What is Bubble.io? The guide to building a Bubble app for beginners

What is Bubble.io? The guide to building a Bubble app for beginners

If you’ve looked into no-code as an option for faster, cheaper app development, chances are high that you’ve come across the app building platform Bubble in your research. 

While there are many no-code tools out there to build web applications, Bubble.io is one of the most popular – and for good reason. Most no-code tools focus on specific use cases (e.g., Shopify for e-commerce) or parts of the tech stack (e.g., Airtable for databases). But when it comes to building unique, complex software, Bubble offers us the closest alternative to custom code. 

As a no-code development agency that’s built hundreds of custom apps for clients, we’ve chosen Bubble as our preferred solution. It allows us to field the widest array of client requests, without fear of hitting a limitation several iterations into a build.

If you’re unfamiliar with Bubble and looking for more info, below we’ve provided answers to the most common questions we get so you can determine if Bubble is the right building platform for you. 

Q: What is Bubble.io?

Until now there have only been 2 ways to build a web app or start an online business: 1) learn to code, or 2) hire people who know how to code. The former is a huge knowledge gap for non-engineers; the latter is very expensive. Bubble is bridging this gap by offering a platform that allows people without coding skills to build their own apps (read more on Bubble’s vision).

Bubble is a no-code visual programming platform designed to help you build software and applications without code. It specializes in responsive web and mobile apps with dynamic databases and complex functionality. 

This differs from other no-code platforms like Webflow, which focus on front-end design for static websites. Bubble is open-ended, and like a traditional programming language, there's no fixed set of possibilities to the type of product you can build. This means you don’t have to work within the rails of a specific use-case.

Q: How does Bubble.io work?

When you sign into Bubble, you can create a new web application with one click. This then opens the visual editor which is the way you "program" your app with point-and-click commands, instead of conventional code. There are three basic parts to this:

  1. Design: drag-and-drop elements onto each page to create pixel-perfect user interfaces
  2. Database: create a custom relational database architecture
  3. Workflows: define the step-by-step actions the app should take when something happens (e.g., "when a user clicks this button, save the data from these inputs to these fields and direct the user to the checkout page")

At any point you can preview your app to make sure it is working properly. When you're ready, you can publish your changes to a live version on your custom domain – then your app is ready for action!

Under the hood, the Bubble platform translates your editor setup into the code that browsers can understand (i.e. HTML and Javascript). So the name "no-code" is a bit of a misnomer – there is code, you just don't write it yourself. 

Bubble also handles all the heavy lifting behind the scenes to host your application. This includes spinning up virtual servers, optimizing for performance, updating code bases to run on the latest and greatest, and running countless security measures to keep things safe. These are normally things you have to piece together yourself with conventional coding practices; but Bubble lets you focus on the building and takes care of the rest.

Q: How much does Bubble.io cost?

Bubble is typically much less expensive than traditional software development, but if you’re looking to use it for more complex apps don’t expect it to be free. 

There are 4 different pricing levels which offer varying sets of features. The free plan lets you play with Bubble’s basic features, but won’t let you deploy your app or test its more advanced capabilities. The next plan starts at $25/$29 per month, and plans with more advanced features start at $115/$129 per month. Check out Bubble’s pricing comparison page to see how much a Bubble.io app costs and the feature sets for each plan.

In addition to these ongoing monthly fees to host, the cost of your Bubble app will also vary depending on if you hire a freelance Bubble developer or agency to build the app for you. For example, most of the initial Bubble apps we work on range from $20-200k, depending on the complexity of the feature set.

Q: Is Bubble.io scalable?

Yes. Bubble apps can scale comfortably to 100k daily users which is plenty for all but the largest consumer-facing platforms. Larger user bases and application activity typically require a robust optimization effort within the Bubble structure.

For applications with more than 1M daily users, your team will likely have to supplement Bubble with custom code for certain components, to provide additional control. In this case, Bubble is still a good option to launch your app quickly and plan a transition to a traditionally coded tech stack where you can optimize and configure every aspect of your app to perform at this scale.

Q: Is Bubble.io secure?

Bubble is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is itself compliant with certifications such as SOC 2, CSA, ISO 27001, and more. All data behind Bubble apps is stored in the cloud using AWS and is generally hosted on AWS West Region (Oregon, US) which maintains a state-of-the-art security infrastructure. All this means that Bubble and Amazon are taking care of a large number of security concerns so you don’t have to. 

Learn more about how Bubble works to protect your apps and data on their security page. 

Q: What types of apps are good on Bubble.io? 

Bubble is a highly flexible programming framework, which makes it a good fit for building almost any kind of a web application. These might include marketplaces, sales tools, productivity tools, and practically anything else with users and a database. See most popular types of apps you can build in Bubble, with successful examples.

Q: What types of apps are not good on Bubble.io?

There are a few categories of products that Bubble isn't yet good for:

  • Apps that need to work without an internet connection
  • Apps that have complex regulatory requirements (e.g. HIPAAA)
  • Fully native mobile apps (e.g. Whatsapp or Uber) – though web-based mobile apps are supported
  • Apps with novel technology and custom visual interfaces (e.g., video editors, custom AI, machine learning algorithms) 

Q: What features does Bubble.io provide?

Bubble provides a single no-code platform for code-free design, development, and hosting. Common features around these functions include (but are not limited to):

  • User accounts (signup with email or social)
  • Creating/browsing items from the database
  • API integrations & external database queries
  • Forms & surveys with dynamic results
  • Payments (direct, subscription, or peer-to-peer)
  • Charts, graphs, data visualization
  • Notifications through email, SMS, or push
  • App analytics (e.g., Mixpanel, Amplitude)
  • Integrations with AI / machine learning services or custom algorithms

In addition, Bubble supports the integration of custom code plugins for areas where it does not natively support the desired functionality, such as doing an AI algorithm. 

Q: Can Bubble.io integrate with APIs and external databases?

Yes, Bubble connects to any kind of external services that expose an API for reading/writing (including payments, sources of data, authentication providers, etc.). Additionally, it is fully extensible via Javascript plugins. You can create your own plugins to add connections to non-supported services, add elements written in Javascript, or write server code.

Q: Can Bubble.io export code? 

No, A Bubble application’s “source code” cannot be exported to a conventional programming language – the app logic is hosted within their platform. However, you can integrate the software with external databases and APIs either in the initial build, or as part of a transition to another tech stack. This makes it easy to migrate to a future platform that has been built using conventional methods.

On the other hand, your data is very easily portable. With Bubble you can always download all of your data and put it into a different system, or use an API to connect it to something else, meaning you won’t get trapped there.

Q: Are Bubble.io apps mobile responsive?

Yes, Bubble has a powerful responsive engine that allows for full customization of responsive behavior to support all devices.

Q: Can I learn Bubble.io?

Yes, you can learn and build with Bubble, but it has a higher learning curve than some other no-code tools. It will take time (i.e. weeks) to learn the basics, and it will take plenty of time (i.e. years) to become a great Bubble developer. 

If you don’t have a deadline for your app and you’re happy to spend time learning and researching in Bubble forums and trial and error-ing, building your own app in Bubble can be cost effective. To put it simply, learning and building completely on your own will cost the least amount of money – but it will also take the longest – so it’s not recommended for complex builds with deadlines. 

Q: Are there Bubble tutorials? 

You can learn Bubble for free using the following resources:

Q: Are there Bubble.io templates?

Yes, there are many ready-made apps and templates created by the Bubble community to help you build no-code apps faster. Check out Airdev’s Canvas templates and modules for Bubble (the most-used building framework for Bubble) that are mobile responsive and customizable. 

Q: Should I learn Bubble.io or outsource?

If you need to launch your Bubble app fast and can make some monetary investment, your building process will be significantly faster by having someone else build your app. Consider hiring a Bubble developer if:

  • Your app can be monetized and generate revenue
  • Spending money to save time is a priority
  • Your pre-existing app needs testing and debugging
  • You need to delegate specific tasks
  • You need to deliver an expertly-developed app to a client or investor

Refer to our guide for how to assess and select a Bubble developer (freelancer or agency) that’s right for your project. 

Going deeper: What Bubble.io can and can’t do

For a more in-depth look into Bubble’s abilities and limitations, check out our full list of all Bubble.io’s capabilities. This will help you further determine if Bubble is the right platform for your project needs.

Ready to build with Bubble but need help?

If you’re looking for an outside Bubble developer to help you build your custom app fast, Airdev can help. We’re the largest and most highly-rated Bubble agency globally.

If you need to launch a custom, production-grade app fast, contact us about your project today!