Coding on Webflow

Building Apps on Webflow

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Webflow-based Apps

Every day I see people wanting to build applications on Webflow.

How is an app different from a website? Well, an app is characterized by;

  • Complex, interactive interfaces like building a "forms designer."
  • User-specific data, tied to a user account
  • User-specific UX, consoles and lists
  • Often, complex logic and business rules as to how the system should behave
  • Often, back-end processes like email notifications and external system integrations
  • Often, security concerns
Examples I've seen include forms builders, auction sites, apartment listing services, student education systems ( LMS ), and many more.

Why this is a bad idea

Webflow is not designed to support these types of applications.

Specifically it lacks;

  • The ability to write server-side code
  • The ability to attach data to user accounts ( there are no connections at all provided between Webflow's CMS and Memberships users )
  • Any form of client-side programmable UX... dynamic forms, dynamic lists, grids, tables, UI arrangements
  • Any ability to easily persist a user's state

If you're exceptional at client-side javascript, and server-side automations, you can make it work...

But it's rather like turning your Lamborghini into a yacht by gluing a whole bunch of pool noodles to it. You can make it float, but... it really wasn't built for that. Don't come to me if you drown.

Bridging the Gaps

Wized + Airtable / Xano

The best bridge so far is Wized, which offers a programming environment that works on top of a Webflow site.

It provides for secure user authentication, external data access, business logic, dynamic interfaces, basically everything I listed above that Webflow lacks for app dev.

Memberstack + Make + CMS / Airtable

Another bridge, for much simpler apps that require no real security and do not require complex UI manipulations is Memberstack ( for memberships and user identification ), Make ( for data transport ) and Airtable ( for data storage ).

The CMS can be used here as well, particularly for data that is not user-specific.

Webflow "Apps" v. "Integrations"

Webflow has its own use for the word "Apps" as well. A Webflow App refers to a non-webflow system that is integrated with Webflow through the API, and which is also made publicly available in Webflow's apps directory.

Let's distinguish...

An integration is a system you’ve built that interacts with the Webflow API to change data on - or receive data from - your website. It can interact only with sites that you’ve generated an API key for, and given to your integration.

An app is an integration, which you want to make available to the public. To do that, you register it with Webflow, give it a profile, name, description, etc. And you setup an oauth layer that allows people to authorize it for their website(s). When this happens Webflow takes care of generating the API keys, and passing them to your app.

If you’re building something internal-only, you don’t need any of the app features. You just integrate with your API directly on the sites you control.

Building Apps on Webflow
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