Last year, I was exploring no-code tools and I got obsessed with bubble.io, one of the more flexible no-code app development platforms out there. I tried building basic database apps like an address book on Bubble and it was easier than wrestling with WordPress or customising a script purchased online.
It was a steep learning curve to understand how everything ties together, but once you get into the bubble (lol), things work really smoothly and the community was very helpful in providing guidance on how to solve certain challenges.
Pros of No-code
No-code app development platforms helps non-tech entrepreneurs build MVPs or even get to first 100 customers and beyond before hiring a single developer.
Early no-code platforms provided basic templates and shoehorned users into specific flows, but bubble lets me build “if-this-then-that” workflows that are very much tailored to my requirements. Reminded me of the days of building MS Access applications many years ago.
Cons of No-code
As mobile devices become the norm, bubble’s web app capabilities might not be enough to build ideas that are consumer facing. Though you can build a mobile app out of your web app, it might not be able to take full advantages of going native route on Android/iOS.
There are risks of building on any third party platform. Security, privacy, compliance, downtimes etc.
Migration could potentially be a pain down the line if the product does take off.
None of these cons were a deal breaker for me while starting out as I was saving tons of time and money that comes with hiring a development team. I am not a developer in the slightest, but I loved how easy Bubble was to build on.
After fooling around with my address book app, I set out to build an web application based on an idea I’ve had on my Trello board for many years.
I wanted to build an app that helps business collect reviews from their customers.
82% of consumers read online reviews before they reach out to any local business. But customers are more likely to post negative reviews than positive ones. How can businesses collect more positive reviews from their customers?
Imagine a simple app that integrates with your billing system and sends out a review request to your customers through the platform they are most familiar with – SMS.
Send happy customers to your online profiles like Google Places, Facebook Pages, etc. and route negative feedback to your email so that you can improve your customer experience.
Building the MVP
The next step was to strip down the application to its bare essentials
- Ability to send a review request
- Ability to collect Positive/Negative Feedback
- Route happy users to google reviews and redirect unhappy users to a form.
- SMS Analytics to view outcomes from review requests
- Essentials like login, free plan limits, upgrade to premium, accept payments, etc.
- Stripe to accept payments
- A SMS gateway to send requests
- Google Places API to redirect directly to the review page.
- Free plan limited to 10 review requests and 1 business location
- Paid plan unlocks more credits and supports multiple locations
After about 96 hours, I had a fully functional application that was ready to be live. Thats it!
The parts that took most of the time were
- Database design (I hated this in college and still do!)
- Responsiveness on mobile
- Integration with Places API
To my surprise, payment gateway and SMS integrations took just minutes! It is amazing to see how far democratisation of technology has come.
With the rudimentary branding, homepage and the fully built out app ready, it was time for trial by fire – Go to Market!
Launch and GTM Plan
I planned to sell this to agencies so that I did not have to handle customer onboarding and support. And agencies could use this tool as a part of their SEO or digital marketing services.
I chose some marketing sub-reddits and LinkedIn outreach to find my initial customers.
Everyday I sent out 10 personalised messages to total strangers, scheduled time with those that responded and demo’d them the application. After doing about 10 customer interviews, I realized that I had a winner!
Few of those who I spoke to even signed up for the paid plan after their freemium plan credits ran out.
Total Spend: $0 (because I hadn’t launched the app yet!)
Total MRR: $57 (3 customers!)
This was unbelievable! I went from idea to launch in 96 hours and the app started to generate revenue within 3 weeks of go live!
I was spending 70% of my time (~4 hours a day after work) on sales and remaining on fixing bugs and making improvements.
The Difficult Decision
In one of the demo calls, I met up with a very experienced Local SEO expert who pointed me to a new Google policy that essentially said review gating was not allowed.
Review gating could potentially get a business delisted on Google Maps, Yikes!
This meant that my app was putting agencies and businesses at risk of getting their locations banned on Google Maps.
I had a decision to make, should I continue selling my ticking time bomb hoping that users knew what they were getting into? Or shut it down before businesses got into trouble?
With a heavy heart, I disabled the application and refunded the customers and explained my decision to them.
All in all, it was an experience of thinking up an idea, bringing it to life and taking it to market without writing a single line of code!
While I could not build a side hustle, I realised that it is possible for one person, 8 weeks and a whole lot of elbow grease. This was unimaginable just a decade ago.
Onwards to the next idea when procrastination ends? Maybe. 🙂
PS: Would you be interested in learning no-code or have you tried it already? Drop a comment? Pretty please? 🙂