May 29, 2021

Can You Use Webflow to Build a Web App in 2021?

Nikolai Bain Author Image

By Nikolai Bain

The test of time has proven that Webflow is perfect for helping you create marketing websites in a fraction of the time that it takes to build it with code. Now the next step lies on how far you can take Webflow to build out more complex websites, such as marketplaces, apps, or even platforms.

There are already great examples of complex websites built on Webflow that include log in and sign up functionality, user profiles, editable marketplace listings, and even a few low code applications.

Here are a few great examples:

Unicorn Factory - A freelancer platform that lists local freelancers. Includes databases, user accounts, profile pages, search and filter functionality, and even dashboard and account settings that can be updated.

Memberstack - A user accounts integration for Webflow, that happens to be built ontop of Webflow. Includes databases, user accounts, a dashboard, and much more.

Makerpad - a platform for designers and developers who are learning to build software. Includes user accounts, and databases.

These are just a few examples of websites with complex systems and website apps that have been built with Webflow.

Keep in mind that many examples such as these will be built with some custom code added. You're not going to be able to build complex website applications in Webflow without getting your hands dirty with custom code, and also a bunch of trial and error.

So how far can you go? how complex can you get using Webflow before you start to reach its limits?


Webflow's Use Cases and Limitations

First and foremost, Webflow is a brilliant platform for building marketing websites and e-commerce websites. There is plenty of functionality included to build a completely custom beautiful website that reflects your brand.

Easily building a marketplace is also becoming a reality, with membership add-ons (such as Memberstack mentioned above) that help you add user profiles and individual functionality and data.

There are no-code developers that specialise in these kind of website builds, such as Connor Finlayson, someone who also has plenty of free videos to help you get an understanding of how it all fits together.

When it comes to building web apps however, things do get a little more hazy.

As Webflow currently is, you're not going to be able to get to a level of a working web app that looks anything even close to an app like Asana. You might be able to get aspects of it similar, but it likely will still feel clunky.

That doesn't mean that nothing is buildable. Any simple piece of data that you can link to a user account can be set up as data in a collection item to be shown to a user. An example of this kind of data could be Date of Birth, Age, Location, or any other user data that you might find on a profile.

Adding in other sets of data is slowly becoming more readily available through using certain tools and workarounds with Webflow. For this reason, certain dashboards will start to become easier and easier to build with some basic integrations added.

A Webflow Dashboard Template you can use to start building a Web App with Webflow


The Tools You'll Need

You're not going to be able to achieve super complex functionality with vanilla Webflow. You'll have to plug-and-play a couple of extra services to get it up and running.

Here are a few of the most commonly used apps to build no-code apps with Webflow.

Zapier - Zapier is one of the common sets of glue that holds no-code apps together. Similar to If This Then That (IFTTT), it helps you move information from one source to another. For example, if a form is submitted through Webflow (such as a sign-up form), we can use Zapier to send that form info to another app like Airtable or Memberstack.

Airtable - Airtable is your one-stop shop to hold complex data sets - think Google Sheets on steroids. Whereas Google Sheets is limited to holding simple values, through Airtable you can add in different views, data types, automated functionality, and statistics of your data.

Memberstack - Memberstack is one great option for setting up a log-in and user account system with Webflow without having to add in too much complexity. It makes it simple to set content on a website to be hidden unless a user is signed in, and also to make content match info from a users account.

Other User Account Systems - Coming later in 2021 we should see Webflow roll out it's own built in user account system, but until that day comes, there are many user account integrations that you are great to use too, such as Firebase, Memberspace, Outseta, or Magic


Summary

Though Webflow is in its early stages of being able to build web apps, there is already plenty of potential based on the tools you can already connect, and the countless examples of apps and marketplaces that have already been built through Webflow.

Once user accounts are added into Webflow (which is expected to roll out late 2021), making and maintaining web apps will be even easier, meaning we will see a surge in new web apps in the coming years.

With resources available all throughout the web on setting up apps and complex systems through Webflow, such as AATT (Automate All The Things), Finsweet, and Connor Finlayson; there is no better time than now to jump in and start building.

Don't want to build from scratch?

Start with a Webflow template and have your new website up in no time.

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Nikolai Bain Author Image

Written by

Nikolai Bain

I'm a Webflow professional partner and template designer who helps users learn to use Webflow better.

More about me

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