a content management system that is a feature, not the product.

I subscribe to the school of thought that companies should focus on one thing and do that one thing really well.

Some examples:

  • Slack > Teams
  • Airtable > Notion Databases
  • Almost any headless CMS > Framer or Webflow's CMS

In Framer and Webflow, CMS is a feature, not a product.

In Webstudio, CMS is not a feature, it's an integration to a product.

At Webstudio, we believe two things in relation to CMSs:

  1. Don't force people into using one CMS
  2. Let CMS companies build the best CMSs and we'll integrate with them

Here's a comparison of each platform's CMS capabilities (because Webstudio integrates with just about any CMS, the answer is almost always "yes"):

CMS: Storing Content Webstudio Framer Webflow
Single line text
Multi line text
Slug
Image
Markdown
Rich text
Rich text HTML embed
Rich text custom components See Status
Rich text link rel
Rich text classes
Rich text IDs (for table of contents)
Date
Relational data
Color
Number
Boolean (on/off)
JSON
Geo coordinates
Select list
Reusable sets of fields
CMS: Querying Content Webstudio Framer Webflow
REST API
GraphQL API
Advanced filtering
Advanced queries
CMS: Displaying Content Webstudio Framer Webflow
Conditional display
Dynamic data within static content
Fallback values
Conditional values
Nested collections (depth) Unlimited 0 2

Why would I put all my chips on Webflow or Framer CMS when I can choose a company that dedicates its entire purpose to CMSs? That's why Webstudio chose to integrate with all CMSs (as long as the CMS has an HTTP API) instead of locking us into one.

Bonus: In Webstudio, you can use more than one CMS. Just like website builders, CMSs have strengths and weaknesses so why not choose multiple CMSs to handle multiple use cases? Want a simple way for clients to manage team members? Use something like Airtable! But do you also want something that can handle complex inventory and relational needs? Use something like Hygraph.

Whether you are managing a blog or any other type of content, Webstudio is the best for CMS.

Best trajectory – Webstudio

I like to think long-term and estimate the direction the platform is heading.

Are the new features aligning with my needs?

Are existing features being improved?

Is the product focused on improving its core capabilities, or is it trying to be everything to everyone? 

One of the biggest issues I've seen with website builders is they grow "wide" too fast before growing "tall" (I may have made those terms up, so let me explain).

  • Growing wide – adding new features
  • Growing tall – improving existing features

There needs to be a healthy balance between the two, but too often, platforms decide they need to add every feature fast, which leaves users with lots of half-baked features.

Here's the way I perceive each platform's trajectory:

  • Webstudio 10/10 – It has become a preferred choice for many due to its existing abilities, comprehensive roadmap, and responsive development team. Bugs and suggestions are addressed promptly, and new features are regularly introduced. The technical foundation of the product is robust, supporting its adaptability to meet various user requirements.
  • Framer 6/10 – While it's a leading platform for designers seeking a familiar canvas, its approach as a builder could benefit from refining its abstraction. Prototyping tools like this one often remain too detached from the core elements of web development.
  • Webflow 5/10 – When I first discovered Webflow, I was in awe. "Finally a platform that lets me visually build with classes and other familiar coding concepts." However, I became frustrated with combo classes, performance, and the limitations mentioned in the CMS section. These are all issues that can be fixed, but given they are fundamentally baked into the foundation, it may take a long time to see changes.

Best pricing – Webstudio

Webstudio is the best platform for prices, or lack thereof in some cases (i.e., there is a generous free plan).

Webstudio wins the pricing category for three reasons:

  1. Generous free plan (a viable free alternative to Webflow given you can actually use a custom domain)
  2. Paid plans are fair
  3. Open source website builder enabling you to self-host without paying Webstudio

Here’s the pricing comparison (all prices are monthly and enterprise was left out due to varying rates based on needs):

Pricing Webstudio Framer Webflow
CMS $20 + third party $0 (no custom domain) $0 (no custom domain)
Custom domain(s) $0 5 domains, $20 unlimited 1 domain per site plan ($10/$20/$40+) 1 domain per site plan ($18/$29/$49+)
Asset storage $0 2GB, $20 20GB $0 500MB, $25 1GB, $40 10GB Unknown
Page views $0 10k, $20 100k $0 50*, $10 500*, $20 5k*, $40 50k* $0 500*, $18 25k*, $29 100k*, $49 200k*
Form submissions $0 300, $20 unlimited No native forms $0 50 lifetime, $18 500, $29 1k, $49 2.5k
Sites $0 unlimited $0 3 Pay-per-site
Pages $0 unlimited $0 1, $10 1, $20 150, $40 300 $0 2, $18-$49 150
Collaborators $0 unlimited $0 2, $25 5, $50 10 $29 3, $60 9

* Limits are by bandwidth (e.g., 100MB free tier, 1GB paid, etc). An average page is around 2MB which was used to convert bandwidth to page views.

** Prices are accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the time of writing this (April 2024).

I often hear about business owners who simply need more bandwidth and find themselves facing huge price jumps as they're forced into higher tiers. Or small businesses that are looking for a simple website or to create landing pages and have to pay a monthly fee.

Webstudio lets you start for free and scale without having to worry about costs.

Best for accessibility – Webstudio

Webstudio is the most inclusive of the three platforms.

Here's why:

  • You can add all the Aria attributes HTML has to offer from an autocomplete list
  • Dynamic components like tabs and accordions are accessible out of the box supporting keyboard navigation (via Radix)
  • Focus states can be designed

There's one accessibility feature in Webflow that the other two platforms could benefit greatly from: the contrast ratio test directly in the color picker.

Best for collaboration – Framer

Framer is currently the only platform of the three that supports live collaboration. Your entire team can design on the canvas in real-time.

You can see who is active on the page, where their cursor is, and even start a chat directly where their cursor is.

  • Webstudio – Currently on the roadmap for the near future
  • Webflow – A longstanding feature request (note, when Webflow says multiple people can collaborate, only one person can design at a time).

Best for ecommerce - none yet

Ecommerce is often an afterthought in website builders.

This means you get half-baked ecommerce tools that can only handle the simplest of online stores.

Just like CMS, Webstudio isn't reinventing the wheel. In the near future, Webstudio will support integrating with Shopify letting you use the power of Webstudio as a frontend and the power of Shopify as a backend.

Decoupling the online store management from the visual website builder enables you to create a beautiful website that is also rich in ecommerce features, without having to use custom code.

Best for animations – Webflow and Framer

The power of no code was apparent when Webflow added their animations. With only the mouse, users can create interactive and immersive experiences without knowing JavaScript or CSS keyframes.

Framer also pioneered animations such as the transitions between page views (made possible by the View Transitions API).

Here are the animations that are made possible by each platform (note: there aren't official names for many of these making it difficult to compare apples to apples):

Webflow:

  • Scroll based
  • Reveal
  • Mouse interaction
  • On hover or click
  • Lottie
  • Spline

Framer:

  • Appear
  • Scroll based
  • Creative effects
  • Scroll speed
  • Scroll variants
  • Page changes
  • Custom

Webstudio:

Interactions currently rely on free third-party libraries such as GSAP. There are ready-made sections in the Webstudio Marketplace and a tutorial. You can also use custom code to fine-tune animations.

It's on the near-future roadmap to add an interaction/animation engine natively.

Best for community – Webstudio

Webstudio is an open source platform with an open community.

Join thousands of passionate Webstudio users, from hobbyists to professionals, in Discord.

  • Get help, fast
  • Help steer the product’s direction
  • Help others
  • Learn from others
  • Connect with like-minded individuals

What Reddit has to say in the Webflow vs. Framer debate

Given the rise in interest in what Reddit users have to say, I thought it would be a fun and helpful addition to factor in sentiment analysis (i.e., determine overall if each platform receives a positive, negative, or neutral tone).

Here's what the ChatGPT 4 sentiment analysis said about this Reddit forum:

"Based on the Reddit forum discussion, the sentiment surrounding Webflow is generally positive, particularly in its established presence and broad feature set suitable for various web development needs. Framer, on the other hand, receives mixed reviews, noted for its specialized use in interactive prototyping and design, with some users expressing frustrations over certain limitations."

Note: Given the recent rise in Webstudio, the forum does't debate it yet. But I think it's fair to say in the Framer vs. Webflow debate, Webflow wins. So the remaining question is, "Webflow or Webstudio?".

Webstudio hears from many people who have been seeking alternatives to Webflow expressing their gratefulness there is finally a viable Webflow alternative.

"Once you realize the power & potential Webstudio has to offer, you can see through the limitations of other website builders like Framer or Webflow." Ankur, Product Designer

Webstudio is the first legitimate Webflow alternative

While Webflow is very impressive, I found its allure wore off the more I used it and I was eager to find an alternative to Webflow.

Specifically, I was most frustrated by the following in Webflow:

  • Combo classes – 99/100 times combo classes provide more pain than gain (can't rearrange them, can only use "child" classes in the exact order they were specified in, and challenges in switching breakpoints).
  • No Cloudflare Proxy – Cloudflare offers incredible tools to improve speed, security, and functionality.
  • No way to apply one-off styles – Classes are useful when you want to reuse styles, but when creating one-off styles, they bloat the system.
  • Performance – The editor and published sites can be very slow due to to massive requests inside the editor and bloated JavaScript on production sites.
  • Half-baked features – I was initially excited by all the different features Webflow was releasing such as CMS, Logic, and Memberships. However, I found they focused too much on adding new features without improving existing ones.
  • No movement on feature requests – There are popular feature requests that have not seen movement or communication for a while.
  • CMS rich text – While Webflow has a nice built-in CMS that supports relational data, I found too many limitations within rich text. To create a beautiful blog, you need more flexibility within rich text. The inefficient and unmaintainable workaround is designing components on a page, copying the HTML it outputs, and pasting it into an HTML embed.
  • CMS data inline – There are many times I wanted a CMS value in the beginning, middle, or end of some static text. Unfortunately, CMS values have to be bound to the entire element and can't be used inline.
  • Can't preview HTML embed in editor – It's quite cumbersome to have to deploy every time you tweak an embed to see how it looks/works.

Until Webstudio, my personal website was built on Webflow as I didn't feel there were other advanced no-code visual builders that were true contenders. So I was stuck between using Webflow or creating a tech stack that involved custom code. Any companies that claimed to have found the best Webflow alternatives were just naming old website builders out there, nothing that truly rivaled the no-code abilities of the Webflow designer.

Until Webstudio.

Webstudio is not only the best Webflow alternative, but it's actually better in many ways.

Finally, the search for Webflow alternatives is over.

Webstudio empowers designers and developers (and it's free!)

I think you'll be just as excited as me when I started using Webstudio and ditched other website builders.

If you use Webflow, you'll almost instantly appreciate what Webstudio offers. It's a free alternative to Webflow (and pricing scales proportionally to your usage) and has fixed many pain points Webflow users have.

The Webstudio community has many Framer users reporting they feel "empowered" with Webstudio.

To recap, here are some of my favorite things about Webstudio:

  • It closely represents what can be done in code and doesn't obscure naming conventions or concepts. It supports all CSS properties, HTML attributes, and meta properties.
  • I build consistently and efficiently with Style Sources. Tokens (like classes) allow attaching styles to them so you can reuse styles and be efficient and consistent. Local Style Source lets you apply styles without having to name anything (on Webflow, as soon as you apply a style, it auto-creates a class like Div 1001).
  • It supports fetching any HTTP API directly in the editor! This enables binding external data to Webstudio components and even lets you create dynamic pages (one page per record in the external source).
  • The Expression Editor supports advanced logic like conditional values, fallback values, and merging together (concatenating) multiple values.
  • Webstudio doesn't make assumptions. You won't find a Google Analytics field, rather you'll find an HTML field.
  • It has all of the SEO tools; the most I've seen on any platform.
  • When you add custom code in the editor, you see its impacts in the editor
  • Webstudio sites are deployed to Cloudflare Workers (you can also use the Cloudflare Proxy)
  • No lock-in! Webstudio is open source and plays well with others letting you bring your own CMS or hosting. However, I prefer using Webstudio Cloud, given its fair pricing model.

Try Webstudio for free. I hope to see you in the Discord community!

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