Going No-Code: Webflow Expert James Pearce on Why the Future of Tech is Non-technical
We still want what the web promised from the start: independence, the ability to control our own content. Magnet speaks with Weblfow expert James Pearce about how the latest tech removes the technical to accomplish this.
As you may have noticed—ahem—Magnet underwent a pretty significant redesign this fall. A new logo, new colors, and, most importantly, a new website to feature all the amazing content we create with our clients and community partners.
To accomplish this overhaul, we partnered with LA-based development studio Finerfox. Finerfox’s mission is to empower brands to focus on their customers, not their websites. To do this, they work exclusively in the Webflow platform, a web design interface that’s famously no-code, a type of web development that relies on a graphic interface instead of programming languages.
We wanted to know more about Webflow so we spoke with Finerfox co-founder and our project liaison James Pearce. James and his wife Lesley, who happens to be Finerfox's co-founder and managing director, live and work together in Hollywood with their Chihuahua, Pearl, and Mini Husky, Poppy.
Why did you and Lesley decide to start Finerfox?
We decided to form Finerfox in 2019 because we knew we worked great together and we both had a great passion for creativity. Working on smaller web design projects with a variety of different clients allowed us to flex that creative muscle, meet new people, try new things, and have a good time doing it.
What type of clients do you work with?
We don’t lock down with a certain industry or size. We’ve worked with clients of all shapes and sizes. For instance, just recently we launched the second version of a single page marketing site for a biotech startup in New York called Melonfrost. That was fun to do—we had the opportunity to be creative and stylize their website and try to make an impression with a visitor with just one page. They’re a seed-stage startup so it’s great working with them—a small team, less than 10 people. We’ve also worked with well-established companies like Magnet, who came to us with a primary objective of being empowered to manage the website yourself: you intend to do lots of content updates yourself on the site, and you wanted to be able to manage that tool 100 percent internally. And we see that often with companies. We also work with enterprise brands like Fiver—they wanted an expert Webflow partner to quickly build out their marketing campaign landing pages and microsites. Obviously, each of those different size companies are in different stages of their life, they all present different challenges, we work with different levels of people. We love that.
You only work in Webflow. Why is that?
We only do Webflow, we’ve done it from the beginning. I had previously dabbled in Wordpress websites and found the experience to be horrendous. Most of the internet is on Wordpress, and it’s devastating to think that. When I came across Webflow it felt awesome because Webflow offers the perfect balance for me, very selfishly, in that I get to bring to life really cool designs in a website without any restrictions. And at the same time, I get to do it in a really great interface that makes it easy to do—obviously once you get the hang of it. It allows you to get quickly into things and build out these really great designs without having to compromise on the other side, which is the functional user side that happens after we deliver it.
All of those things were key in our decision to focus on Webflow and become experts in Webflow alone. We just really felt like it was the future of web design. I think it’s the future of everything. That’s where a lot of the investment is going. Companies that can translate over and allow anyone without any technical background achieve what’s in their head. Canva is a great example of that.
What are most clients looking for when they come to you?
Maybe 99 percent of clients that come to us have already made the decision to use Webflow. We’re not really having to make the sale, it’s just a matter of if we’re the right partner to move them to the platform. They’ve come to that decision themselves and they’ve done that because they were researching a solution to the problem that they’re having. And that problem usually is that they are held back by this poor website that’s not allowing them to get their content out the way they want to. When you suffer from having a gatekeeper, which is basically a third-party developer who has to manage that website for you, you aren’t as agile. And you need to trust that they’re keeping all those updates in place and having your security covered. With Webflow you don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. So that’s huge, being able to make updates in an agile way and knowing that you can go from the anxiety of having to rely on another company to keep your website up and running. And companies don’t have to have really technical teams to go in and make these updates on the site.
It fulfills our philosophy, which is to give clients the power to manage their websites themselves, focus on what you guys do best, and not have to worry about your website because it’s an easy tool to use. Because that’s our philosophy, ultimately we’ll launch a client and then we won’t hear from them for a really long time and it’s kind of sad but nice. It’s a testament to working well together and the robustness of Webflow itself.
Ideally, what homework should a client do before approaching you about a project?
Hopefully they’ve already identified who their audience is and different segments in their audience. Who are you trying to speak to and what are you trying get them to do? Very simply. That’s crucial.
Ultimately, having the overall goals and requirement clearly identified and done sets the stage for the development partner to know what you’re trying to achieve. It’s not on the client to figure out the how, that’s on the website developer. But knowing where you’re coming from and what you want allows the design to take form based on those priorities.
It’s best if you can bring inspiration, too, design inspiration, because that’s the most subjective part in all of this. It’s difficult for the designer to come back to the client with something if they don’t know what it means to them to look “professional” or “great looking” or “intuitive.” It’s important to understand where your client is coming from, what they deem to be good, what they see in their head.
What are some of the top trends you’re seeing in web design right now?
In terms of design trends, they come and go and they change a lot by the year and by industry. Things that we tend to experiment with the most are more of a focus on accessibility. Our clients come with basic standards to make sure their site is accessible to all users. We try not to stray from that with our design. Other things like automation and integration, especially with Webflow. By that I mean having the website linked to marketing and sales tools, collecting visits or details. A lot of companies still don’t have a robust way of transferring that website information over to their CRM tool. This stuff is really appealing to clients trying to be more efficient and robust, making in-house management as easy as possible. That’s why people are moving to Webflow, and why they're coming to us.
Magnet is a global brand studio that uses data and storytelling to drive measurable business results. Our team is made up of strategists and creatives who use our THINK / MAKE / REACH process to develop marketing strategies, world-class creative production, and distribution strategies for our clients. Our work starts with data and insights to develop storytelling that’s distributed across all platforms. Our clients are currently appearing in the top media outlets, being shared by influential community members, and rising to the top of the search rankings. Recently we've produced award-winning campaigns for Google, Adobe, Chase, Microsoft, LinkedIn, CHIEF, Greenhouse, Cedar, YouTube, PBS, HarperCollins, Goldman Sachs, Airbnb, IBM, and more.
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