My Bubble Story

Our non-profit finds surplus supplies from schools and businesses to give to under-funded schools that are in desperate need of them - everything from books to desks to computers. We also help schools create and manage volunteer opportunities for students.

Since we’ve no longer been able to keep up with all of this manually, we decided to build an application so the schools can handle a lot of it among themselves.

What follows is my experience so far with the project. Perhaps it will be helpful to someone else who’s trying to get their own site built.

First of all, I’ve faced some bumps along the way, and the responsibility for that rests on me. I don’t have much experience leading a project like this and hiring developers. I haven’t done a great job of it - I was hiring developers without doing enough due diligence and I always had a hard time laying out all of the features we needed up front, so it’s been quite a build-as-we-go situation. There are thousands of kids who didn’t get the school supplies they should have over the last year because I just couldn’t get this application working.

As for the history of the project in Bubble:

In December 2016, I found someone here on the forum who offered to help me build the first phase of the application. They said they loved what we’re doing, so they’d do it for free and it would just take a couple of weeks. Very nice! But I said no, I want to pay because I know it’s going to be more complicated than it seems at first glance. We settled on $2000. Unfortunately, 3 months later, although this person had put in a lot of work, there wasn’t much to show for it. Their heart was definitely in the right place, but it just wasn’t working and I needed the project done, so I paid $1500 of the $2000 and started looking for someone else.

I found Gaby, who came in and did a bunch of good work in March through June, but she got busy (understandably because she’s so good!), so I had to find someone else.

I found Geoff, who did good work too, but then he got busy with his own project. No problem.

I found Salar. I paid him $1600 to wrap up the build, which his team wasn’t able to do in the end - there were still many things not working. At that point, he suggested I hire them to build the app from scratch because he didn’t love how it had been designed on the back and front ends. By this point, I had already spent $8000-$9000, much more than I was hoping considering we’re a non-profit, but he convinced me this would be better in the long run. So I paid him an additional $4000 and about 3 weeks later their work was done and I was left with an application that had perhaps 25% less functionality than the original app, plus at least 100 bugs. His team was too busy to fix the bugs, and he said they bill on an hourly basis, which means when the time is up, the time is up. They also don’t offer refunds. He did eventually offer me $500, but it cost me thousands of dollars just to get the site working the way it had before, so it didn’t seem fair I didn’t accept it - it seemed maybe he needed the money more than me. Anyway, everyone seems to love Salar and CoBubble here in the forums, so they must be doing a great job for others. I think it was just bad luck - sometimes these things happen in life. Move forward.

I then talked to BubbleWits, but the time difference was an issue for my schedule. I talked to AirDev and they seemed great, but they didn’t want to fix bugs - they were more into building new features, which I understood.

I found my next developer in the summer, but that one was a failure within the first couple of weeks.

I found my next one in September. They were doing good work at first, but recently they’ve gotten busy (this happens with Bubble freelancers) and the work has become sloppy, is usually way overdue and whenever I do eventually get the “I’m done” email, I go in and find dozens of bugs.

BUT… this story does have a positive ending - I hope. About a week ago, I finally found my 7th developer - myself! I’m finally learning Bubble. It’s been a challenging learning curve, but I’ve been fixing the inefficient database architecture and cleaning up the confusing front end. Workflows that took 10 seconds before are now down to 2-4 seconds.

The best part is it’s actually really fun!

The moral of the story? Keeping in mind that I am a sample size of only 1, so I’m sure others have had different experiences, here are a few things you may want to consider if you’re new to Bubble:

  1. If you’re thinking of getting something built in Bubble, yes, there is definitely a strong case to be made for hiring good people to do it so you can focus on being the founder. Absolutely. But I just want to say that if you think you might be into building this kind of thing, there’s also something to be said for doing it yourself. If you’re non-technical, it may seem impossible at first, but if you stick to it, it gradually makes sense. I’m sure there are great Bubble developers out there and they should get your business - I’m just saying that for me, after going through 6 developers and talking to several others, I’m having the best luck doing it myself. I have a better understanding of what it needs to do, and I’m encountering so many poorly-done things in the site that it’s become clear that no one will put the care into this that I will. Plus, if I had done this from the beginning, I would have saved a good chunk of the over $20,000 (which our non-profit doesn’t have) on developers.

  2. Do your best to write out every single thing your site should do ahead of time, including how every piece of information interacts with every other piece of information. And if you pay for even just a little help with your site, get help with at this stage because it sets up everything. Also know that even if you this, it’s really hard to think everything through all the way. There’s just so many little things that come up that you won’t have anticipated, so there’s bound to be decision-making on the fly. That’s another reason why it’s nice to know how to change things.

  3. Adding to the above, if you do work with developers, be careful whenever you ask for more features. You may think it’s a simple thing, but it may cause the project to not get finished. On top of that, as I go through my site now I see that some things I asked for, which I thought were simple enough, ended up really complicating things, like adding crazy workflows or conditionals or filters, etc. You can certainly propose ideas to developers, but be sure to ask them how complicated it is because it may not be worth it. In the end, simple and working, with fewer features, is better than complicated and buggy with every feature.

  4. Understand what you’re getting ahead of time when you hire developers. You may think you’re getting a site that works, but you may just be getting their time. Of course, that’s quite evident when you’re just paying someone by the hour, but isn’t as clear when you shell out $4000. Ask for contracts and read them.

  5. Bubble is frustrating at times, but super fun once you get to know it. I’m thoroughly enjoying building this thing myself now. And with that, I’m back to work :slight_smile:


Thanks for sharing @philnauta. While I’m glad you’re learning Bubble and are working to meet your own goals, this story upsets me, quite a lot. Experiences like this feed into the stereotypical response of, “You should’ve just hired a REAL engineer.” Reading your experience, I’d be inclined to agree.

It’s a valuable story to share. Bubble, while with its own shortcomings, is a fantastic TOOL. I think many folks look at Bubble as a silver-bullet to their startup dreams, a sort of, “Push Button, get AirBnB.” At the end of the day, it still comes down to quality work, quality people, and product-market fit. Bubble doesn’t help with any of those.


This story hurts to read. I have hit a few snags in my efforts as well, and started to think about trying to hire help, this story definitely turns me off to it, and I’ll just keep trucking along.

The thing that infuriates me the most about your story is that you paid for something you never got. It’s not remotely fathomable to me. I could never imagine doing that to someone. Even if I put the long hours in…if the end result was far less than the expectations…or filled with bugs and major issues…There’s no way I’d be able to take that money from someone. Especially a non-profit.

Good luck in your future!


This gets into the fixed vs hourly pricing convo, for sure. I only do fixed-bid projects. It incentivizes me to get get the work done properly as quickly as possible, and it incentivizes the customer to not cut corners on their needs. If we can agree on the outcomes, keep a steady stream of dialog going, and have agreed upon success metrics, it’s a better deal for everybody.

Jonathan Stark is a really great resource for the value-based pricing. He wrote a book called “Hourly Billing is Nuts,” he has a podcast, and a pretty good newsletter.


@andrewgassen Agreed, I should have hired a real engineer. I take responsibility for having no idea what I’m doing :slight_smile: I think what’s happening in Bubble is there are some people who are learning the tool for themselves and getting decent at it and then they start to do it for others. And they probably can do some good work, but they don’t know what they don’t know - things like database best practices, etc., and that can become a problem. But hey, that’s how freelancing tends to start out in all fields - you know a little and you get better as you go. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I support that… As for hourly pricing, I’ve actually been really happy that most of my freelancers do hourly pricing because I often need them just to come in and do a few things at a time. But yes, when I pay a fixed price, I do hope the thing works in the end. One of the things I think we needed to do better in my case was fully understand the scope of the project from the beginning, while also leaving a little room for changes. I tried to tell them everything I could up front in detail, but some things inevitably came up along the way.

@mikemar10 I’m sure there are great developers out there (Gaby is one of them, for example), so I don’t want to turn people off of using them - just do a better job than I did at choosing them and getting contracts… And yes, I’ve done some consulting work in my life and when I screw up, which I do, I give as much of my time as I need to fix it, or I give an appropriate refund. There’s simply no alternative for me.

Thanks for your comments!


Are you sure you didn’t mean Jon Snow? I’m not sure he’s officially a Stark. :grin:

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@philnauta you are too nice! I feel like I have to add my two cents here. First of all you shouldn’t have to take responsibility for not knowing what you are doing, that’s why you hire people in the first place, because they are suppose to know what they are doing!

Second how do people get too busy to finish something when they are being paid to do it?!

I contacted CoBubble about one of their plugins on how to use it and got nowhere, and they messaged me saying they were going to report me for spamming the forum asking about their plugin. LOL!

It’s tough to find good help anywhere with anything in life even when paying very sad and the thing that bugs me the most is people just seem to keep getting away with practices like this.


This is really interesting, thankyou for posting. Actually I am probably not as upset or disappointed as a bubble disciple might initially be.

This type of thing happens every day in traditional development. I’ve worked for a saas software company for 15 years and we still have these sorts of problems even now - inexperienced project managers/product managers, story changes, having a mixture of contacters and permanent developers All add up to confusion and bugs etc. In fact one of the worst things for a project is new members having to fix old team members bugs whilst also continuing to develop the product.

I think the very best part of your story is that you have continued on the bubble path - it’s testament to the power, speed of dev, stability and complexity of product that bubble offers.

We have spent millions of £ ‘s on our own product with traditional development over the last few years.

The incredible thing is, I think a few years from now it could all be built again with something like bubble in a 100th of the time for a 100th of the cost. In taking on bubble itself You have become CTO, project manager, product manager, tester and developer in one. I absolutely think this is the future and the problems you/we will all face will be our lack of design skills :grinning:


@falcor Thanks for your comments… “you shouldn’t have to take responsibility…” I think it takes two to tango in situations like this, so I take responsibility for my part in the various issues I’ve faced, but yes, it has been frustrating… “how do people get too busy to finish something when they are being paid to do it?” I think some of my developers would say that it’s hard to finish when features are being determined somewhat on the fly. I’ve always tried to lay out everything in advance as much as possible, but sometimes things do change. I just wish they’d say “no” rather than leaving me with an unfinished application… “people just seem to keep getting away with practices like this” Yes, as a person who tries to go above and beyond for my clients even when it hurts me financially or otherwise, it’s no fun to run into people who don’t work the same way, but hey, there’s a lot worse going on in the world than this, so I’m just grateful for the chance to even do projects like this in the first place.

@rossliddell Ya, one thing I’m starting to see, judging by all of the errors I’m finding, is that it must be really hard to come into a project in the middle to try to fix things. Kudos to everyone who has tried to help me with that. That’s one reason why I feel like it will be better if I do the development, so I don’t have to keep finding new developers when the old ones get busy.

Thanks to you both for your insights.


I fecking love this post. I can really relate to this. Not in your expense region, but well over-budget and time anyway. There are a lot of us like this in the Bubble community. The other week they were posting about this whole developer pluggin revolution, when if it focused more on helping people build high performance websites and bespoke day-to-day operating systems for any organisation, they would be the next GoDaddy or something.


we should probably hire a Project Manager closer to your time zone to address this :slight_smile:
great post, thanks a lot, we will all learn from it.

Levon Terteryan
Founder @ Zeroqode & Bubblewits

let’s stay in touch on twitter!


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Thanks for writing such a frank and open post. I’ve worked on all sides of the IT lifecycle, as a front-end developer, UI Designer, Digital BA, App Tester, and Project Manager. I’ve also hired outsourced developers from India for one of my own projects. (Which is a story in itself).

I’ve seen it all really from failed projects to fantastic developers to bugs that should never have seen the light of day (I once tested a Facebook free meal campaign for a major fast food company. The campaign was simple and ‘didn’t really need to be tested’ according to the Project Manager because their developer ‘was great’. It was about to go live and I popped in to have a look - a couple of minutes testing proved that the free meal could be redeemed again and again and again by simply refreshing the page).

I have a wide range of experience and I would offer this advice:

  1. UI Designs are key. Even though it’s tempting in Bubble to just get started, draw a detailed MVP ( to go live with. And I really do mean Minimum Viable Product in capital letters. What is the very least, most unimpressive first pass you could go live with that will be simple, clean, and without bugs. This is a must because once you start drawing up the MVP design it will raise questions you hadn’t thought of. The MVP should be so simple that it will not take a lot of time to build. It will be bare bones but bug free. is a great UI Design tool that I highly recommend.

  2. Get professional graphic designs done. This is a MUST. You can’t be taken seriously without it. There are a lot of Bubble apps that go onto the showcase list and I just can’t recommend them because the graphic design is so bad. I’ve found a couple of great designers on Fiverr (which should be renamed to hundreddollarer) from other countries. Or there are plenty of other quality sites to find them, Dribbble etc. if you want to pay out the big bucks.

  3. Once that small MVP is live, take your original MVP designs and add to them, highlighting in yellow the changes or adding new sections. You can also start with a full UI Design mapped out and then break it into very small release stages. This second release is again very small, bug free, and go live with it.

  4. Once you have deployed to live a few times, all of them small releases, and it looks more than an MVP, then it is time to start to promote and market your application.

  5. Now you can get into a regular release cycle of small ‘bug free’ releases. Note, there will always be bugs, but there shouldn’t be show stoppers or ‘high’ ones at release time, just ones that probably only you notice or can ignore for the meantime.

  6. Each small release has a contract with the developer. A small release means it’s easy for the developer to fulfill the contract. Contracts should be fixed rate and for the MVP design only, not per hour and not for ‘just this one little thing I want to add in, it will only take 5 minutes’. You can add that little thing into the next contract/MVP design. Fixed rate contracts help both you and the developer avoid ‘scope creep’.

So to reiterate, the project will look like:

1st stage MVP UI Designs - Small Go live - 2nd stage MVP Designs - Small Go live - 3rd stage MVP Designs - Small Go live - etc. Start to promote project when looks more than MVP.

I think everyone in the IT lifecycle will be able to relate to exactly what you have said and it broke my heart reading it, especially the ‘10 second’ load time! The contract should state your expectations in this regard as well.

I myself am about to start work as a Bubble freelancer and already work as a UI Designer. I like to think I have the experience from a long digital career to manage my client’s projects appropriately but your post is a timely reminder to ensure all aspects of my client’s expectations are covered.



I like your response, but Bubble please don’t become the next Go Daddy!


To misquote Marc Andreesson… “Markets that don’t exist don’t care how cool your graphics are”.

Conversely, if you have found a market that has a problem which desperately needs solving, and you solve even part of that problem, it won’t care about your graphic design to start with. Or at least, it will forgive the initial designs.

If you want to show off your designs to other designers, then Dribbble is great for that. But I have yet to see something on there where they say “Hey, look at this cool design, and now I have 1000 people signed up an loving it”. Because it doesn’t actually work, and most of them have no desire or ability to “get out of the building” and meet their potential customers. Far too messy.

The number 1 killer of statups is not, and never has been, bad graphics. It is lack of market. And if the only way to validate your market is a scruffy product, well, that is the way it is.

And that is where Bubble comes in, Designers savvy in Bubble will be big winners. But only if they can embrace customer development thinking as much as app development and cool design.

MVPs are rarely done right anyway - the best description I have read is that you should aim to solve “part of the problem” not provide “part of the solution”.

Nocode will, I think, kill off the MVP concept anyway. Get to something that works as soon as you can based on your initial hypotheses. Make that live. Then constantly iterate based on customer feedback and further hypotheses.

The ability to rapidly find and develop markets and your product for that market is key.

“I think kids might find this fun” - Release - “They hate it” - Change it - “Hate it a bit less” - Change it - “Hey that bit is REALLY cool” - Focus on that bit etc

Constantly tweaking and guessing and experimenting based on real customer data is what works, as far as I am concerned.

Taking 6 months to plan out and design something, building it, testing it, getting it signed off … and then wondering why nobody uses it… is what Life Insurance companies still do. “What did you learn from getting this new app out there” “Erm…”.

Being able to do great design from the kickoff, and getting something out and in front of potential customers really quickly … is a game changer.


I agree with most of what you say but professional graphic design is about trust. If your design sucks then why should the functionality be any better? The apps promoted to the showcase are presumably finished live apps ready for marketing since they are being marketed - therefore they should have long passed validation and design stages. Beta apps would be better presented in the forum as asking for testers and beta users.

What you are talking about is validating the market before UI design/building the app. I currently work surrounded by start ups and yes, validation is not only encouraged but it is an in-built factor of the community. You are encouraged to pitch and validate your ideas until you find one that resonates with users in the industry you are targeting.

And pivoting is of course extremely common, not only for new ideas but for features within current applications. The idea you started with morphs and sometimes turns into a different product based on all sorts of reasons such as analytics, finances, and feedback.

A couple of mates I sit next to decided to spend a couple of months in their target industry just talking to employers and colleagues before they settled on an idea. The idea they have now is one that people are finally nodding their heads to. They are experienced Tech Leads and know that the product will grow and morph as they work on it.

I’m not sure where your ‘six months’ came from. In my world, speed to market is of course key and products are Agile and out in weeks, not months, with very short release cycles as I mentioned.

BTW Dribbble is a design showcase, not a product development showcase, the designers on there are freelancers designing for other people so their aim is to showcase their designs, not to showcase a product they don’t own.

I can see you also have a digital background Nigel. I am sure we would agree on many things, excepting getting your design looking professional.

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I have to agree with @cowontherun. Being a consumer in the web application market, if it doesn’t display correctly from when I land on the page, or there are even minor, but consistent design flaws, my interest stops there and I look elsewhere. I don’t look for anything particularly fancy in designs, but it should at least look like it has been designed by a professional to gain interest.

After all, the design of the app is the pretty package wrapped around the product we are trying to sell.

I’ll toss you a like.

Because design <> functionality. It is perfectly possible to be a wonderful designer and create cruddy backends. See … well, an awful lot of the “pretty” templates in the Bubble template store. 90% of the effort spent on colour choice, 10% spent hacking together some sort of database that will creak when you get into double figures of users.

It is also perfectly possible to be awful at design, and pretty good at functionality. I put myself in this category, and I am unlikely to get any better.

When we sold Insurance Mainframe Software in the 1990s we had a lot of competition from “Client Server” software cos who had nice looking front ends instead of a green screen like we had.

The sales pitch ? Take a potential customer down to one of the largest call centres in the UK, row upon row of our product in use. Then ask the call centre manager when the system last went down. That lasted a few years until the competition caught up with reliability and we got caught big time.

However, tech-savvy designers with a customer focus … now they are a force to be reckoned with.

Really? I thought they are being showcased by Bubble as what is possible. Most of them are not even marketing to Bubble Users anyway. Is anything ever “finished”. The idea that you start marketing AFTER you “finish” the app is backwards in my opinion. I know one company that has 1500 Instagram followers … for an app that currently does not even exist in live. That is marketing :slight_smile:

Yes, and I think that is the disconnect. I am saying with a rapid enough tool you can do both, build the app and validated the market with a working app. If you can make it look good enough at the same time … even better.

As above, I think we are just talking about timing. Not the actual need to get it looking professional. I agree on that of course. And in a mature marketplace, then you may well need to get it done upfront. But that is not always the case, as it will depend on that market you are in.


Yeah, but if you are about to be eaten by a bear, are you really going to care about the design of the cage I am going to offer you.

I don’t disagree, it is just a market and timing issue. Are you about to go on a hike, or are you about to be eaten.

(I live in the UK, so please excuse my lack of knowledge around bears. No bears were harmed in the making of this analogy)


Yes, but that cage doesn’t look too safe, so I will take my chances, lol. I see where you are coming from though mate. Suppose a bit of it is down to how much in demand, or till how long someone comes along with the same app, but better design.

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