Online marketplace app development - when should you build with no-code?

Online marketplace app development - when should you build with no-code?

Over the last few years building custom no-code web apps for businesses of all sizes, we at Airdev can objectively say this: Marketplaces are by far our most popular app category.

One out of every 3 custom apps we build are marketplaces. These marketplaces range in variety and focus, including everything from product and service marketplaces, to gig, rental, and digital marketplaces. 

So why are so many people and businesses turning to no-code vs. full-code to build their marketplace apps? What makes this development approach such a good fit for this type of app?

To answer these questions, let’s take a look at the benefits of no-code development and why no-code is changing the game when it comes to marketplaces. 

What are the benefits of no-code development for a marketplace app?

While every use case is unique and there’s no single answer for why an individual or business chooses to build a custom no-code marketplace, the reality is that no-code tools are becoming an ideal option for launching a new MVP marketplace or idea. 

Why is this?

Because in software development, some problems have been solved lots of times before and, as a result, there exists a standardized way of solving them. This applies to most two-sided marketplaces. Most of their functionality isn’t particularly hard and, because of that, it can be abstracted and built without code.

Below, are some top reasons our clients have for building their marketplace with no-code versus other options, such as traditional programming:

  1. Faster to launch and iterate: By building with no-code, companies can get their products into market quickly and iterate faster and more frequently over time. This is especially helpful for building a marketplace MVP, as it allows individuals and businesses to quickly launch, gather feedback, test the market, find funding, and adjust/update quickly and frequently.
  2. Less expensive: No-code is significantly cheaper than building your marketplace app from scratch. Before no-code, building and running a marketplace was a capital-intensive endeavor due to the high cost of hiring traditional software developers or a technical co-founder. In addition, using traditional coders before finding product-market fit requires immense amounts of money upfront to fund the development of a business that will likely need to pivot at some point in the near future.  No-code offers a way to bypass this.
  3. More control: No-code platforms enable users to create applications or make their own changes without having to write (or learn to write) code. They are usually drag-and-drop, integrated, and visually intuitive, making software development more accessible to a more diverse set of innovators, builders, and end users. And for existing businesses, they can reduce the custodial burden on IT teams.
  4. More stable: The benefit of a fully hosted no-code platform is that it takes care of security and technical maintenance centrally. This means that the latest infrastructure security patches, compatibility, and monitoring will be centrally managed by the platform and not your team. 

3 ways to build a marketplace app without code

​​Today, there are a wide variety of no-code tools and approaches to choose from depending on your needs. No-code is not focused on one specific industry or area of work, there are many kinds of tools. However, all no-code tools have a specific purpose – and some are better suited for certain use cases.

Below are 3 different approaches to no-code software development and explanations around when they make the most sense for you to use:

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms: These types of tools are great if your product is standard and rudimentary. They’re typically one-size-fits-all solutions created for non-developers and they offer templates that allow you to build an MVP marketplace inexpensively in as little as 30 minutes. However, the downside is that your no-code marketplace is entirely constrained by the functionality that the SaaS tool offers.

    For example, Sharetribe is a perfect option for someone without a large budget or tons of time who wants to build a marketplace app. It offers standardized, common marketplace templates. Just be aware: as soon as you need more customization, you’ll hit a wall. Refer to our article Software build vs. buy: When to migrate your SaaS solution to a custom-built Bubble app? for more on this topic.

  2. Hack together multiple no-code tools: To get started on your own at a really low cost point, but enjoy more customization than what an off-the-shelf SaaS tool can offer, you can build your MVP marketplace with several different no-code tools.

    This could include using tools like Softr + Zapier + Airtable to cobble together a no-code marketplace. One point of caution: this approach is best for crude tests around your marketplace’s viability and can be time consuming to figure out.
  3. General visual development tools: If you need lots of customization in your marketplace app, but cost and speed are important too, these tools are your best option. These are a subset of no-code tools built to allow anyone to build applications to their specification without needing to code. This option will give you the ability to build your no-code marketplace in around 4-6 weeks, and continuously iterate.

    For example, a no-code tool like Bubble is the closest alternative that there is to traditional code. You can build almost anything you want on Bubble without limitations. However, there’s a much steeper learning curve than just logging into a SaaS platform.

If the underlying technology of your marketplace app is novel, or there’s a big strategic advantage to your app being proprietary, we recommend you build with traditional software developers – or custom code. 

Lean vs. robust software development

A common dynamic in software development is choosing between building just enough or developing a full suite of features up front. For marketplace apps, “just enough” is the approach most of our clients take. The product is less dependent on features and more on people/activity in the market so they need to launch early, get people in, and start iterating based on user feedback. That’s why it’s important not to spend too much time building the first version of your marketplace site. 

See the essential elements you need to get started building a lean online marketplace like Airbnb, Etsy, and Upwork in The Digital Marketplace Guide from Airdev. 

Ready to build your no-code marketplace app?

If you want complex functionality in your marketplace product, but need to launch fast without the cost of hiring traditional developers, Airdev can help. 

Many of our clients come to us because they started building on Sharetribe then needed more customization. Or they found that Bubble would take too much time and effort to learn.

If you’re looking for an outside Bubble developer to help you build your custom app fast, check out our guide on how to choose the right Bubble developer or agency.

Airdev is 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!

Still unsure if no-code is right for your marketplace app?

For more info on whether no-code is the right approach for you, check out our article Full code vs. no-code: When to build an app from scratch and when to use Bubble?.