Ever tried to build a website using a drag-and-drop platform? It’s simple, self-explanatory, going great—until you realize that the functionality you need isn’t supported, or you can’t add custom elements where you want, or the client makes a request that just doesn’t fit into the template. But of course, the time it takes to code and develop your own site from scratch is its own problem.
Enter Warhead. It’s a new web design platform created with designers in mind. As far back as 2010, Warhead’s founders encountered web design agencies whose biggest hurdle was production and development time. They aimed to create a user-friendly, designer-focused website builder that would help them complete any project faster with the functionality of a drag-and-drop platform, but also offer the flexibility of a custom-coded site.
Warhead-based website for Art Marble 21, a restaurant and sports bar in Seattle. Website built by KREATIVE.
“Warhead allows you to start with a blank canvas and build what you’re looking to build in less time than these other systems,” says CEO Gil Walker. “Where Warhead shines is those areas where you’re able to build completely custom layouts within seconds. You’re able to blend blog content and eCommerce and control it down to a molecular level.”
The company’s name is, in part, inspired Shepard Fairey‘s “Make Art Not War” series, one of which features a nuclear warhead. Warhead uses the concept as a metaphor for the tool’s impact on the time required to complete the web design process.
Walker says Warhead is set up to compete, not just with Wix or Squarespace, but with robust publishing platforms such as WordPress, offering the same freedom and flexibility without needing to know CSS or PHP. “Our goal with this project was to be able to do something as small as a restaurant, but we don’t feel like we’re far from being able to tackle something like ESPN with this,” Walker says.
Paul Griff, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” and one of Warhead’s clients, leveraged the platform when building websites for Mosaic Salon Group, a line of salons and spas that rents to about 30 individual salon business owners all working under the same brand. The business had been running on a series of WordPress-based sites that lacked the functionality required to run a business with multiple individually managed locations.
Landing page for Mosaic Salon Group‘s main website
Griff worked with Warhead to establish and maintain the websites. The team not only created a sitemap and the overall design, but also helped Griff apply and refine the company’s branding and messaging to create a cohesive series of websites with better functionality. Griff was especially impressed with how simple it was for him and his company to add content to the sites. “It’s so easy to get in there, enter the info, review it, etc.,” he says. “Unless it’s a really complicated splash page, it only takes a couple of minutes to get it looking the way we want it. That speaks to the efficiency of the tool.”
“As I got to know Gil, I got to know a bit about what a traditional web development process looks like, the loose relationship between engineers and designers and the challenges of building an eCommerce platform,” Griff says. “They got so tired of looking for engineers so they built a platform that would allow designers to build ecommerce websites that designers could use without engineering expertise.”
A few particulars differentiate Warhead from other platforms. For content purposes, instead of being limited to a standard format for content layout, you can manipulate the whole layout of any post in the way you might manipulate content in InDesign. “Each piece you can change, organize, manipulate in any way you see fit,” Walker says. And unlike standard eCommerce-centric platforms where each product is displayed the same, Warhead allows for custom layouts on every page, which can be grouped by layout style.
The other factor is speed. Some of Warheads clients come looking for a platform that they can use for their business; others seek creative services. At Washington state-based branding agency KREATIVE, Warhead’s first client, designers struggled with the burdensome time required for its from-scratch development process, which left little time for graphic and layout design. But in its first year using Warhead, Kreative served 483 clients with 507 websites and three graphic designers.
screen shot from KREATIVE’s own website, built on Warhead
Mercuryscoffee.com, built by KREATIVE on Warhead
And it’s not just speed and content control that makes Warhead unique. “What I’ve really been impressed with is Gil and his team and their level of understanding and commitment,” Griff says. “I was blown away by what they had and the story behind it, and the story that could be told. I found myself donating time to help him package this up for source venture funding.”
“We want to be the best product for the creative community,” Walker says. “If we can serve the creative community and serve it well, we get the best of what the internet has to offer. And if you have all of the creative community on the platform, you have the best of the internet on it, and you get a better internet.”
Under-contruction website for Mech Sauce, a company that produces e-cigarette liquid. Design by KREATIVE
Walker offers this advice for creatives looking to build a career in web design: “This business is great for people who grew up wanting to draw pictures for the rest of their lives. When everything comes together it can be some of the most satisfying work in the world. Take care of your customers in the beginning and they will repay you back 10 times with your business.”
Warhead already demonstrated at the latest AIGA conference, and Walker and his team will also showcase platform at HOW Design Live 2017—possibly with its new multiuser functionality, which would allow a designers across the world to work on the platform at the same time.