Coding Is So 2018: Bubble and the Future of App Development

Computer code - The Green House UVU

Have you ever had an idea for a mobile app that you’re certain would change the world? Maybe it was an app to help make shopping easy by keeping an inventory of what you have and need? Perhaps it was simply a better way to buy and sell textbooks with other students? If you’ve had the opportunity to experience one of these epiphanies, it’s likely that after doing a bit of research on how to bring your idea to life, you realized that it was far too difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. App development can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $500,000 and can take years. What if I told you that there was a way to build your dream app in less than 2 weeks for free? And I’ve done it–several times.

Just a few years ago I was a broke student beginning a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing at Utah Valley University’s Woodbury School of Business. I decided on Marketing because I liked to do a lot of different things–and Marketing allows you to be a writer, graphic designer, conversion specialist, and business strategist all at once. What you won’t find in most Marketing degrees is a single class on programming–not even HTML. Those classes are for the computer engineers across campus who love math and late-night RPG-ing (dressing up encouraged!). I avoided both. However, I had one of those “lightbulb” moments. I had a great idea for an app–a game changer in my mind. My idea was this: a mobile app where users can submit their dance videos and compete head-to-head with other dancers to win votes and rise to fame and glory. Great, right? Unfortunately, I hated math and RPG’s–so I couldn’t code. I also didn’t have any money to pay a developer. This is where my journey with no-code app development began.

As soon as you mention “no-code development”, people become skeptical. Their minds immediately go to WYSIWYG tools like Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly. Most people believe that to build anything more advanced than a blog or eCommerce site, you need to be a developer. That’s what I thought too–until I discovered Bubble. I soon realized that it was different. I started by following their tutorial and building a simple app where users are shown two pictures of puppies and they vote on which is cuter. Sounds simple, right? Try and do that on Wix–it’s not possible. How would you set up the logic to add a vote to a puppy each time a button is clicked and where would you store the data? With Bubble, it was easy. It allowed you to manage the front-end and back-end together, seamlessly. Rather than being a WYSIWYG, I think of it more like coding in plain English. You still need to understand basic programming concepts, which takes a bit of practice, but once you learn how their logic builder works, the sky’s the limit with what you can create.

In a couple of weeks, I had my app built. I called it DanceSmasher and I released it on the Apple App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android. I purchased my domain for $0.99 and up to that point I had paid nothing to Bubble. I upgraded my Bubble account to remove their banner ad and connect my personal domain once I released the app, which would cost me $11 per month on my student account. So for $11.99, and some time on my part (which wasn’t that valuable at the time, anyway), and my dream app was live. In total, 27 people downloaded my app and I realized that (1) I didn’t understand my market at all and (2) that I didn’t have the budget to advertise. But, from that day on, I knew that I could build and release an app to the world without spending hardly a dime. This realization opened the “great app idea” floodgates and I have been building no-code apps ever since, each one pushing what I thought would be the limits of no-code development, but never running into any lasting roadblocks.

Before you fire your developers, let me talk briefly about the limitations of no-code development. Firstly, you should understand that these are web apps. So if you release it on the App Store, you will build it as a web-view. This means that it won’t work if you’re offline. I haven’t found this to be a problem in my use case because, unless they’re camping in a very remote location, most people are always online. A benefit of a web app is that any updates you make will happen instantly and don’t require an update from the App Store. The second limitation is that you’re not going to be building games with a no-code builder unless it’s tic-tac-toe or hangman. Bubble’s specialty is CRUD (create, read, update, delete) programming. Any data storage and manipulation, like voting on your favorite dancers, or creating an online marketplace and uploading user-generated content, can be done much more easily on Bubble than using traditional coding methods. Finally, no-code apps are exclusive to their platform. So, if you build an app using Bubble, you wouldn’t be able to export that code and edit it somewhere else. Think of it as its own programming language–only someone who knows it will be able to continue working on it. As the Bubble language becomes more common this will become less of a problem.

Though the no-code community has grown in the years since I discovered it, I have yet to meet anyone in person who has heard of Bubble or uses a no-code platform. I strongly believe that in the coming years we’re going to be increasingly less reliant on coders. They’ll still have their place in gaming and larger, traditional projects. But for the majority of small businesses and entrepreneurs, no-code is the future. Just take my own story: a Marketer turned full-stack developer in a few weeks. That, in itself, is a testament to the power of no-code and the future of app development.