Webflow vs. Squarespace and the Evolution of Outseta.com

By
Geoff Roberts
·
8 min read

When we embarked on building Outseta four years ago, we were a team of two technical founders (Dimitris & Dave) and one relatively non-technical founder (myself). A hugely ambitious software project lay in front of us. As I considered building the first version of our website, I knew that I needed to be as self sufficient as possible—otherwise I'd be pulling Dimitris and Dave away from building product.

I had built and managed websites on Wordpress for most of my career, but I had no interest in continuing to do so. Most Wordpress users are clinging to the platform simply because it’s what they know, or have elected to use a clearly archaic product because of a “but the ecosystem!” argument that no longer holds much credibility. It’s much like Salesforce in that sense. I digress.

I ended up settling on Squarespace for the first version of our website, and I continued to use it for our second website build too. But last month we launched a completely redesigned website on Webflow—an important transition for our company. 

The tech world is filled with so much vitriol and tribalism when it comes to the tools you choose to use, so let me start by saying this—both Squarespace and Webflow are great products! 

Every job requires a different tool, and Squarespace and Webflow are actually quite different in terms of who they are best suited to serve. Squarespace was the right choice for us early on, and Webflow is the right choice for us going forward. This post is going to break down our thought process, the benefits of each product, and why we’ll be growing on Webflow going forward. 

Why we started on Squarespace

I built the very first version of Outseta’s website on Squarespace, in about two days. It was a very basic site with only a handful of pages that leveraged Squarespace’s “Bedford” theme.

Our first homepage was magic.

I was able to upload our logo, our brand colors, and work solely with the template to bring a site to life that was suitable—it was a Minimum Viable Website (MVW). But it looked great across devices, had an easy elegance to it, and the learning curve as I dove into Squarespace was almost non-existent.

As our product began to mature, it was important that our website and brand grew alongside it—we hired our lead designer, James, and he began working on the second iteration of our website and brand. We decided to stick with Squarespace, once again so that I could be as self-sufficient as possible. At this point I routinely had to add new pages to the site, and Squarespace made it really easy for me to build attractive looking pages without needing any additional design or development help.

But importantly, James was now helping regularly with the website. He was able to take a Squarespace template and transform it into a very attractive website that yielded consistent praise—with almost 1,000 lines of custom CSS. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Your site is built on Squarespace? I had no idea you could build such a beautiful B2B website on Squarespace!”

It definitely took a lot of custom CSS, but it still afforded me the ability to easily create attractive landing pages and blog posts on my own.

Squarespace meets nearly 1,000 lines of custom CSS.

Over that time the site grew dramatically in size and scope—we were running A/B tests, had integrated all sorts of conversion tracking snippets, and generally we were running a much more sophisticated B2B SaaS website on Squarespace. So let me end with this, and I know it will be controversial...

For a truly non-technical user, I think Squarespace is the best “no-code” website builder to start with.

I was a happy customer for four years, and I would recommend starting with Squarespace if you are just learning to build websites.

Squarespace Pros

  • Best for a truly non-technical user
  • Easy to build fully responsive sites
  • Templates have an easy elegance
  • Allowed me to be self sufficient and build attractive pages
  • Inexpensive (we paid $26/mo for a business plan)

Squarespace Cons

  • Site speed became an issue over time
  • Can’t import blog posts from one site to another
  • Doesn’t allow you to easily add custom attributes to page elements

Why we moved to Webflow

At the beginning of 2020, Outseta moved into the no-code space—a partnership with Webflow changed the trajectory of our business almost overnight. My days last year were spent integrating Outseta with Webflow sites, but our own website remained on Squarespace. It’s worth note that during this time our partnership with Webflow became one of our top customer acquisition channels… although that’s not what drove us to move our own site to Webflow.

By this time we were a much more established business, and while the design of our website was consistently complimented the site had begun to load very slowly. Particularly when talking to developers, I began to regularly hear feedback akin to:

“Your product looks great, but your website loads so slowly that it makes me wonder how good your technology could actually be. Doesn’t inspire confidence!”

We ran the site through performance tests from Google and Hubspot, and the results were pretty ugly.

It ain't fast, says Google.
This just made me sad.

We compressed images and gifs, tried to limit server requests, and made a series of other changes to address the performance of our site, but the gains were modest at best. Like a jockey fervently whipping a stallion as the Triple Crown slips away, we were simply trying to push Squarespace too hard.

Discovering Hatch

Around this time I muttered to James, “It’s not a priority right now, but whenever we rebuild our site next let’s do it on Webflow.” I knew enough at this point to recognize that Webflow was a better fit for a serious B2B website, and with so many of our customers building on Webflow, it made logical sense for us to do so as well.

I had also shared with James this video showcasing a framework / UI Kit called Hatch that Mackenzie Child built for Webflow. It clearly piqued his interest, though he didn’t say much.

A few weeks passed before James showed up to our weekly team meeting with a sheepish grin on his face. “I have something to show you,” he smirked. “I rebuilt our website on Webflow.”

Ooh-la-la

The overachiever that he is, James had almost completely rebuilt our website. 

“The Hatch framework ended up being the reason that this redesign came together so quickly,” says James. “Webflow's designer operates by creating classes to style elements, and Mackenzie's framework provides over 2,200 utility classes, all responsive out of the box, which helped me work super fast.”

We spent the next couple of weeks applying some polish, but with a ridiculously small amount of effort the Outseta website that you see today came to life. We’re all pretty proud of it, and our site performance has improved dramatically.

Giddy up, website

So what’s Webflow better at?

In short, Webflow is a much more robust and powerful website builder—it’s definitely a better fit for most B2B companies that rely heavily on their website to generate business. While both Squarespace and Webflow are “no-code” builders, Squarespace is better for a true novice and Webflow is better for designers and other tech savvy users that don’t know how to code. 

Webflow is really built for designers, allowing them to build almost anything they want without any reliance on a developer. But while building on Webflow doesn’t require any coding ability, it does require a level of technical proficiency. 

“The "CMS" and "Symbols" features have been amazing,” says James. “The blog is set up as a CMS, and it's amazing how granular the control is. You can completely customize the data model as well as the design of the template—whereas with Squarespace, it's just a pre-made blog template that you can't really customize at all. And symbols allow you to create reusable components (like the testimonials on the new outseta.com) that an editor can go in and easily make content changes to.”

It’s worth noting that there were also instances of things we simply couldn’t build in Squarespace, that could be created in Webflow. For example, I was working with James to find a way to visually communicate how Outseta serves our two most common use cases—SaaS products and membership sites. There was no way to build graphics like these in Squarespace, so they’d have to be images dropped into a page. With Webflow, we were able to actually construct these graphics rather than relying on image files. 

While Webflow has set James’ creativity free, I’m still very much learning the ins and outs of Webflow—it without question has a steeper learning curve than Squarespace. To bring this to life with an example, I’m the type of user that doesn’t know how many pixels of padding are going to look great between two elements on a page. Squarespace’s builder essentially makes these decisions for you, whereas Webflow gives you a higher degree of control (that in my case can sometimes slow me down). 

I’ve lost a bit of self-sufficiency, but that’s come at a time when I need to be less self-sufficient than I was previously—and the gains we’ve realized from the power of the platform and the speed of our site are more important to our business at this stage. Our site has found a new and permanent home with Webflow.

Webflow Pros

  • Better for larger scale B2B websites
  • Allows designers to build almost anything without code
  • Improved site speed and performance
  • CMS gives you more granular control over blog content
  • Symbols allow you to build reusable components

Webflow Cons

  • Steeper learning curve for non-technical users
  • Familiarity with HTML and CSS is of huge benefit
  • More expensive

Conclusion

I’m a fan of both Squarespace and Webflow, and while I’m still learning the ins-and-outs of Webflow, I know that will be time well spent. 

I do think there’s this unfair sentiment out there that Squarespace is only for photography businesses and personal websites—our own experience using Squarespace over four years disproves that. But without question Webflow is a more powerful tool that’s a better fit and worth the money for larger B2B sites that rely on their web presence to generate business. And both companies show remarkable attention to detail when it comes to design and user experience, which I very much appreciate. 

  • Squarespace is better for a truly non-technical novice.
  • Webflow is a more powerful builder for designers building B2B websites.

I think for someone like me, Squarespace was a natural stepping stone to Webflow as our business matured. I couldn’t be more excited to grow our business on Webflow going forward.

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