A perfect match. The right project and the right technology at the right time. That's my main takeaway from the comprehensive redesign project of ForskningNu I did with founder and CEO Benjamin Graungaard.
Benjamin had tested and found proof of concept of his business over the past year with a simple, manually updated Squarespace website. So, the time was right to take the project to the next level: Automatise workflows and start building a more scalable business. The web platform Bubble.io turned out to be the perfect match.
A solid no-code backend tool and more
Many new design and development platforms have entered the web recently, promising a no-code approach and the ability to build any founder's digital dreams in a matter of weeks rather than years. Few players have proved both solid and actually provide these technological superpowers. Bubble is one of those.
With an easy-to-access visual drag-and-drop system for backend code, built-in database structure, solid workflows, and a basic framework for the front-end design, Bubble is quite an amazing tool.
To me, starting with a little bit of understanding of databases and backend development, decent design skills, a professional level of UX design, and good strategic business understanding, I could basically do an entire project that would normally take 3-5 people a few months, and do everything on my own in a little more than a month.
The business case
ForskningNu is a two-sided marketplace and a Software as a Service platform. Scientists can set up web pages for presenting their projects and recruiting research subjects. And research subjects, or rather 'regular people', can register for the projects or enlist in a database to be updated about coming projects.
For science researchers, it's an important tool. It assists with an often tiresome and difficult task, that lies far from the core job of science and research, and is often both de-motivating and stress-inducing.
For regular people, it's an opportunity to help science move forward assisting with data and participation, sometimes with the added benefits of receiving test results and other valuable and sometimes hard-to-get knowledge for personal development.
The business model is a freemium model. It's free to set up project pages and receive registrations. The main product of the platform is a campaign add-on consisting of paid social media and search advertising, with a guaranteed number of qualified registrations. The price varies across projects depending on three key factors: How hard it is to reach the requested target group. How much effort is required from participants. And the number of participants requested.
With the two major use cases in mind, I outlined the user journeys and the overall service UX with a sitemap. At the beginning of the project, I also created a new visual identity and brand guide with a logo, a logo mark with shapes and colors that could be applied across various design applications, and a set of fonts.
With these core design elements in place, I could soon start to set up the data structure in the Bubble backend and the pages for the frontend in the Bubble design view. Everything with an immediate product launch in mind. Bubble comes with out-of-the-box authentication (user sign-up functionality) and user rights management, so it's easy to get started.
Normally this job would be split across two or three persons. A designer, a front-end developer, and a backend developer, and sometimes also a manager or a product owner in the middle. So to be able to combine these roles into one saves a lot of time.
In my experience it not only saves a lot of time. It also improves the product to be able to lead feature design and development this way, all the way from thought to final implementation while seamlessly and blazingly fast transitioning back and forth between the phases.
I'm not saying that 3-4 people could not end up with a better product and result, but the ability to move this fast with the final actual code of a product is amazing and have clear benefits in terms of getting a product ready and in front of real users and start improving with their feedback.
Here's a look at the Bubble project environment behind the scenes.
Bubble.io backend product tour
Front end product tour
Bubble, as a platform, do has setbacks and disadvantages. Doing a lot of work in Webflow the past year, I sorely missed better abilities of working with the design and UI, especially for various screen sizes. At the end of the day, Bubble is more about functionality, than about pixel perfection, beautiful designs, and smooth animations. It provides simply the bare minimum of design options.