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

While there are many no-code tools out there promising faster, cheaper web app development, the no-code app builder Bubble.io is one of the most versatile and customizable. 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, the Bubble.io platform is 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.io 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 the tool and looking for a full Bubble.io review, below are answers to the most common questions we get so you can determine if Bubble is the right app building platform for you. 

Q: What is Bubble.io?

Until now there have only been two 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. It’s designed to help you build software and applications using graphics and images to express computing logic, rather than relying solely on text-based representation (i.e. coding). It specializes in responsive web and mobile apps with dynamic databases and complex functionality. 

Q: What makes Bubble’s visual programming platform different from other no-code tools?

Bubble.io is different from other no-code web development tools like Webflow, which focus on front-end design for static websites. It is open-ended and can build the backend-logic needed for more complex, custom apps of any type. It’s visual programming language acts like a traditional programming language, making Bubble:

  • Fully customizable: the Bubble platform supports fully responsive and pixel-perfect design, allowing builders to accomplish any UI/UX. Builders can define each workflow step, each search parameter, and each database field in their application.
  • Full-stack: Bubble is a full-stack programming platform for code-free design, development, and hosting.
  • Responsive web: Bubble’s responsive editor allows you to create web app layouts that fit any modern browser or device.
  • Extensible: Bubble’s plugin ecosystem and flexible API connector tool make it easy to connect to any third-party service or API, or use custom code, to extend its capabilities. 
  • Scalable: Bubble.io is built on AWS and is constantly monitoring and improving its platform behind the scenes. This means 99.9% uptime, the ability to scale virtual computing power with a click, and dozens of security measures.

See more on how customizable a Bubble web app can be.

Q: Is Bubble low-code or no-code?

At its core, Bubble.io is a no-code platform that non-coders can use to build apps without any prior programming knowledge. However, individuals with development experience can use code to create plugins and supplement Bubble’s native functionality as needed. For more on the differences between each, see our article discussing low-code vs. no-code tools. 

Q: How does the Bubble.io platform 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.io 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: What is Bubble's pricing model? How much will building with Bubble 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. 

Effective May 1, 2023, Bubble has 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 $29/$32 per month, and plans with more advanced features start at $119/$134 per month. Check out Bubble’s pricing plan 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 Bubble 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: Can I build an AI app with Bubble?

Yes! Bubble can easily connect to AI tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E to create novel and powerful applications – without the need for costly, specialized engineering or data science experts, or in-depth coding knowledge. Learn more about how to build AI into your Bubble app.

Q: What are examples of apps I can build with 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, social networks (check out how we built a Twitter clone with Bubble!), integration tools, and practically anything else with users and a database. 

See the most popular types of apps you can build in Bubble, along with real Bubble app examples here

Q: What examples of apps should I not build with 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
  • 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, machine learning algorithms) 

Q: Are Bubble apps suitable for midsize and large businesses?

Yes! While Bubble is often used by startups to get products to market faster, it’s increasingly being adopted by midsize and large businesses that want to create custom web apps without heavy investments in IT. Many of these businesses are using Bubble to automate tasks, connect old and new systems to eliminate data silos, design custom workflows, and reduce spreadsheet dependence. 

See some of the ways Bubble can be used for enterprise software development, as well to replace inflexible SaaS solutions.  

Q: What features can I build with Bubble.io?

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
  • And much more

In addition, Bubble supports the integration of custom code plugins for areas where it does not natively support the desired functionality. 

Q: Is a Bubble no-code app 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 100k+ daily active users (DAUs, not total 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: Are apps built with Bubble 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: Does Bubble 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. 

See more on how to use Bubble’s API connector.

Q: Can I export code with Bubble.io? 

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 no-code apps mobile responsive?

Yes, Bubble has a powerful responsive engine that allows for full customization of responsive behavior to support all devices. Bubble underwent a complete overhaul of their responsive engine in 2022, resulting in a modern and powerful system that follows the latest design conventions (e.g., Flexbox). This makes it more intuitive to designers learning the platform.

Q: I have an idea for an app but don't know how to code. 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 tight deadlines. 

Q: Where can I find some of the best Bubble tutorials? 

You can learn Bubble.io for free using the following resources:

Q: Are there Bubble.io templates to help build my Bubble application?

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 Bubble.io templates and modules (the most-used building framework for Bubble) that are mobile responsive and customizable. 

Q: Should I learn Bubble.io or hire a Bubble developer?

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 choose the right Bubble developer (freelancer or agency) for your project. 

Q: What does a Bubble agency do and when should I hire one?

Bubble agencies are groups of skilled specialists that provide professional Bubble app development services. They will typically take care of everything that’s needed to launch an app with their own resources, guiding clients from project start to finish with minimal time investment on the client’s part. If you are non-technical, have limited time availability, have a complicated project with multiple phases, and/or software development is new to you, Bubble agencies might be a good option. 

Refer to our guide on when to hire a Bubble agency for more information on this topic.  

Q: Why is Bubble Airdev’s no-code app builder of choice?

Of all the no-code tools we’ve built with, Bubble offers the most power and flexibility to handle the largest variety of product concepts. We choose Bubble as our no-code app builder because it provides us complete control over design, functionality, and extensibility for every app we build for clients. 

Bubble.io review: 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.

Need a Bubble developer to help build your app fast?

If you’re looking to hire a team of Bubble developers to help launch your custom app fast, Airdev can help. We’re the largest and most highly-rated Bubble agency globally.

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