Softr.IO: Taking the #NoCode Website Builder for a Spin

Softr.io showed up a few weeks ago in my newsfeeds, and I featured it already in my newsletter with a comment that I will take it for a quick test and blog about it.

So I finally found the time to do so.

Softr is a tool for building websites in your browser, without writing code or having web design skills. The promise is that you can get your site off the ground quickly. And I think they deliver on that message.

You can get started with a free account, and start by choosing a blank page or a site from their library.

Screenshot of Softr template library

After you have selected the page you want to start with you can start customizing your page.

The sidebar on the right is for editing the actual content and design of a specific element.

A page open in Softr with the editor sidebar open

The editing process is pretty simple and will cater perfectly to users with little experience in using page builders. Why is that so?

Because Softr does give you less freedom for building your completely unique page. What I mean by that is that compared to other page builders you do not build your layout from scratch (the grid and column layout), and add every individual element on your own. Instead, Softr focuses more on pre-defined blocks that you can add.

The blocks available in Softr

As you can see in the list of available blocks above there are no layout elements (sections, columns) or blocks for single content items (like a heading, text widget, or a button). Instead, you would choose a readymade content block that best fits your needs and adapt it.

Let’s take a quick look at an example to better explain the difference to other page-builders.

Let’s assume I want to add a team section on my page. I will click the team block to add it.

This specific block comes with a headline, subheadline, and team members to edit. I can change the headline/subheadline settings, and add/remove team members. But there is not too much freedom to customize. For example, I can’t left-align all the team members, but changing the shape of the profile pictures is supported, or add fancy entrance animations for this block.

Screenshot of the Team block in softr

As you can see the editing capabilities are limited on this specific block and except for changing font properties and padding top/bottom there is not too much I can customize.

While Softr is focused on providing readymade blocks, you can click the “other” category, which brings up a list of simple blocks you can add.

Other blocks in Softr

In this category, you will find additional blocks, like

  • Simple text (headline and text)
  • Simple image (single image to add)
  • Simple video (embed video)

and others that will take the full content container width on your page. These simple blocks can help if none of the readymade blocks work for you.

Also, note you do not see the classic responsive device button on content level, that would allow you to customize your block for tablet or mobile with specific values (like font size, padding, etc.). You can switch the preview, but customizing each setting for desktop/tablet/mobile is not supported at the moment. If you are not happy with the team block in Softr, there is no way to build your own from scratch.

But all blocks provided in the gallery are “responsive ready”. What that means is that the team of Softr took care that all provided blocks fit on all devices when the default values are used. If you change the font size for a title on your own, you have to take care that it doesn’t break on mobile, as this short screen recording shows.

After you have finished one page, you can add another one. Again, I like the simplistic approach to creating multiple interlinked pages. With two clicks you are done.

All settings that are related to your project are customized in the sidebar on the left.

Settings for pages and adding new pages in Softr

After adding a new page, the header and footer from your Home page are automatically added. That again is a time saver if you want to quickly build multiple pages with the same style. If you want to add the header/footer on a subpage Softr asks you to edit your Home page.

After building your pages you want to connect Google Analytics or other tools. Softr got you covered.

Supported integrations in Softr

Softr already supports connecting all the fancy tools website builders like to use.

What about global styles? Softr allows you to define some basics for your page, like font settings, page container width, or button background color. All the settings you make here are applied to your blocks. That way, you can create a consistent experience across your pages. Softr reminds you that once you change properties on block-level these settings do no longer apply for that specific block.

Global styles in Softr

Other notable features:

  • Custom domains and code are supported on paid plans
  • SEO settings for your project
  • Social media sharing settings on page level
  • A project can have multiple contributors (multi-user support)
  • Build your custom form using the forms block

Softr is not only a website builder but also has a feature for creating web-apps. I haven’t tested it, but what it does is connecting to your Airtable account and connecting your Softr project to it. With this feature, you can build an MVP of your next web-app. This feature caters to a different audience compared to the one interested in quickly building websites without code, in my opinion.

Softr allows the creation of web-apps that connect to Airtable

What’s my verdict?

I have really only scratched the surface after using the web page builder component for a bit. The limitations in design freedom (fixed set of predefined blocks, no components for building a site layout from scratch) are a twist that makes Softr unique in the way that it caters to the user with no prior web design experience or anyone who needs a site online quickly. Not having the design freedom of tools like Elementor or Dorik means you can create a website with a consistent design experience faster.

While the editing experience looks very “raw”, you will quickly realize that you can browse between pages, blocks, and settings quickly. The app loads fast, the editing process is straightforward. I especially like the approach of having the project related settings on the left and the editing of the actual content and design on the right.

What Softr lacks at the moment is responsive settings on block level, and overall the capability to build your own blocks of content from scratch. Then again, the app is pretty new and was launched on ProductHunt in August.

Softr comes with 2 core features, that cater to different audiences. The website page builder and the app builder. We will see which area Softr will focus on in the future. There is no lack of competition in both segments, but I will definitely keep the app on my watchlist. And by the way, if you are serious about using the app not only for a hobby project, you will need a paid account. Paid accounts start at 12 $ a month.

Watch the official demo video to see what its like to build a page in Softr.

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