Bubble vs WordPress – what’s the difference?

When people first hear about Bubble, they often quickly draw the comparison to WordPress. It’s not that far-fetched – after all, they’re both platforms that allow non-coders to set up a website, create content and publish it for the world to see.

But going just a little deeper, it’s easy to see that the two are very different beasts, and choosing between them is not really a choice about which platform is “best” but the specific problems that you are trying to solve.

Let’s go over how they are different, and how each system’s platform fits into the puzzle that is your project.

WordPress in short

WordPress at its core is a Content Management System, often shortened to CMS. In plain English, it’s a platform for writing, saving and publishing articles, and it helped spawn the blogging craze of the early 2000’s. In many ways, WordPress is a great example of why the internet is so damn great: have you ever stopped to think why it’s free?

The reason is that WordPress is not really a software company in the regular sense. While there is a team of core developers who maintain the basic features and plan the development, the heavy lifting is done by thousands of Open Source contributors who each contribute a little bit. The brilliant insight that the founders Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little had in 2004 was to make the platform expandable: they set up a plugin and theme system that let anyone create new features and designs that would build on top of the already existing core features. With that, WordPress grew quickly in popularity and the plugin and theme ecosystem expanded into a business that employs thousands of people today.

At the time of writing, a whopping 40.5% of websites are powered by WordPress, and while it’s still a CMS by most definitions, themes and plugins have greatly extended its capabilities into eCommerce, business websites, forums and other areas.

Bubble in short

Bubble is a visual programming framework that let’s you create web applications with a drag and drop interface instead of writing code. Bubble in itself is not an off-the-shelf solution like WordPress, but instead let’s you create your own solution from scratch.

Bubble’s design editor is basically a blank canvas where you can draw any kind of element: buttons, input fields, dropdowns, icons, images, text and maps. You can then connect actions to that element to tell Bubble what you want it to do, like creating a new user, going to a different page or creating a new database record.

Bubble comes with built-in handling of user accounts, encrypted database storage, connecting to API’s and server actions and triggers.

All of this combined gives non-coders the ability to create applications that rival those created by large development teams, and is at the time of writing powering more than 300.000 apps.

Bubble vs. WordPress

With that basic introduction in mind, let’s look at some of the core differences between the two platforms:

AreaBubbleWordPress
How do I host it?Hosted on Bubble’s serversSelf-hosting on server of your choice
Can I add my own features?Yes, with drag and drop interfaceYes with coding
Does it have themes?YesYes
Does it have plugins?YesYes
Does it come with a database?Yes, out of the boxYes, self-hosted (but easy to set up)
Can I create my own design?Yes, with drag and drop interfaceYes, with coding
Is it free?Limited freemium: in principle no.Yes
Can it connect to API’s?Yes, requiring general knowledge on how API’s workYes, with coding

As you can see, while they may have overlapping features and users, the two are not really in competition. Bubble is trying to create a new way to think about developing applications, while WordPress let’s you quickly set up websites to publish articles, sell products or showcase your business.

Should I use Bubble or WordPress?

If you’re unsure which platform to choose, let’s look at a few questions you can ask to guide you towards a decision:

Are you making an app or a website?

An app in this case can simply be defined as a website that has one or more features that other websites don’t have. That could be anything from a simple percentage calculator to a full-blown SaaS suite.

WordPress is great for setting up a basic website, and can be greatly extended with plugins and themes that may bring all the features that you need. However, if you want to move outside of the boundaries of what that package can offer, then your only choice is to code. Likewise, if you are building an app where you want to control every aspect of its design and functionality, then Bubble offers flexibility way beyond what WordPress can do.

Are you ok with investing some time in your project?

While Bubble does offer a template store, most apps will still need time to set up, especially if you are new to the platform. Depending on the complexity of what you’re building, it’s likely that you’ll have to set aside a week or more to complete it. If you choose a WordPress theme and simply fill it with content and images, you could have a website running in a day or two.

Do a quick cost calculation

While WordPress may be a bit more expensive short-term (paying for a year of hosting and perhaps a paid theme), Bubble is likely to quickly catch up and be more expensive in the long run. Check their pricing list for updated info on your recurring monthly hosting cost. For an app or highly customized website, that could be worth it, but for a basic website, that cost may be too high.

Think about sections

In many scenarios, it makes sense to use more than one framework. For example, you may use Bubble to build your app, and WordPress for your front page. Don’t ever lock yourself in on one system or “stay loyal”. Identify what you need for a specific task, and pick the tool that’s best for the job.

If you’re unsure which platform to choose, it helps top to take a step back and try to map out exactly what you’re trying to build. Note down what you project is like, what features you need, systems that you need to connect to any any other useful data. The Bubble forum is always a great place to get valuable feedback on whether Bubble is the right tool for your project.

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