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

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

Bubble.io is a visual programming platform designed for creating software without needing to write traditional code. It allows users to build responsive web and mobile apps (of any kind) with dynamic databases and advanced features using graphics and images to express computing logic. Bubble’s mission is to bridge the knowledge gap for non-engineers by providing a cost-effective solution to build apps without requiring coding skills.

But when it comes to building an app, how does Bubble stack up against other no-code tools – which also promise faster and cheaper web app development – and traditional coding methods? 

Below, we’ll provide a full Bubble.io review with answers to the most common questions we get as a no-code agency that chooses to build on Bubble: 

Q: Is Bubble better than coding?

In our experience, Bubble is one of the most powerful, flexible, and customizable no-code app builders out there, making it a strong alternative to traditional coding methods. While coding provides full control and customization, it requires technical expertise and can be very time-consuming and costly. Bubble.io bridges this gap by enabling users without coding skills to create complex software for any use case much faster and cheaper.

However, the suitability of Bubble.io versus coding depends on your specific project requirements. While you can build just about any app a consumer or business might need with Bubble, there are some scenarios where traditional coding may be a better fit. These include cases involving:

  • Novel technology, like machine learning algorithms
  • Huge-scale projects with millions of daily users
  • Custom visual interfaces resembling complex software, such as Photoshop or iMovie
  • Situations where existing developer expertise is available and necessary (e.g. you have existing developers who need to stay busy)

Q: Is Bubble the best no-code tool?

The term ‘best’ is subjective, but if you’re looking for a no-code tool that mimics the flexibility of coding, Bubble.io stands out for its versatility and customizability. Unlike other tools that focus on specific use cases (e.g. Shopify for e-commerce) or tech stack components (e.g. Airtable for databases), Bubble excels in building unique, complex software, making it the closest alternative to custom code.

This is the reason that we choose Bubble as our no-code development agency’s preferred building platform. It allows us to field the widest array of client requests, without fear of hitting a limitation several iterations into a build.

Q: How is Bubble's visual programming platform different from other no-code tools?

Bubble.io is different from other no-code web development tools such as Webflow, which focus on front-end design for static websites. Unlike Webflow, Bubble is open-ended and can build the back-end logic required for more complex, custom apps of any kind. Its visual programming language functions similarly to traditional programming languages, offering several key benefits:

  • Customizability: Bubble.io supports fully responsive and pixel-perfect design, allowing users to create any UI/UX they envision. Users can define each workflow step, search parameter, and database field within their application.
  • Full-stack capability: Bubble.io serves as a full-stack programming platform, enabling code-free design, development, and hosting.
  • Responsive web design: The platform's responsive editor enables the creation of web app layouts that fit to any modern browser or device.
  • Extensibility: With Bubble.io's plugin ecosystem and flexible API connector tool, it's super easy to integrate with any third-party service or API, or even use custom code to extend its capabilities.
  • Scalability: Built on AWS, Bubble.io ensures high uptime (99.9%), effortless scaling of virtual computing power, and robust security measures.

See more on Bubble’s pros and cons and what you can do with it.

Q: Is Bubble low code or no-code?

At its core, Bubble.io is a no-code platform, perfect for those without any prior programming knowledge. But if you’re a developer, you can also use code to add plugins and supplement Bubble’s native functionality as needed. Check out our article on low-code vs. no-code tools for more details.

Q: How does Bubble work?

When you log into Bubble, you can easily create a new web application with just one click. This opens up the visual editor where you "program" your app using point-and-click commands, rather than traditional code. There are three main parts to this process:

  • Design: Drag-and-drop elements onto each page to create pixel-perfect user interfaces
  • Database: Customize your own relational database architecture
  • Workflows: Define the actions your app should take step by step (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")

You can preview your app at any time to ensure everything works properly. Once you're satisfied, you can publish your changes to a live version on your custom domain, and your app is ready to go!

Behind the scenes, Bubble.io translates your editor setup into code that browsers can understand (like HTML and JavaScript). So, while it's called "no-code," there is code involved; you just don't write it yourself.

Bubble also handles all the technical aspects of hosting your application, from setting up servers and optimizing performance, to updating code bases and implementing security measures. Typically, you'd have to manage these tasks yourself using traditional coding methods. But with Bubble, you can concentrate on building your app while it handles everything else.

Q: What is Bubble's pricing model and how much will it cost?

Bubble's pricing model consists of four tiers introduced as of May 1, 2023, each offering different feature sets. The free plan allows users to explore basic features but doesn't support app deployment or advanced functionalities. Starting at $29/$32 per month, the next plan provides more features, while plans with more advanced features begin at $119/$134 per month.

The cost of building a Bubble app varies based on the complexity of the project and whether you hire a freelance developer or agency. Typically, most of the Bubble apps we develop range from $20-$200k, depending on the complexity of the feature set. 

Estimate how much your Bubble app will cost to run with our Bubble.io cost calculator.

Q: Can I build an AI app in Bubble?

Yes! Bubble seamlessly integrates with AI tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E, enabling you to develop innovative and powerful applications without the expense of specialized engineering or data science expertise, or extensive coding skills. Learn how to integrate AI into your Bubble app.

Q: What is Bubble used for?

Bubble.io is used for building a diverse range of web applications across various categories, including marketplaces, sales tools, productivity tools, social networks (such as this Twitter clone), integration tools, and more. Its highly flexible programming framework allows users to create virtually any web application that involves users and a database. Check out examples of apps built with Bubble.io.

Q: What are Bubble's limitations?

There are a few categories of products that Bubble isn't yet right 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)

However, in October 2023, Bubble announced plans to enhance its capacity and features through several updates outlined in its product roadmap. These include:

  • Introducing a native mobile app builder by mid-2024
  • Implementing AI-powered design for creating web apps by mid-202
  • Enhancing bulk data operations for faster processing by mid-2024
  • Updating the expression composer for better usability by early 2024
  • Enabling data return from custom events for improved workflow organization by early 2024

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

Yes! Although it's popular among startups for its rapid product development capabilities, it's also gaining traction among larger enterprises seeking to streamline operations, integrate systems, design tailored workflows, and reduce reliance on spreadsheets. With Bubble, businesses can create custom web apps without extensive IT investments, making it an attractive option for companies of various sizes.

See some of the ways Bubble can serve enterprise software needs.

Q: What features can you implement in a Bubble.io app?

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: Can Bubble apps handle a high number of daily users?

Bubble apps can comfortably handle up to 100k+ daily users, which is suitable for most platforms. However, for larger user bases, additional optimization may be needed within Bubble. If you surpass 100k daily active users, you might need to add custom code for certain features to enhance control. Despite this, Bubble remains an efficient choice for launching your app quickly. You can later transition to a traditionally coded tech stack for further optimization and configuration for larger scales.

Q: Are Bubble apps 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. 

Check out Bubble's security page to learn how they protect your apps and data.

Q: Can Bubble connect with APIs and outside databases?

Yes, Bubble connects with external services that offer APIs for reading and writing data, such as payment gateways and authentication providers. You can also extend its functionality with JavaScript plugins, allowing you to create your own plugins to add connections to non-supported services, add elements written in Javascript, or write server code.

Learn more about using Bubble's API connector.

Q: Can I export the source code of my Bubble app to another programming language?

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 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: Can I learn Bubble.io if I don't know how to code? How long does it take to learn?

Yes, you can learn and use Bubble, but it has a steeper learning curve compared to other no-code tools. It may take weeks to grasp the basics and years to become proficient. If you have time to spare and are willing to learn through trial and error, Bubble can be a cost-effective option. However, for complex projects with tight deadlines, it may not be the best choice.

Q: What are some top Bubble.io tutorials?

You can learn Bubble for free using the following resources:

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

There are numerous pre-built apps and templates from the Bubble community to speed up your no-code app development. Explore Airdev’s Canvas Bubble.io templates and modules, the most-used building framework for Bubble, offering mobile-friendly designs that you can easily customize.

Q: When should I 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 development expert 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

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

Bubble agencies are groups of skilled specialists that provide professional Bubble 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're not tech-savvy, short on time, tackling a complex project, or new to software development, hiring a Bubble agency could be a good option.

Check out our guide for more info on finding the right no-code developer to build your app. 

Q: Why does Airdev prefer using Bubble as their no-code app builder?

Among all the no-code tools we've tried, Bubble stands out for its power and flexibility in handling diverse product ideas. We opt for Bubble as our no-code app builder because it grants us full control over design, functionality, and adaptability for all client projects.

For a deeper look at what Bubble can and can't do, explore our comprehensive list of all Bubble’s capabilities.

Want to build a custom app fast with Bubble.io?

Airdev can help. We offer a full-service team or freelance Bubble developers to help you create a product you can scale with. Learn more about our Bubble development services or contact us today for a free consultation.