Unlocking the Power of Low-code/No-code Websites

Podcast / 01.19.2024
Red Door /

1/19/2024 7:40:57 PM Red Door Interactive http://www.reddoor.biz Red Door Interactive


As marketers, we're always looking for solutions that empower our teams to deliver more and deliver faster. With the digital landscape evolving at lightning speed, the ability to quickly iterate and bring ideas to life is no longer a luxury — it's a necessity. 

In this episode, we're diving into low-code and no-code websites that are changing the digital game. Joining us today is Emily Lonetto, Webflow’s Director of Community & Agency Marketing, and Candice Wyatt, Red Door’s Sr. Director of Web & Platform Solutions, to share their firsthand experience and tips about how to harness these platforms for maximum impact. 


Can you tell us about Webflow and your role at the company?

Reid Carr: Emily, tell us a little bit about Webflow first and then your role within the company.

Emily Lonetto: Absolutely. So I feel like you've nailed it in the intro. We are a visual development platform to build websites. So we harness the power of no-code as well as low-code in order to let people who typically aren't able to, let's say, design a website or develop a website end-to-end do so. So, we work across and empower tons of different teams, agencies, freelancers, marketers, content, you name it. And my role within Webflow is I lead both our community as well as our agency marketing side of the business. So what that means, because my title is quite long, I'm focused on empowering and really aiming at what features, how do we land our positioning, how do we ensure that we're maximizing adoption from the champions that use us, designers, specifically developers and most importantly agencies. I'm very in the weeds day-to-day with my job and how folks are leveraging it and incorporating their own workflows.

From a marketer's perspective, what are the advantages of low-code/no-code websites?

Reid Carr: Yeah, I appreciate that. Most importantly, agencies. Speaking of people who do know how to build websites, Candice, talk about your role here at Red Door and a little bit about your experience with no-code and low-code websites, because obviously we know how to build big ones. So tell us the advantages of no-code.

Candice Wyatt: Yeah, for the past 11 years at Red Door, I've been specializing in building websites. Our team specifically, we like to consider ourselves technology-agnostic. We don't specialize in any one platform, although we do enjoy and have gotten the value of low-code and no-code from Webflow. But we really like to talk with our clients, understand what are their needs and requirements first, and then recommend the platform and the technology that is going to help them achieve their goals. So our experience so far with low-code and no-code specifically for Webflow has been a positive one. Clients have came to us with what would normally be impossible turnaround times, and we've been able to develop a website, micro-site landing page, and leverage a no-code solution like Webflow in order to deliver for them. So it's taken us from normally being in a position to have to say no because the timeline was kind of impossible, to being able to say yes.

When does a low-code website make the most sense?

Reid Carr: So, obviously picking up loud and clear in terms of the speed being an important factor, but under what circumstances, because it can't always be about time, I assume there's a bunch of advantages to it. When does this approach make the most sense?

Candice Wyatt: There's a lot of approaches. I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that low-code, no-code is not enterprise, and there's definitely every situation is unique. Every client's set of requirements and their needs are unique. So you need to come in asking the right questions, both the brand as well as their agency partners. When you're evaluating technology asking the right questions is half the battle. But I think the other advantage that we've seen, and specifically with Webflow too, the visual designer, is that you're going from developing, designing static design comps and showing those to clients of saying, "This is what this page is going to look like when we develop it." And they're static.

So you're missing a lot of those tactile experiences like micro interactions and things like that. So a lot is left up to the imagination and then you get downstream, it's developed and it gets in front of a client and there's times where it's not what they were envisioning or they were wanting more of those interactions that couldn't be articulated through static design comps. Whereas with something like Webflow, what we are showing clients are actual live built and designed with all the interaction prototypes, so the client knows exactly what they're getting. We can fine-tune the interactions and all of that within the visual designer, which is very helpful.

Reid Carr: Well, that's great. Emily, anything else to add? I mean, from your perspective, obviously you've seen a lot of different ways people are using Webflow. Anything to add about the best time and place to use Webflow?

Emily Lonetto: I think to really plus one on Candice is the value of it is that you're not just selling a dream or a concept, you can send a link. Or beyond that, it's the simple things of being able to jump on a call and be able to make live edits to that thing literally while you're talking through with a client. Because from an agency workflow, and I'm sure you guys know this better than most, is it's not just about being able to, hey, can we ship this thing? Do we understand your idea? It's like how do they work with you? What's that collaboration experience that they're going to get?

And so I think a big thing that we are really focused on is how quick can a designer obviously work on that thing to actually bring it to life, but also do we have the right features in place? Is there enough in there that the client also understands the value of the work that they're going to get or how they're going to collaborate with the agency at hand? We are not what you're selling to them, you're selling the actual thing that's built on top.

Reid Carr: Yeah. Well, it's certainly always part of the conversation is what platform do you tend to use and how familiar are we with it? And some of the other aspects of it. And a lot of what we were just talking about is the development process and before we go live with it or something to that effect. But there's a lot of advantages then once it's live. Obviously you can make a lot of changes as they go, but maybe talk a little bit about the flexibility that a tool like this has once the site is in market.

Candice Wyatt: Yeah. The flexibility, well, one is you get the same value that you got in the design and build, which is speed to market. We know that the speed of marketing demands agility, and it demands quickness. And when something is happening in your industry or in your market or your competitors are reacting and you need to get something live as soon as possible, no-code, low-code, and Webflow makes it much easier to do that than a traditional website build and platform. Because it is literally a designer going in there working with your main stakeholder or decision maker and making that change, and then hitting publish. It doesn't have to go through the traditional workflow of, okay, we need UX and design to mock up what that's going to be, and then we need to get it into the hands of the front end development team and then it needs to go to back end development and then it needs to go through QA and then to launch when you need to move quickly. Low code and no code has a big advantage there.

Reid Carr: Right. Well, and that's a big part of so much is people are focused on optimization, A-B testing and a tool like this will support doing that not just on an ongoing basis, but then obviously locking those things down as we go and move on to the next test or something like that. Emily, anything, talk a little bit about the optimization part of things within the product through A-B testing and how we can deploy those changes.

Emily Lonetto: So I mean, Webflow itself is meant to be flexible. It's meant to be a place where whether you're a designer, a developer, a marketer, you can all come in and there's a place to play within it. I think the things that we've really focused on is flexibility and extensibility. So where we want to make it as easy as it would with any other platform or even custom code to be able to insert your snippets where you need it to have the flexibility of being able to work with the tools that you might already have in your tech stack and working with different clients, you sometimes don't have the luxury of dictating the whole tech stack that they're going to work with. So that flexibility is a really big piece and we make it really easy for people to update those snippets, whether it's in the settings or with roles and permissions, just to make sure they also don't accidentally break anything while you're putting the ship together.

And I think the other side of that too is with our recent investments in expanding our app ecosystem and more and more integration partners, we're looking to make that process even more streamlined. Because the big thing that we've really been pushing for is not to build a no-code, low-code tool that sacrifices the power of code, but instead is built off the exact same principles. So sometimes the learning curve of jumping into a Webflow versus a traditional drag and drop is steeper, but we're doing that because you're also learning the same syntax, the same semantics of code along that way, which is going to unlock a ton of opportunity when we think about long tail integrations, making it easier and easier for people to deploy even more complicated tests, which we know we want from the types of enterprise grade sites that are on it and the agencies that serve them.

How does Webflow approach security and compliance concerns?

Reid Carr: So switching a little bit, though it's certainly related is talk about security compliance. I mean, we talked about being able to QA and move things through enterprise EMS, but I think a lot of times people will think, hey, it's a low-code, no code site. How secure can it be? How can we deal with compliance and other concerns? Maybe Emily, I'll stay with you for a bit on that one. Can you talk a little bit about the security aspect of this?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, security is an incredibly important thing at Webflow and a huge investment that we have. Let's face it, a website for a modern business is like the front door to your business. It's the same way you want to lock up your office, you want to lock up and make sure that your site's going to be safe and is going to be up. And so the big things that we focus on outside of the fact that we have a stellar enterprise team, enterprise partner marketing team, a security team, all of the things that are in place to ensure that it stays up is we go through the same level of compliance that any level of software would need to in order to go through the process to be prepared to work with large companies. I think the other side of that too is that we are naturally, because we're following the same principles of code, we're following the same level of security.

We are making sure that we give the same level of flexibility when it comes to migrating and also the same level of flexibility when it comes to exporting code when you need to or playing around with what is directly within our integrations, what is something that we support or access to our sales engineers where we might want to partner directly with the agencies to make sure that if it's something more custom, we work with you. So pretty much all the practices, all of our commitments there, and we really want to make sure that we're building something that is custom, is secure alongside every client because every need is slightly different.

Reid Carr: Yeah. And Candice, do you have any, let's say we're implementing a web flow site. Do you have any other tips on how to maintain data security and compliance within industry regulations?

Candice Wyatt: Well, it goes back to asking the right questions. Whatever low-code, no-code platform, you are evaluating whether it's Webflow or whether it's not even low-code, no-code, right? If it's open source proprietary, you always want to ask the questions is how do you store data? Where do you store it? What's the process for deleting data and how does the platform comply with the guidelines that you need to comply with? So I would say that's the agnostic answer or questions that you should be asking. The other thing related to security that I'm always thinking about is what type of architecture does that platform use? An example is if we're talking about open source where it's a community plug-in driven architecture. And what that means is the functionality is largely being driven by community members developing plugins that then you can install into your website ecosystem.

That to me is always a security consideration, because you need to understand who is evaluating these plugins or these apps that you're introducing into your ecosystem, what are their security practices? How are they making sure that they are compliant? So as we were evaluating Webflow, that was one thing that we did have discussions about. There is an app marketplace and we were happy to learn that all of the apps that are in that marketplace actually get evaluated and reviewed by Webflow before they are published there. So that's really important also is to understand where is all of the code and functionality coming from? Who's responsible for it? Because those are all security risk points that you need to be aware of.

How does Webflow evaluate other tools within its ecosystem?

Reid Carr: Emily, maybe add a little bit to that, because that is an interesting part. I mean obviously integrations, everyone, there's all sorts of tools out there or custom functionality or integrations that everyone is considering, and that is obviously what mentioned here is no different with the Webflow and the customers that want to use Webflow. How does Webflow deal with evaluating the tools within their ecosystem and how they plug in and maintain that security and reliability of those tools in the overall platform?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah. So I think there's so many different tools that are out there that have different approaches from really trying to get as many in as possible for flexibility. There are some that are really constrained. I think we're, especially because we're just starting to think about how do we want to expand that, intention is really driving a lot of those things. So it's about working directly with every developer that comes through, ensuring that they're vetted, they've gone through a process that we have them working directly with our developer relations teams so that everyone's following a similar practice, understands how to use secrets and API keys in the same way. So we're able to really ensure that you're never creating a direct link that is something that could be vulnerable to your site. So I think that's a really core piece of it. I think especially as we get into enterprise grade level integrations, that's when we're going to have to ensure anything that's under that bucket goes through the exact same expectations that we would for our own enterprise procurement.

So for example, we have partnerships directly with HubSpot where that is one of those examples where we work hand-in-hand with that whole team to ensure that we are following the same practices. If someone procures them, they're also okay to work with us. And so there's a lot of intention behind that and we're definitely not at the stage right now where we want to open it up to have just anybody in. And instead we really focus on our community to be driven around sharing assets and cloneables and libraries and things that are more building blocks than necessary ongoing plugins that should be accessible by a third party at all times. So that's really important to us.

Reid Carr: So with our audience being marketers and a lot of times with different levels of understanding of technology and so on, what would you say then as it relates to the ecosystem of plugins or other things, what's Webflow's priorities, maybe some of the brand names that they maybe are familiar with that they should think, okay, this is going to work for whatever our ecosystem already is?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, I think without risking teasing too many of our ideal partners, I think really there's kind of two levels that we're looking at. One is our broader ecosystem play where we want to level up service providers and folks that are building businesses with and on top of Webflow to also extend into that. And we've seen independent developers who have that rapport. We've seen agencies that extend into that and have a different offering, and we've seen businesses that we want to partner with. So I think when it comes to how we're directing some of those larger tech partnerships we're looking at, we're very much so taking a look at what's the marketing tech stack that these teams need? Okay, great. How do those plug in directly with those? How do we make sure that we are creating increasingly more value making that closing conversation for agencies easier, making that decision-making process even easier for the teams that they serve?

So for us, we're really focused on the MarTech stack, so marketing tech stack. We're really focused on enabling some of the core pieces around A-B testing and around ensuring lead capture and any piping is set up correctly. And also just really focused on how do we also regularly talk with our audience to ensure that we're on top of trends. Because one of the things that we also notice of course in the marketing world is that sometimes they're the absolute mega tech partners that everyone always has in place, like the SalesForces of the world, but sometimes there are trends and sometimes there are things that we want to make sure we're ahead of the curve on.

What are some of the challenges marketers can expect from Webflow?

Reid Carr: And so obviously any of these solutions, there might be challenges with low-code and no-code websites, challenges with anything out there. Can you talk about a few of what some of those challenges might be and how Webflow solves for some of those challenges?

Emily Lonetto: Yeah, I think we're in an interesting spot right now where I think there was this massive push around no-code, low-code tools maybe starting as early as ten-ish years ago, maybe not in that exact terminology, but they started popping up. I think what happened in the popularization of some of that is this idea of design as play and not design as power. And one of the things that's a challenge actually that's interesting in this space is how do you ensure that people understand, yes, we're trying to make it easier, but not at the expense of building something that's meaningful of something that's powerful. And that the websites that you can create with these types of tools aren't lesser than, or also I think another big piece of that are not a replacement for the power of code. And I think there's a big piece where in particular, if you look back a few years ago, Webflow's namesake conference was literally named NoCodeCon, and now it's LowCodeCon. There's this big push where no code to some people was this anti-code moment.

And it's not that at all. It's complementary. It's building this common language in between designers and developers. It's giving designers an easier way to directly communicate to developers and bring those things to life. So I think some of the challenges that we see there is it's not just about empowering the designer to do more in their day-to-day or feel like they can bring their designs to life, it's about giving them a seat at the table. I think the other side of that too is we are a visual development platform because we want more people to be developers. We want more people to be able to have the skills to take that leap to feel more comfortable. And it's not uncommon that we see designers use us as a way to then be like, "Oh, crap, I can do that thing." I just said a word I maybe shouldn't have said on this, but that's-

Reid Carr: I think we're well past that.

Emily Lonetto: That's how I feel about it. I'm passionate about it.

Candice Wyatt: Yeah, I think when you think of low-code, and going back to what you were just saying about how 10 years ago, kind of how this came about and how it's evolved, I think the myth or the initial thing that comes to mind is going to equal limitations. It's going to kind of hamstring you. There's going to be tradeoffs that you have to make. I think Webflow, what I do appreciate about the platform is that it is not that customization was very big for us and making sure that whatever that platform is doing behind the scenes, that it's still performant good code, that sort of thing. Because even if we say low code, no code, there's still code behind the scenes happening. It just means you don't have to be the one in there developing that code.

So when we were evaluating the platform, we not only had our designers in that process, but we had our developers who was evaluating the exported code to see, is this good code, right? Because we're not going to adopt a platform if the code that's underlying it is problematic. So that was something that we really appreciated. I think the challenges we face specifically with Webflow, and it's both a positive and kind of a consideration, is that it does have a little bit of a steeper learning curve, because it does require designers to kind of level up their skills a bit.

They need to think in terms of code and how they structure and organize things, and it does require some leveling up, which we've seen as actually a positive. You invest a little bit more time to get them thinking like developers in a way. But the benefit then is that all of the organization and the scalability and the extensibility that you get from the power of code is still there at the end of the day. And not only that, but then also our designers now work a lot more seamlessly with our development team on other projects that are not low code or no code, because they have that understanding of the semantic code structure and everything. But it did take us a little bit longer to ramp up to Webflow.

How does Webflow implement “technical empathy”?

Reid Carr: So it's the idea of a little bit of empathy for the developers so they understand what they're going through and like you're saying is for everything else that they do, it levels up how they think about what they're doing.

Candice Wyatt: Yep.

Reid Carr: That's interesting. I wouldn't have realized that as such a big benefit. I think so much of what I think about in this way is empowering the designer, and now what we're saying is not just empowering them, but giving them a little bit of a different skill set.

Candice Wyatt: Yeah.

Reid Carr: So it's pretty interesting.

Candice Wyatt: Yeah. And I'll give you an example. So within Webflow, when a designer is designing, they are assigning classes, which is kind of a development term to the different styles. And the value of that then, and we just ran into this on a client project not long ago, we were mid-project and we had already designed half the site within Webflow, and it happened to be one of those things where while we were designing the website, the client was also defining the brand. It was one of those quick turnaround type projects and their color palette changed and what would normally require us to go back to design, back to development, make site-wide changes, because we had set it up within Webflow to use global styles, and it had been implemented in a way that used global styles, we were able in just a few minutes to change those colors and have those populate site-wide and the timeline didn't need to change at all. You wouldn't be able to achieve that with something like a traditional kind of CMS or workflow.

Reid Carr: Yeah. Well, Emily, I imagine that you like to hear that kind of a case study there benefits the product. Yeah. Yeah, I mean that's pretty fascinating. I mean, to think through the speed to market as it relates to just getting something done, but then in a midstream change like that, that's a huge deal. And I think probably a lot of listeners can relate to things changing midstream of a project. I'm sure that's not foreign to probably most people. So the ability to make those adjustments is probably, I'm assuming there wasn't a change order or anything through that process either, which I think a lot of clients, that's the first thing they think of is, oh man, this is going to be big. And that's a case in which certainly because of the tool, it wasn't. So that's pretty cool. And so there's some hidden cost savings I guess from some of that.

Emily Lonetto: I think a little bit in on that, I think one of the things that's also really exciting is around scalability and about pretty much what Candice just hinted at is when you design something with a design system in place, those changes suddenly become a lot more manageable and it frees up the creativity on let's say the person that's driving that initiative or that may be driving the content behind those pages to feel like, oh, this is not going to be a burden. We can make these changes. We can be flexible. And I think one of the things we're really leaning in more and more building off developer principles is components design systems and scalability. And in our ideal world, the deeper that designers start to think about and they start to unlock these aha moments of, oh, I can build this thing once and I can have a library of components, or I can build my own stylized pieces that maybe somebody who's not a designer could come in and use and refactor, suddenly your opportunity totally changes.

And that's one of the beautiful moments that we really look for is it's not just about the designer thinking about how can I accomplish or what's just the job at hand. It's about solving that job long term. It's about how does that better coexist with the developer? How do I empower a marketer or a content marketer to jump on and make changes where needed and just build a lot of technical empathy across all of the people that are on that project so that suddenly they're all talking about the same thing and they know where they stand, how to use that thing or what it is, which sometimes is hard.

Reid Carr: So the last part of this then is that brings in some questions related to then using it. So we built the site and now it's in market and now it's in the marketer's hands. What is the experience like on the backend as it relates to an admin who may or may not have the same level of technical acumen that the people who originally built that product or built the website, really may have?

Candice Wyatt: Yeah, I'll start off is you can have different roles that go into Webflow. So an example being is we have our designers who are able to actually adjust styling and make new pages and build new components and all that. And then we also have our content editors. So somebody who is in there publishing blog content for example, they're able to log in and do exactly what they need to do. We also have different teams like SEO can go in and make the SEO optimizations that they need to do directly within the CMS. And so you're not limited there. The experience is going to be very similar to a traditional monolithic CMS that you're probably used to in that you can have different roles and permissions and people able to go in and do only what they need to do.

Reid Carr: Yeah. Well, it's an interesting one. I mean, I know from an SEO standpoint, I mean that's one of the things that often kind of gets stuck is SEO wants certain changes made. And now if they can go in and make those changes, the process can keep going. But if they're waiting for a developer to every time have to implement those changes, boy there can be quite the backlog, particularly when you're working on other parts of the product.

Reid Carr: Another thing you mentioned there, and I think both have mentioned a couple of times, but components. For the sake of the listeners and just maybe articulating what those are and the advantages of those are long-term, I mean, either of you I know can answer that. I mean, Emily, why don't you tell us a little bit about what components are, just for the sake, again, the listener.

Emily Lonetto: Yeah. So depending on your level of efficiency with using components in the past or maybe unintentionally interacting with them, they take on a lot of different names depending on what platform you're in. They could be symbols, they could be components, modules. Yeah, there's so many. They're effectively reusable blocks of things. And the really exciting part about them is that it gives the designer the freedom to just define what are those things, what do they look like? What are some of the rules of how those exist? And then enable somebody who may want to edit the content. Let's say if you had that has like a CTA on it and a title, you might want to change that offer because it's Christmas, I don't know. So you would jump in and you'd be able to just go and update the actual content within it without breaking anything, and it would still follow the same rules.

And the power of those things is that it really helps to just control what can and cannot be broken in the site. It still maintains the design system, which I know is incredibly important for their brands and for people to get things out quickly. And it also gives a lot of flexibility on when you want to make universal changes, like what Candice just mentioned with maybe change your brand. Webflow did that earlier this year. It was honestly would not have been possible if we did not leverage components and global styles. But you can go and you can make those updates and that would then get reflected across all the other instances of that component.

Reid Carr: We'll definitely see the value of that. I mean, reusing things in all sorts of areas of the business, and this is obviously one of them that makes it a lot easier. So really appreciate the two of you joining us to talk about low-code, no-code websites, and specifically Webflow here. So Emily, Candice, thank you very much.

Be sure to check out show notes from this episode and more at reddoor.biz/learn. And as always, subscribe to the Marketing Remix and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Have a good day!

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