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Show HN: Easier, Free Webflow (aspect.app)
97 points by tshepom 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 42 comments





I'm about to start a project to move off of webflow. Here are my complaints, do with them what you will :)

Something got pushed to production a while back that should very much not have been on the production website because of a broken workflow I had with a contractor. I didn't realize it did and it ended up blowing up in my face badly. I want to remove his ability to push to his work out or have me be a final approver, bu that's not possible. In fact, there are no levels of permission and anyone will always publish all changes not matter what. I want to be able to colab in real-time, publish per change, and manage users permissions to do things on the platform.

Another thing, that would actually solve the first thing, is integration to Github. If I could have my designer push a PR to GH I would be able to see the changes he was making and accept or reject them, right now I have no idea what changes are being made. He could point me to one thing and have changed a bunch of others. I also don't love the webflow hosting, it's not that performant. I'd much rather have a colab tool and manage my own infra. I know there is a code download feature, but downloading a zip, adding it to git every time is a heavy lift. I like being able to make little changes here and there.

I'd like to be able to write more custom code and add JS libs (looks like you have this one already, so cheers). I saw someone suggesting you host your own JS on a CDN and then call it in the header, but I don't like introducing outside dependencies unless I absolutely have to, I would rather host all of my JS with my other static content.

One last thing. I want markdown support for the blog. Our blog is technical and I've had to do some very hacky things to get code blocks in there.


primo (https://primo.so) has a lot of what you’re looking for, but it’s coder-friendly instead of designer-friendly like Webflow. Also free and open source.

Interesting, this looks pretty cool. Thanks for sharing

This all makes sense, and I've definitely been feeling the integration pain when I want to export code elsewhere – GitHub support coming soon!

I find tech like this so impressive, because back when I used to code for a living, web browsers were slow, clunky and woefully underpowered.

Is the core app just using a canvas/svg? Did you have to build your own UI toolkit on top of it? Any open source libraries / similar projects I can read to learn more?

Thanks


Thanks! Yeah it’s exactly that - pure js and canvas element for custom drawing. No UI frameworks. It’s all custom so there’s no open source reference, but I plan to release some open source stuff.

This is dope! I'd love to see any part of this open sourced. I've been wanting to try to build something just like this.

Thanks for the overview. I’m looking forward to it, and best of luck with your project!

Amazing feat! Let mw know if you open source it, I'd love to contribute!

Even as a webdev, I didn't know what webflow was, so I went and had a look. I've never had a website utterly destroy my hardware before, my whole browser, even other tabs, slowed to a halt, as webflow tried to run 1000 animations and gifs.

Imagine that being your marketing page, what hope does that inspire in potential customers.

Aspect on the other hand was simple and to the point, without all the fanciness, and used their layout examples to do the talking.


Thanks for the kinds words! Performance has been a huge priority from day 1.

I think this is great, and you've done a fantastic job on the landing page. It's beautiful and clear.

Here's some feedback for the product itself.

- As noted by other HN users, the selection behavior is unintuitive for me. I read the comments here before trying it, so I understood exactly what to do. But as a naïve user, I wouldn't think that double clicking went 1 level deeper into containers, I would think that it went directly into whatever I'm clicking. For instance, if I click into a text box that's 2 containers deep, it would go directly into the text. I know other programs solve this by having a select tool and a "direct" select tool, although that might be a bad solution here... either way, I think you might want to think about the UX on that more.

- When editing text, I see a red circle with a minus inside. I would assume as a user that it removes the current element, but it doesn't seem to do anything when I click it. Very confusing for me.

- Adding links seems a bit confusing. I selected a text element inside of a container, clicked the chain icon to add a link, and then typed "www.google.com". I didn't see any confirm button, so I pressed the "enter" key on my keyboard. It seems the link was added, but the text didn't turn blue the way I would expect, and the "add link" interface didn't disappear as I would expect. I think just adding a confirm button that when clicked hides the add link interface (and goes back to the one with italic/bold/link/etc) would make it more straightforward.

- Adding an input element didn't seem to work at all for me. After double clicking the "input" option in the element list, I wasn't given the option to select its location like I was for all the other elements.


Thanks for the detailed feedback! All makes sense – on it now.

This is really impressive and I can't wait to start using it!

I love that it's currently free and I'm curious what the pricing model is – or what the future plan might be – are you thinking about freemium and charging for specific features?


Thanks! Pricing will be freemium, resembling Figma where we charge teams per seat or for usage past a certain threshold. But it’s important to me to keep it virtually free for the casual individual.

> it’s important to me to keep it virtually free for the casual individual.

I love this!

As a casual user, I can see myself using this to put together quick landing pages


I'm not much of a fan of Webflow precisely because of its complexity. Seeing Aspect a few months ago was exactly what I wished for from Webflow. I love how Aspect gives you the same freedom as Figma, for example.

Great work, Tshepo!


Thanks, Vasek!

I know it's just simple shapes, but the name + logo combo makes me think of the Abstract[1] brand.

[1] https://www.abstract.com


For what it’s worth, that was my first impression too.

I've put together a website in Webflow just last month and I've been shocked by how convulated and complex it has become. It's obviously making a killing and all the SaaS I know are adopting it but I've been left wanting for something less frustrating. I really enjoy the ease you are going for, super promising!

Looks great! Love that I can kick the tires without having to signup. Will try it out soon for a project

Did you build your homepage using Aspect? If so you should definitely promote that. One of the screenshots shows what looks like an Apple.com page - you probably want to find an alternative to show, you should have plenty of examples.

Yeah it was, and got it will update now. Thanks!

Looks very cool. I'm having trouble making edits, though. I've opened a template, and while I am able to change the font of text, I cannot edit the text. Am I missing something? Do I need to log in?

Thanks! If double-clicking or pressing the enter key while the text element is selected doesn’t work, it’s likely a bug. Are you using Firefox by any chance? I just tested on chrome and safari.

I figured it out. I'm using Safari, but I think you might have a bug there.

In most cases had to click a total of four times: once to get focus on the element, then a double click to select the text, and then once more to get a cursor within the text where I wanted it.

There were also some times where I only had to click three times if I did it with the right rhythm (once for focus, once for selection, and once for cursor), or five times if I had already selected an outer container component and was trying to select an inner component (double click for focus, double click for selection, and once for cursor).

For what it's worth, my own initial expectation was that if you click on an element, it should automatically place the cursor where you clicked, and that by default you should be selecting whatever text you are clicking on, not the outer envelope that contains it.

I observed all this on the "Multidisciplinary" theme (black background).


Ah I see, yeah the "double-click to select container child/text" ux is meant to mimic keynote's implicit grouping mechanism, which works the same way.

It's mostly to prevent empty "phantom" containers that people aren't aware are affecting their project layout.

I've been thinking about changing this to the straightforward, single click to select whatever's topmost and visible. Will have to if the current ux bothers people.


Free forever?


Thanks!

Is this a layer on top of Webflow or did you copy its functionality and add a simpler UI on top?

It's built entirely from the ground up – no ui libraries. It's focused on simple, PowerPoint-like usability instead of Webflow's complex, Photoshop-like approach.

How does it scale to real-world projects? One of the problems I’ve felt with Webflow is that you’re missing all the tools you would normally have when making a website, like version control, being able to search and replace across all project files, having a decent deploy process, or being able to automate or refactor things without hundreds of manual actions. You also still kinda need to know HTML and CSS to not make a mess (I’ve been tasked with cleaning up a mess like that, and it’s not much fun, especially when the toolkit described above is not available). These are flaws that are hard to anticipate until you’re halfway through a project.

Considering you’re describing Aspect as easier, what are your solutions to these problems?


While I'm new to Webflow, I get a feeling that some people try to push it too far. It seems to me that it's mostly a no-code tool meant for basic "brochure" sites with some modest CMS capabilities built in. And for many, many businesses, that's sufficient. It provides additional design flexibility for those who understand HTML and CSS. If you're making a site that's so complex that you need version control, you should probably be using a web application framework. But, in a pinch, you can always export your code and do VC on that. Just my $.02.

Those are basically the types of projects I’ve been involved with, but with high standards for the design quality, and sticking to a brand manual. A project like that still has the kind of complexity where version control would be extremely useful. Like just having a place to see what changes have been made, by whom, merging the things we want to deploy, reverting other things - it’s just a matter of time before you run into problems without it. See also Elof’s comment in the thread which explains basically the same problems.

Great questions! I’ve got upcoming features for version control – it’ll still involve conflict resolution in git, but much easier than current code export methods. So far I’ve focused on good code export readability to address integration into existing codebases.

Pretty cool! I don't see any pricing, are you eventually going to sell templates? Hosting?


Netlify should acuhire you

Does it come with templates?

Yep, you can find them at https://aspect.app/layouts. You can also add components while you're editing a project.



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