At the time of writing this, Bubble recently introduced the Official Bubble Developer Certification. This is a benchmark for Bubble developers, meant to highlight and validate your proficiency in advanced Bubble development. It’s a rigorous test consisting of 90 questions that have to be answered within a 3,5 hour window.
For most developers, it was a welcome addition to the Bubble ecosystem, but there have also been voices raising concerns about how an automated test can give a truthful and complete review of a Bubbler’s skill level.
In this post, I’ll share my personal reflections on the certification itself and my thoughts on the pros and cons of it.
Introduction and disclaimer
First off, I need to mention that I played a big role in crafting the certification, including the structure and question formulation. As such, I obviously believe it’s a net positive to the community, and you can keep that bias in mind as you read this post.
That being mentioned, I should also clarify my role in writing this post: Bubble does not approve or influence my writing, but I also don’t represent Bubble – these are my own personal reflections, written as a long-time member of the community. Any opinions and errors (in judgement or facts) are my own.
Why the community requested a certification
As someone who uses and teaches Bubble, there’s an issue I’ve mulled over and been outspoken about: While Bubble’s ease of use is a great advantage, it also presents a challenge that many long-time users have noticed: as users go through their learning journey, there tends to be a gap between how confident users feel and how much they’re actually improving their skills. In short, because Bubble gives such immediate, visible results, confidence level tends to rise faster than skill level.
To illustrate, imagine that you have never ever heard about cars. You have no clue what they are, what they’re used for, and definitely not how to operate them. Someone tells you it’s a way to get from one place to another, way faster than just walking. Excitedly, they pull the cover off this contraption: just hop in, work the controls, and zip across long distances in no time. Awesome!
You get in, start messing around with the steering wheel, pedals and gear shift, and boom, it starts rolling! You drive from New York to San Francisco – all in first gear.
Brimming with pride yet driving a vehicle pleading for mercy, you reach San Francisco grinning ear to ear, alongside a car that’s worn down to a mere shell of its former self.
The lesson of this tale is clear: while it’s a cinch to get the car to move, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re operating it correctly. Your confidence grew quicker than your actual skills, and you’re cheerfully ignorant of the harm you’re causing to the car.
Why? Because no one ever filled you in on the existence of the car’s gears.
Being a Bubble coach helping hundreds of clients, both those creating with Bubble and those using their creations, I’ve had a front-row seat to the happenings in the Bubble world, and boy, have I seen it all:
- apps built and published by freelancers/agencies, with hundreds of users yet lacking basic privacy rules
- big agency homepages laying bare their own client list for anyone to read
- API keys scattered nonchalantly, like salt on a heap of crispy fries
- dynamic expressions that gobble up workload units like a kid devours candy
Folks hiring freelancers or agencies usually aren’t Bubble whizzes themselves: they can’t really tell if the work’s good or not, and when shoddy apps hit the market, it hurts the client, the developer, Bubble and our whole community.
Why do some Bubble developers cut corners when they develop? Looping back to what I said earlier, the answer is straightforward: they don’t.
They’re unaware about what they’re missing, and their confidence has zoomed past their actual skills. Like the car, it’s easy to make Bubble do something, but it takes training and experience with a lot of different scenarios to make it do the right thing.
So, who’s at fault?
I don’t really think it’s fair or necessary to point fingers at anyone. Freelancers and agencies aren’t being careless or reckless – there just hasn’t been a clear-cut way for them to fully learn everything they need to know. Best practices, while they’ve come a long way since 2011, are still being developed and communicated. Naturally, we shouldn’t forget the plethora of exceptional agencies and incredibly skilled solo developers that already exist within the Bubble community. My intent is not to diminish the overall level of talent within Bubble, but rather to highlight the challenge of assessing which is which.
As for Bubble, it has evolved from a humble startup to a formidable global player in a short time, and we’ve gotta cut them some slack to handle issues like this one.
The Bubble Developer Certification is one step towards that.
What the Bubble Developer Certification is (and isn’t)
With the why out of the way, let’s look at how the certification addresses this challenge:
The test is a quiz that gives you a blend of straight-up facts to know and various solutions for a given challenge (i.e. “App X is supposed to do Y. How would you make that happen?”). The questions range from basic to expert level, and are drawn from a pool for randomization and weighted to balance the difficulty. You must get 75% of the questions right, or you’ll fail, and you get two attempts within a three-month period.
First, let’s discuss the $50 cost. Some users have expressed that this seems like just another way for Bubble to rake in cash, arguing that users shouldn’t have to cough up money to validate their abilities. First, I can’t get on board with that mindset: the price isn’t steep, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a profit-seeking business exploring new ways to make money that at the same time help to boost the expertise within its community.
That being said, the math simply doesn’t add up. Even if the money coming in from the certification might offset the expenses of creating and updating it, the revenue, even if thousands of users take the test each year, is simply a drop in the ocean for a company trying to change how we build and host web applications. Bubble is not in this for the money.
Instead, the fee acts more like a gatekeeper for the certification itself: by setting a price and being upfront about how tough the test really is, it encourages users to to prepare well and take it when they’re ready. This is better than tens of thousands of users repeating the test until they simply know the answers from memory.
The Bubble Developer Certification test is open-book. You can read the docs and forum, explore the Bubble editor, or even chat with A.I. bots as long as you stay within the time limit. The policy is like this out of necessity more than anything else – monitoring whether users use digital tools to “crack” the test is not practically possible at the volume and price level this test is intended for.
Does that invalidate the result? The answer to that, like many other question, is not black and white. Would we get a more trustworthy results if we could ensure that users had no access to additional tools during the exam? Perhaps. Is that doable on this scale? Again, probably not at the current cost level.
The question then becomes “does the Bubble Developer Certification still give an indication of a developer’s skill level?”. I would argue the answer to that is yes. Having helped design and review the test, I don’t think an AI like ChatGPT would be able to ace the test like it has others: it simply hasn’t been trained enough on the relevant material. Grasping the questions and figuring out how to get ChatGPT to help would also be a tough task for someone who’s just dipped their toes into the Bubble world. Understanding the scenarios and solving actual problems still requires an understanding of the platform and a history of solving challenges in different types of apps.
Could an AI be able to score 100% in the future? Maybe, but for now, we’re dealing with what’s here and now.
Just like how it works for seasoned traditional coders, being able to use the manual, Bubble editor, and community-created material mirrors an actual workday. Even with a solid education and years of training, coders often lean on resources like StackOverflow and Reddit to crack tough problems on a daily basis. Just like schools globally are figuring out daily, being able to tap into information (and knowing how to dig it up fast) is a skill in its own right. I wouldn’t want to hire a freelancer that works in total isolation from the information available on the web.
I’ve been glued to Bubble nearly every day since 2016, and I too look up things in the core reference and manual when I need to (I sometimes even Google stuff and end up reading my own website articles from a few years back) – it’s not expected or realistic that you remember the ins and outs of all the thousands of features Bubble has to offer in detail.
The test is made to check a user’s all-around skills – if you don’t know the ins and outs of the entire platform (as opposed to just being a top-notch designer or specializing in APIs), you won’t pass.
Some are arguing that this blocks out parts of the community that are working in a niche like UX or plugin development. To some extent this is true: the certification doesn’t measure your expertise in specific sub-domains; it’s designed to check whether you know Bubble generally. For example, it doesn’t matter what you’ve designed before – what counts is if you understand how Bubble’s responsive engine works.
This brings up a point that I think it’s important to remember: the certification is not the proof that you are a skilled Bubble developer. It’s one more thing that you can use to convince your clients that you are the right person for the job.
If I were hiring you to craft a super creative and good-looking marketing agency website, I’d definitely need to peek at your portfolio of earlier design work. And if I was hunting for a plugin developer, it’d sure speed things up if you could show me some high-quality plugins you’ve already published. Most potential clients will need to see more than just your Bubble diploma before hiring you, but the certification can give them an indication of your seriousness, skill level and experience working with different scenarios.
Combine that with a great portfolio, a good reputation, client endorsements and a positive social presence, and you may just have a stronger case than you did without the certification.
Let’s return to the point from earlier: there are Bubblers who build apps for clients, publish articles, Tweets and Youtube videos, do one-on-one coaching and even sell video courses that would not pass this test. I get contacted by app owners who need major corrections in their apps before they can go live, because the freelancer wasn’t capable of setting it up in a secure, performant way.
I’m not trying to act like the Bubble know-it-all – I’m merely painting a picture of what I’ve seen the learning journey look like for most developers-in-training using Bubble, mainly because there’s no clear-cut way for them to judge how good they’ve really gotten. In that sense, I’m hopeful that the certification can serve as a kind of self-check tool too.
Bubble has dropped hints about potentially rolling out more specialized certifications in the future, zeroing in on various domains of expertise. However, as it stands now, everything hinges on how the community responds and provides feedback for the current certification.
Designing and adjusting the test
In designing the test, we’ve tried to paint different, common and recognizable scenarios that you may have encountered in your development, or that you can “get” without having done so before. Like any programming language, there are of course many solutions to any given problem, and we’ve done our best to make options look plausible but ultimately incorrect to leave one answer the right one.
The test went through three steps of reviews: first, the question authors went over each other’s questions, passing them through many rounds of adjustments. Secondly, in-house experts like engineers and members of the success team did the same. Finally, we did testing with actual community Bubble users.
Is it flawless? I don’t think any test can be.
But is it solid?
The only way to truthfully answer that is to leave it up to the community – suffice it to say that we have put a ton of effort into making it a balanced, difficult and fair test that provides actual insight into the skill level of a Bubble developer. It will be adjusted and updated as feedback comes in and Bubble evolves, but I’m hopeful that we’ve managed to set up a solid foundation.
Should I get certified?
The Developer Certification is optional, and for agencies that have a good network of clients, strong portfolio and established online presence and reputation, you’ll have to decide whether it’s right for you.
I would take the following points into consideration when deciding:
- Certification will be one of the requirements to qualify for Bubble’s bronze, silver, and gold agency tiers. If your agency relies on the tier system in Bubble’s agency platform and RFP system, it makes sense to make sure you are certified.
- The certification can be a helpful way to ensure new hires have the needed skill level, and to do annual staff reviews as new features are introduced and baked into the test
- It’s a fairly low-cost way to give your clients one more reason to pick you for the job
- Joining the community in embracing one way for clients to assess an agency’s overall skill level can be good thing for the ecosystem as a whole
- Providing feedback to Bubble helps strengthen the certification process and ensures Bubble can invest in additional initiatives to strengthen its agency ecosystem
Again, the certification is completely optional. If you are an established freelancer with a good portfolio/ reputation and years of experience building with Bubble, the following points may help you decide whether it’s right for you:
- To what degree clients will expect you to be certified remains to be seen and depends on your online presence and reputation – but it certainly can’t hurt
- You may find the certification to be a good way to assess your own skills and stay on top Bubble’s development
- Providing feedback to Bubble helps strengthen the certification process and ensures Bubble can invest in additional initiatives to strengthen its freelance ecosystem
As a client, should I only hire developers that are certified?
At the time of writing, the certification hasn’t been released to the general public, which means that at the moment, no one is certified. It may take some time for Bubble to release it to everyone, and to freelancers and agencies to complete it. The following paragraphs assume that some time has passed and the certification has been more widely adopted.
The most straightforward answer to that question is no. There are many talented and experienced developers who may not feel the need to take the certification. On the flipside, the certification doesn’t guarantee that a developer suits your project – it only tells you that they have completed the test with at least a 75% score.
Just like agencies and freelancers won’t count on the certification as the only way to show off their skills, you as a client can see it as one more tool to figure out if a potential hire is up to the job. Map out the key qualities needed for your project (like the need for a creative and talented designer in the earlier example), and use all the available data you can get to make your decision.
There are many data sources that can be stitched together to get an overall impression of a developer:
- Certification score
- Portfolio of earlier Bubble projects
- Portfolio of design work on sites like Behance and Dribbble
- Online presence and reputation in places the like Bubble forum and Twitter
- Reviews on freelancing sites such as UpWork
- Case work
Final thoughts on the Bubble Developer Certification
At the time of writing this, the Bubble Developer Certification is considered a beta project (and as of now on an early access wait list-plan). As with every Bubble initiative, feedback from both novice and expert developers is crucial for making the most of its potential.
The stop doing/continue doing method is a good model for structuring your feedback – keep in mind that while negative feedback may help Bubble make improvements to weaker parts of a system, positive feedback strengthens what’s already good. The stop doing/continue doing isn’t a rigid feedback system, but simply a reminder to share thoughts from both perspectives when it makes sense.