DevLink - the future of Webflow (and web) development

Illustration of a web app with gradient background and some icons representing Devlink

I started my design career learning to be a full-stack designer, doing both UX/UI design and some front-end code. After that, I went and focused on product design, and now concentrating solely on web design and development using this one tool you probably heard me talking about before: Webflow.

And at their 2022 annual conference, one new feature called DevLink really caught my eye. DevLink was a way to design and code the front end of your app in Webflow and sync them with your React project. They announced it in beta then, but now the good news is here - anyone can try it now in open beta!

What is DevLink? DevLink allows you to create components in Webflow that can be used in your React apps. You can use visual code to build components the same way you would for your website, connect Webflow to your local environment, and then sync the components to have ready-made components for your developers to start using instantly.

Webflow is such an easier way to produce HTML/CSS/JS, that it felt like a bit of a waste not to be able to use it outside of marketing websites. Being able to connect the visual coding powers of Webflow to other frameworks used to build apps open it to such a bigger market and demand, that it makes me feel really bullish on the future of Webflow and visual code in general.

In DevLink’s current state, you can build components on Webflow, which can then be added to your app and tweaked to fit your needs. You can’t see your full app in Webflow (yet). However, even in its current state, DevLink is absolutely incredible - and it’s only going to get better.

So how will DevLink help you?

Your user experience will be consistent throughout the entire journey.

If you have your marketing website in Webflow, DevLink means that you can use the same styles and some of the same components for your webapp. Quite simply, your app can have the same look, feel, and functionality of your website, without a ton of extra work. This will provide a super smooth experience for your users as they hop from your website into your app.

Your development teams are about to save a whole lot of time.

I’ve worked in design and development teams before, and there’s a lot of discussion between developers and designers about what’s possible before the design begins. Then there needs to be handoffs, more discussion, and finally everything needs to be created in code. Or, with Figma’s new feature “Variants”, you could spend a lot of time building the perfect prototype that covers all use cases, and then your developers have to go and redo all that work.

With DevLink, though, you can cut down on that time and start building real, usable components - not prototypes - a lot earlier. Webflow produces honestly spectacular code, whether HTML, CSS, or JS, and it was a bit of a shame that you could only use it on websites. However, now designers can create components in Webflow that can be used in your website, in your app, or both!

You can scale your development a lot faster.

Now that your developers don’t have to write front-end code from scratch, they can focus on the logic of the app and building new features while your designers create components that work for your needs. Plus, the components you create for your app can pull double-duty on your website, if needed.

It brings your design system into one home.

Having a design system in one place saves you time and helps you scale, but I want to elaborate on why that’s so important. Having a well-built design system helps your team work faster, and also helps bring new people up to speed quicker. And as Devlink grows, it will allow you to bring more design systems together. If you have multiple apps to maintain, for example, Devlink has the potential to be the home of all of them!

As a freelancer, it allows me to design AND develop amazing experiences for both websites and apps.

I’m sure you’ve been there where you visit a website that blows you away, but their app’s UX is from 10 years ago. Now I can bring that silky smooth experience on the web to apps. Over my career I’ve learned how to combine branding and visual design with my knowledge of UX and product design, and DevLink offers me the chance to put all of those skills to work!

Speaking of freelancing, I believe DevLink will help freelancers like myself provide even more value to clients.

You save money and time while providing a consistent experience to your users.

A smooth user experience is par for the course nowadays. DevLink will help your team present your brand and your service in a consistent manner, without spending a lot of time recreating assets to reuse across all your touch points.

I can help clients across more touch points and ensure the visual identity of your brand is clear.

DevLink allows me to fix components on your website and now potentially your apps without needing to bother your developers to make the changes. Plus, I can manage more brand touchpoints myself, taking that burden from your team. We can make plans and then I can implement them quickly. 

My clients already enjoy the benefits of having both a designer and a web developer when they work with me. Now I can be their product designer and frontend developer too! Instead of needing a team, they can entrust their work to one person, saving them time, stress, and money. I believe the future is for generalists, and DevLink is a powerful tool to facilitate that shift.

It’s no secret - I think Webflow is great. And honestly, DevLink has huge potential for web design as a whole. As I mentioned, it’s in open beta currently, which means you’re best off using it for an MVP rather than a full app. However, I recommend keeping your eye on it, as it’s only going to get better from here on.

If you have a project that would benefit from a product designer using DevLink, I’d love to help you out. Contact me here and let’s chat!

Profile picture of Félix Meens, founder of Webflix.

Félix Meens, Webflix

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