So. Your awesome new web application is built on Bubble. It has mind-blowing features, a slick design and the world has been waiting for its arrival. All you need now is an equally slick, high-selling, SEO friendly front page to get your first clients on board, and you can retire early and drink margaritas in front of your computer, because, you know – covid.
Your usual self would simply create a new page and start dropping those elements on it, but you suddenly find yourself hesitating with a gnawing question in the back of your mind: should I build the front page in Bubble?
So should you?
As usual, it’s not a simple yes/no question. So let’s dig into the pros and cons.
All is fair in love and app development
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. It’s not given that your front page should be built on Bubble simply because your main application is. I often repeat the fact that Bubble is a tool, and no tool that I know about suits all purposes.
Let’s say you have created a business SaaS application like a CRM or an inventory management system. You relied on Bubble to build intelligent workflows, design a neat user interface and the ability to quickly roll out features and take advantage of exciting API’s. But your front-end may need a completely different set of strengths: great SEO, lightning-fast page load, responsiveness, analytics, and maybe a blog or article section. Could Bubble handle all of those? Maybe. But is it the best tool for the job? It could be. But it’s not given.
Most SaaS providers will use several different frameworks and/or platforms for their entire ecosystem: one for the app, one for the front page, one for documentation and perhaps a bunch of different ones for customer service: a form for sending in questions, a chat window for immediate help and a community forum. They don’t develop all of them, but shop around for the solution that suits their needs best, while they let their own team focus on the core business – the app.
Does that mean you shouldn’t use Bubble for the front page? No, it just means that the decision shouldn’t be made on auto-pilot.
There are a list of things to take into consideration, but they’re all straightforward. We’ll have a look at them, but first – let’s agree on what exactly we’re talking about.
What is the front-end?
As usual, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first: definitions. A front page in this article is really the front-end: the stuff that your site visitors have access to without logging in. This article also assumes that your app consists of two clearly distinguishable sides: your front-end and your app, the first presenting your product and offering support for its features, and the second being the actual product itself.
For a typical front-end, the usual suspects are:
- The index page (the front page)
- An About page
- Informational pages like product descriptions, pricing pages
- A contact form
In addition to that, there’s also sometimes:
- A user forum
- Articles/content marketing
- Other business-relevant pages
Some of these are purely informational – they present your product, features, team and legal mumbo-jumbo. Others are based on features – a forum or customer support system may be complex products in themselves.
As we see, the front-end is not one simple thing either, but potentially several different pieces of software serving various functions. Most likely you could build them in Bubble, but they may be outside of your core area of focus and expertise.
Asking the right questions
So let’s get to the reason for you’re here: how do you determine whether to build your front-end on Bubble or not? I find the best approach to reaching a conclusion is to split it into questions that make you think about aspects that may not be obviously clear from the start:
Will my front page have features that rely on Bubble?
Some front-pages are purely presentational or have a simple Call-To-Action (CTA) like a Sign up button or a contact form. Others rely on features that showcase your product, offer a free service as a means to get traffic, send clients into your Bubble database or you may simply find that off-the-shelf solutions don’t offer the features you want. Sketch up your page and try to determine whether you actually need Bubble for it to work or not.
What has the shortest development time?
If you are very specific about the design and features of your front-end, Bubble is likely the quickest and most cost-effective way to develop it. If a service like WordPress, Wix or Webflow (often coming with low-cost, high-quality templates) can do the job right, faster and cheaper – then you should consider that alternative.
Are you a good designer?
Your front-end is your storefront. Your salesperson. Your country’s ambassador. It should look good right? Starting out in Bubble, you may or may not invest in a great custom design, or have the skills to do that yourself. While your front page shouldn’t deviate too much from the design of the rest of the app, it makes sense to have a good looking front-end. Remember also, that design is not some fluff piece of art – design is about marketing your product. A great app developer may not have the know-how to build a page that sells your product in the right way. It needs to easily explain your features, showcase your clients and testimonials, make the CTA’s obvious and available and navigation smooth. It’s tempting to say “it’s an art”, but it’s clearly not: it’s a job that takes training and experience and resembles science more than art.
Make that part of your decision: you may have built the best car in the world, but will you also be designing the stores?
Is SEO important?
Bubble is not bad for SEO. Let’s kill that easy conclusion right away. But it has shortcomings that other platforms take care of for you. Bubble is flexible: like every other feature, you can build a very SEO-friendly website, but you are also free to mess it up and remain invisible to search engines for reasons you’re unaware of.
Off-the shelf solutions will usually simply take care of it for you. If you’re not an expert on the complex world of Search Engine Optimization, then outsourcing this job to a more automated platform is worth considering.
Do you want to spend your capacity on the front-end?
Your app’s capacity (separate from performance) determines how many active users you can have in your app before you reach the limit of your hosting plan. As we know, hosting on Bubble can be expensive, since you’re paying for a lot of technology at the same time. Your front page will of course spend that same amount of server resources if they’re in the same app, basically eating of the cake that should belong to your paying users.
Think about it: your front page will have a conversion rate – let’s say it’s 5%. That means 95% of its the total capacity spending on your front page is going to users who haven’t spent a cent on your site. It’s highly likely that your front-end will have a massively bigger audience than your logged in section – so think about where to spend your server resources.
The trick to avoid spending too much capacity on the front page is to avoid touching the database. Optimally do no database searches and no CRUD if you can serve your visitors with content delivered through the code base (on-page text, App Texts and Option Sets) instead of the database. Images are loaded through the Cloudflare CDN, not affecting your capacity. My book The Ultimate Guide to Bubble Performance goes into these things in detail.
Or – offload the whole page to a separate CMS with cheap hosting.
Making a decision
With these questions in mind, you should have a basis for making a decision. Make a plan for what kind of purposes your front-end need to serve, and the investment it will be to set it up.
If you’re a startup with limited resources, be mindful where you spend them in the early stages. A detailed documentation library with awesome customer service features can be a great addition to your product – but the users need to come first. Adjust your ambition level to make sense in the current stage of your business.