Life before Webflow: slow pages and slower processes
Shift is on a mission to make buying and selling used cars “fun, fair, and accessible to everyone.” Headquartered in San Francisco, the fast growing e-commerce company is transforming the used car industry with a technology-driven, hassle-free customer experience. Up until 2020, they maintained their marketing pages within their main application codebase, built with a combination of React and Golang.
For the Shift marketing team, this meant any changes to the homepage or other static marketing pages — even something as simple as fixing a typo — needed to go through the full development and deployment lifecycle.
Whenever the marketing team wanted to run a promotion or create a landing page, they would have to file a ticket, that ticket went into some product manager’s backlog, then they had to advocate for it. Once it finally got into the engineering queue, it would take a week or two to execute.
And if the marketing team had a timely opportunity or an urgent need, the engineering team could have an entire sprint derailed to accommodate their requests. This laborious process necessitated triple-checking every change — because everyone knew how painful it was to make even the simplest updates to these pages of the webapp.
And it wasn’t just this slow process that plagued Shift’s marketing and technology teams. Since their website pages were dynamically rendered server-side, they were slow to load, and occasionally crashed entirely. The engineering leadership team knew their site performance should be much better — and that their developers didn’t need to spend so much time and energy updating website copy. Any time saved could be used to deliver complex features and an even better experience for Shift’s customers.
Looking for a better way: a CMS for static pages
Our engineering team was spending far too much time on trivial changes to static marketing pages, which slowed down our sprints and meant more code to manage. We wanted a CMS that would improve site speed and reduce the need for engineering time — which pushed us to consider a no-code approach.
Karan had previous experience with various content management systems, and believed Webflow was a solid, modern choice to meet the needs of both the marketing and engineering teams. Those needs included:
- Site speed and reliability: Static marketing pages needed to load much faster and achieve higher stability.
- Faster content changes: Empower the marketing team to update copy and images independently, speeding up the process to make changes and freeing up engineers from simple updates.
- Powerful yet flexible CMS: The engineering team saw the opportunity to use Webflow to manage and update sitewide elements without requiring a full-length development process. They also planned to make creative use of the CMS API to power navigation elements, promotion banners, and various messaging units across both their website and mobile app.
Engineering leadership also discussed Contentful as a possible solution, but with it, many engineering resources would still be needed. Once individual engineers weighed in on the possibilities, Webflow’s simplicity and powerful potential won out.
“A lot of what Webflow provides is really nifty,” Austin said. “And having the ability to throw whole swaths of information into the CMS and use their API to power so many aspects of our site was really impressive.”
Making the switch: realizing Webflow’s potential
During our sales process, we had a lot of support from the Webflow team. They helped us explore different engineering approaches and make sure Webflow could address our issues. Seeing how much they cared about our business and our goals really indicated this was a company we wanted to work with.
The Webflow Enterprise team worked closely with Shift’s Engineering team on implementation, advising on how to best accomplish their goals:
- Following reverse proxy setup guidance to allow Shift to serve Webflow-built versions of their homepage and other static pages on shift.com
- Using the Webflow CMS API to manage, and more quickly update, sitewide elements like footers and navigation bars
Immediately after adopting Webflow, the engineering team was able to start migrating high-priority static pages and speed up their own process for creating new pages. The Marketing and Design teams plan to take over build out of pages within the next few months, as they increase design bandwidth and develop their own processes.
“Content changes had been so difficult and were continually deprioritized,” Austin said. “The head of recruiting came over the day we onboarded Webflow and asked me to migrate the careers page so she could make updates she’d been waiting on. That first week, I got so many requests to ‘Please migrate my pages to Webflow!’”
Moving forward with Webflow: fewer roadblocks and faster pages
We can now fix typos or update content on a Webflow page in less than a minute. That would have been unheard of six months ago. The fact that we can release pages in less than a minute is a huge change for us.
With Webflow in place, the Shift marketing and engineering teams can update existing content in moments and build out new pages much faster. In addition to more agile processes, Webflow has empowered:
- A/B tests. With the ability to spin up new pages faster, the Shift marketing team can test homepage variations and other page content to improve performance.
- Personalized content. Shift can now segment and target website visitors with content designed to convert, like featuring a convertible on the homepage for Los Angeles audiences or a truck for visitors in Texas.
- Improved site reliability. Even on occasions when the marketplace application has experienced downtime, Shift’s Webflow pages have remained stable — cushioning the impact on customer experience while the engineering teams work to make their entire site more resilient.
- Faster site speed. “Comparing the server-side homepage load times to Webflow page load times is a night-and-day difference,” Austin said. “The return time is now 37 milliseconds, which is mind-blowing! The work required to render pages this fast would typically be difficult and costly for our team, but Webflow makes it fast and easy.”
While the marketing team continues to take more ownership of landing page creation, the engineering team is excited about the possibilities Webflow can unlock for their entire organization. They’ve already used Webflow collections to power the footer across their entire web application.
And for his fellow engineering leaders who may be hesitant to give up control and embrace the no-code movement, Joseph has a few words of advice:
So many startups are resource-starved — and when your engineers are spending time working on static pages, that may be why. No-code tools give you more time to work on what’s really important.
Ready to learn how Webflow can free up your engineering resources? Contact our sales team today.
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