No Code Development
Mobile Development

What Is Bubble.io? Using No Code for Rapid App Development

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X min read

1.9.2023

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No-code tools are typically used for building and deploying applications quickly, without requiring extensive software development knowledge. Bubble.io is one of the leading no-code tools that can speed up development tremendously. In the hands of skilled users, Bubble.io can be the main technology component of a simple commercial product. But how does it fare with more complex use cases? Here are some thoughts on Bubble and no-code development.

Note: Bubble is evolving rapidly and some of its drawbacks mentioned in the blog post are already being investigated by the team and might have been resolved.

Testing a Bubble App: Project Assumptions

We decided to explore Bubble.io in our internal R&D department to check if the technology can be recommended for commercial products for clients. We wanted to test it thoroughly to see its benefits, limitations, and specific use cases.

The tests started with an idea for a product — a manager for data sets that lets users add and edit entries.

Features and requirements

  • Consistent updating: The tool must enable continuous updates of data sets, ensuring they remain current.
  • Ease of management: The ease of use is paramount, particularly for end-users. Swift addition of new entries and data integrity should be ensured.
  • Integration capability: The app should support integrations with other tools.
  • API requirement: The app needs to expose an API for mobile applications. Instead of exporting entries directly to the application and then issuing it to the store, the goal is to have the application periodically fetch entry updates from the cloud.
  • User role system: While initially intended for internal usage, the app should accept data from external users in the future.

Bubble: Overview of Out-of-the-Box Features

What is the Bubble platform?

Bubble is a leading no-code development platform that allows users to build web apps without having to write code. As an app-building platform, Bubble provides all the features necessary to design, develop, and deploy web apps and some basic mobile apps using a visual interface. With Bubble, even those without a technical background can turn their ideas into functional applications, democratizing the app creation process.

To test its capabilities, we decided to build a relatively simple web app with it. According to documentation, however, Bubble can be used to build social networks, marketplaces, SaaS tools, dashboards, and CRMs.

bubble.io workflow
Bubble’s sample workflow. Source: Bubble

Here are some of the tools Bubble has out of the box and that we used to build our test product.

  • Database access — Instant access to a database for storage and management.
  • Frontend and backend development — Tools to create both frontend interfaces and limited server-side backend functionalities.
  • API integration — The capability to integrate with almost any service that provides a RESTful API.
  • File management — Features to store and upload files.
  • User management system — A built-in yet flexible user management system, including standard flows such as user creation and social media logins.
  • Pagination — In-built data pagination, beneficial for most apps.
  • Pre-built components — Ready-made web application components, such as navigation bars and footers, that can be easily dragged and dropped.

Benefits Using Bubble for Web Apps

Because of the shift in mindset from traditional web app development and the features that Bubble supports, no-code development brings to the table a heap of benefits in product development.

Rapid application development

By using Bubble's features, development time can be significantly reduced. This speed is achieved through the use of pre-built components and the tool's intuitive design capabilities.

Cost-effective

With the no-code approach, the need for extensive development teams or specialized skills is reduced. This change translates to cost savings in the long run.

Iterative design

The flexibility of Bubble allows for iterative design. Instead of being stuck with a rigid roadmap, developers can pivot and adapt as needed without losing months or weeks of work but days.

Empowering non-technical users

With its user-friendly interface, non-technical stakeholders can actively participate or even lead certain aspects of the development process. There are many products out there built entirely using no code technology by non-technical founders.

Scalability and adaptability

The robust features provided by Bubble make the platform suitable for a range of applications, from simple prototypes to more intricate web solutions.

Quick idea validation

Bubble is an excellent tool to build products quickly and ship them for testing with real users to collect feedback and data for further development or to pivot ideas. Bubble lets founders and product managers release fast with a relatively small budget and on tight deadlines.

integrations overview in bubble.io
Bubble supports popular analytics tools. Source: Bubble

Drawbacks of Bubble.io

Poor versioning in basic plan

Despite the intuitiveness of Bubble, there are still some challenges to be aware of. For example, the platform doesn't truly offer versioning in the traditional sense. In the basic paid version, there's probably just one version snapshot available. In higher versions, more snapshots might be available, but there aren't any branches, so users need to be cautious with changes.

Creating features

Another consideration is the approach towards building features. In Bubble, sometimes it's more efficient to replicate functionality rather than trying to build a more “elegant” function. This is because creating a centralized function might introduce complexities and potential edge cases, making the “quick and dirty” method more appealing. But again, it’s not necessarily a drawback, rather a reflection on the approach to creating applications in no code platforms.

Performance considerations

For those looking at app performance, while Bubble makes visible efforts to optimize, you might notice data loading times. There's a sense that if a similar solution were built natively, say using platforms like Ruby on Rails, it could be faster. Especially when dealing with vast amounts of data, there might be noticeable moments of lag. This isn't a deal-breaker but something to bear in mind when considering Bubble for extensive applications.

Detailed Breakdown of Specific Aspects of Bubble.io

Let’s take a closer look at specific elements of this no-code technology and how it relates to product development.

Maturity

Bubble is robust in terms of the resources it provides to its users. There's ample documentation, a multitude of examples, and many tutorials available. This gives an indication of Bubble's maturity as a platform, suggesting that they have put in significant effort to support their user base. The platform also offers numerous plugins and integrations with external tools, such as Airtable, enhancing its capabilities and ease of use.

Community and support

The Bubble community is big and growing. Users can find answers to virtually any specific or specialized query they might have. The availability of answers might vary, but a solution or workaround can generally be found. Furthermore, there's an abundance of free courses, tutorials, and even YouTube content, which helps new users get started and seasoned users to solve more complex problems. The existence of these resources reflects the dedication and involvement of Bubble's community.

Learning curve (minimum tech knowledge)

Bubble is designed to be user-friendly and not overly technical. However, some basic technical knowhow can be beneficial. On the frontend or web design side, the requirements are minimal. Users mainly need to understand how to connect various elements and access certain functions within the Bubble interface. It's more intuitive, not overly technical.

A note on backend and API management

As users delve deeper into the platform, particularly when dealing with backend or API functionalities in their products, some knowledge about authentication, RESTful communication, and HTTP methods like POST and GET can be beneficial. This knowledge helps users maximize the platform's capabilities, especially when integrating with external services.

Integration with external services

One key takeaway from building our test product is Bubble’s encouragement to integrate with external services. If Bubble doesn't natively offer certain functionalities, there's probably an external service that does. Leveraging these can significantly extend the capabilities of what one can build within Bubble. However, this might introduce additional complexities. So keep in mind that the no-code/low-code game is often about assembling different tools and services like building blocks to achieve a desired outcome.

Large number of users supported

Bubble is quite accommodating when it comes to the number of end-users for your product. Interestingly, its pricing is not contingent upon how many end-users you have. While there's a limitation in terms of the number of editors, especially with the most affordable plan allowing probably only one editor, they have catered to larger teams or agencies by offering different plans.

An essential distinction to highlight is that when you're looking at external users, there are no apparent restrictions. This means another entry in the database, and Bubble doesn't charge based on the number of users you wish to have. It's a noteworthy feature since several other tools can have additional costs based on the number of user accounts, which can become burdensome with an increasing number of users.

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Bubble App Development

Accept flexibility

Bubble promotes a shift in mindset. It's essential to know “what” you want to achieve rather than getting bogged down in the “how.” Bubble lets you vary approaches to realize your goals, accommodating changes and iterative design. This can be somewhat of a nuisance to traditional developers; however, non-technical users can find it easier and useful.

Use the built-in database

Bubble is designed to work seamlessly with its built-in database. Even if data needs to be stored temporarily and then removed, this method is often more straightforward than using temporary variables often encountered in traditional computer programming.

Align with tool philosophy

When building in Bubble, It's crucial to understand and align with Bubble’s development philosophy. Fighting against the tool’s inherent design or trying to circumvent its intended use can lead to complications in development.

Consider API creation and limitations

Bubble provides easy ways to create APIs, but there are constraints, especially regarding nested data. While this may pose challenges for mobile developers, users can work within these boundaries using the available approaches in Bubble.

Keep in mind privacy

Handling data and API exposure in Bubble requires careful consideration. It's crucial to be aware of what you're doing and which data you're making available, coupled with the associated permissions. While Bubble does offer a privacy policy that users can refer to, it's vital to note that every backend solution will have associated risks. The challenge with Bubble is that individuals without backend development expertise might inadvertently expose data or create vulnerabilities. Traditional backend developers would usually be aware of these pitfalls, but for someone new to this space, there's an elevated risk factor. Hence, it's a reminder to ensure you're aware of potential security issues when using a platform like Bubble.

Insights on Bubble for Product Building

Utilizing Bubble in your arsenal of tools can prove beneficial, especially in situations where a quick prototype or MVP is more favorable than diving into native, full-scale development.

Here are the three standout insights drawn from our experience with Bubble:

Rapid launch

Bubble offers a quick way to kick-start a project. Without the hassles of assembling a team, setting up accounts, purchasing services, and managing extended communication, even a single person can initiate a project swiftly. This efficiency can significantly expedite product building or idea validation, making it easier to gather insights for future development or decide on the feasibility of a project.

Joy in creation

One of Bubble's strengths lies in the ease of making changes. Even if a concept or workflow needs significant modifications, you're not looking at discarding months of work – maybe just a few days. Within a short span, it's feasible to pivot to a completely different version or approach, making the process of creation enjoyable and less rigid.

bubble.io responsive design customization
In Bubble, you can create customizable and responsive designs. Source: Bubble

Hassle-free maintenance

With Bubble, updates or tweaks can often be managed by a single person, unlike in native systems where backend changes might necessitate corresponding frontend adjustments.

Bubble also saves you from the intricacies associated with security updates, server maintenance, managing expiring certificates, and more. This in-built ease-of-maintenance is a significant advantage.

Who is a Bubble developer?

A Bubble developer is a person skilled in using the Bubble no-code development platform. These developers specialize in building web and mobile apps without writing code using Bubble's visual interface only. Instead of traditional coding, they utilize Bubble's drag-and-drop features to create complex web apps and integrate various business processes.

Although Bubble developers don’t need a background in building applications, technical knowledge paired with expertise in the platform and product development make them more likely to build apps faster. This is especially beneficial for rapid application development and quick idea validation.

How much does it cost to hire a Bubble developer?

The cost to hire a Bubble developer can vary based on their experience, expertise, and the complexity of the project. While some freelance Bubble developers might offer their development services at competitive rates, specialized Bubble development agencies can charge a premium, especially if they are considered no-code experts and have a portfolio of completed projects using this technology.

How do I hire a Bubble developer?

To hire a Bubble developer, you can start by looking on platforms that list no code experts or specifically Bubble experts. There are dedicated job boards and communities for Bubble app enthusiasts where you can find developers. Additionally, some Bubble development agencies offer comprehensive development services and can provide a team or individual developer based on your needs.

How much does Bubble cost?

Bubble offers various pricing tiers, including a free plan with basic functionalities. Bubble has several plans catering to different needs, from individual projects to robust web apps for businesses.

The price for their lowest paid plan is $29 per month. This basic plan already offers a wide range of features. As you opt for higher plans, the primary difference lies in the level of performance it offers. Higher plans allow users to integrate additional modules for better efficiency.

The final cost would depend on the plan you choose, the number of Bubble apps you are running, and the resources you use. For the most current pricing, it's best to check Bubble's official website.

Bubble Is a Valuable No Code Solution to Building Digital Products

Bubble's no-code solution presents a plethora of features that not only simplify the development process but also provide the flexibility to meet a wide range of application needs. While there are some constraints, the benefits, in terms of speed, cost, and adaptability, are hard to overlook.

When venturing into product building, understanding the strengths and limitations of your chosen platform is crucial. While no-code solutions like Bubble offer a host of advantages, it's essential to evaluate its suitability based on the project's unique demands.

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