Sunday night, 24 July 2022, I felt angry and disappointed. My startup is 9 months old and I haven’t found a product-founder-market fit. The worst thing was I feel limited on my MVP (minimum viable product). My background is in marketing so I only can try: (1) selling a D2C brand, (2) starting a trading company, and (3) starting a digital agency. Which all I tried and I’m stuck.
But this month I launched an app called reviewkerja.com. It’s Glassdoor + Stackoverflow for Indonesian tech talent. I’ll tell you the main tricks here so you can launch your product in one month too.
My MVP criteria
MVP according to Eric Ries, is a version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
Let me put it more simple: MVP for me should be:
- Cheap to deploy/least effort
- Fast deployment & iteration
- Enables us to learn
The first version gonna suck so I wanna spend more time learning about the problem and iterating the app. If I spend too much time developing the perfect product, I will miss chances to learn and maybe discover that it’s not the right problem to solve.
If I want to launch a tech-based MVP. What are my options?
1. Find a tech co-founder/CTO
I have a few friends that have a tech background. I tried to cold email/cold message on LinkedIn but the chemistry wasn’t there. This might save a lot of problems but it’s not something I can control for now. Also, I’m more confident if I found the right problem and traction.
2. Hire a full-time developer
Honestly, I’m a first-time founder coming from a marketing background. I have no clue how to hire a tech team. I tried to get advice from others but I just didn’t get it. This is not an option for now.
3. Pay a freelance/software house
This is the most reasonable option. But in my experience working with freelancers/software houses, they usually don’t fit my 1st and 2nd MVP criteria. Project with simple features would get 2-3 months to finish, cost around $3-4k and this is just the first version, the iteration would take longer. I’ve seen cases where a small change in button can take weeks. In a very ideal case, the timeline is shorter but the project gonna charge you a lot. That kind of service doesn’t fit my budget.
4. Learn no-code
No-code is a way to build an app without coding but using a drag-and-drop platform. Here’s a useful infographic of the no-code trends:
I’m quite familiar with WordPress so I thought this is an interesting option. Maybe if I can master it, I can build anything. But that’s a huge maybe. Also, there are a lot of no-code platforms and each of them requires some learning curve.
Here are my pros and cons of the no-code platform:
- Cheap. Usually, it’s around $12 to $49 monthly depending on the platform you use.
- Fast. All no-code platforms have “templates”. If your MVP is simple enough like marketplace or a directory site, most of the feature is 80% ready within one click.
- Analytics friendly. Most no-code platform is web-based and the goal of MVP is to learn and iterate, so analytics is very critical. You want a platform where you can at least install Google Analytics.
- There’s no perfect no-code platform. The more complex the feature, the higher the learning curve. It depends on how you wanna adjust your MVP to the possibility of the no-code. One platform is simple and single purpose (turning Google Sheet into a website) which is very easy to understand, but the other is more complex but you can build more custom MVP.
- The easier the platform, the less customization you get. This will include custom features and design. For me, the deal breaker was the design aspects, I want my MVP to look professional. If this is you, then learn more-friendlier no-code platforms for design like Webflow or Bubble.
- Sometimes one no-code platform isn’t enough and you need to connect it to other no-code platforms with an integrator like zapier.com or make.com. This will hugely increase your bill if you’re not careful.
- Scalability. I’m not in the stage yet but most people aren’t sure the no-code platform can handle scalability risk because of the backend and stuff. Maybe there will be a specific no-code backend platform to solve this. But yeah heads up for a future good problem.
My 1 month journey
By the end of July 2022, I decide to use a no-code platform to build my MVP. For the platform, I use Bubble.io because it’s the most advanced platform for building almost any web application. It’s also cheap (the cheapest plan is $29/month). But Bubble’s reputation is the steepest learning curve.
There are five weeks in total. I’ll explain my journey each week.
Week 1 – Familiarization
The constraint to build this MVP is one-month and so there’s no way I can build this from scratch. I watched some Youtube videos about Bubble in the past but I know practically nothing. The ideal situation for me is to find someone out there already build a similar app to my MVP. Then I can gather resources or find experts to help me.
The first week I did two things. Crystallize the MVP and find out whether I can build it with Bubble or not. Both correlate with each other and I need to adjust my MVP if my request was too complex to build.
Tricks to crystallize the MVP
The goal is to find the possibility and gather the right resources. You need to define your MVP as a common business term. Meaning your MVP should be a common startup model or popular startup that already exists. Examples would be I wanna build a marketplace, or directory site, or Airbnb, or a social media, etc.
It’s way easier to find resources if you know the term. The vaguer your MVP, the harder it would be to build it. Remember, your job as a founder is to learn and iterate.
For example, if your idea is to fix supply and demand issues in a niche market, maybe you need to build a marketplace.
Is it possible to build it with no-code?
And now you type: “How to build marketplace with Bubble.io”. If you’re lucky, you will get a bunch of resources. Now you need to make sure that you have these resources to make your life easier:
- Official guide from the no-code platform itself. Bubble has this guide bubble.io/how-to-build on how to build popular apps like Instagram, Discord, Indiehacker, etc. Read the guide and find out if the MVP you want is in the guide. When I read the guide I didn’t understand the damn things and but I ensure at least this is possible.
- Youtube guide to creating your MVP. Skim watch all the youtube that mention it and pay attention to the finished version of the app. Did it cover all the features you want? Just because your MVP is a marketplace doesn’t mean you can copy it perfectly. The devil lies in the details.
- Template. I would say this is a must if you have more budget. Every no-code platform usually has a template marketplace and you can copy and edit the template to fasten your development. Go to bubble.io/templates and look for your MVP.
The rest of your 4 weeks will depend on your research this week. I wanna make sure I check all the lists, especially to find a template because it would make your life way easier.
Week 2 – Learn Fundamental
You already found the possibility and the resources. But Bubble is still strange for you. Week 2 is to understand more about Bubble. When I say understand, it’s not understanding every bit of the feature. The goal is to understand:
- How to navigate on Bubble and basic features
- How the logic works and understand the term that Bubble uses (datatype, things, flow, privacy rules, etc).
- If you’re going to buy a template, you need to understand how to customize the template. Little customization will do just fine.
- Find answers when you have problems. I found 3 places to find answers:
The goal of week 2 is to understand Bubble better and get an estimation of how complex your MVP gonna be.
Tricks to fasten the learning
I found these courses to help me understand the fundamental of Bubble faster:
- FREE Learn the fundamentals and the logic: build.airdev.co/bootcamp
- PAID($49/month) Learn about fundamental and UI/UX: buildcamp.io
- Any specific paid course for your MVP. Usually, a Bubble course would involve building a case study. If you find a course that has a case study building your MVP, it’s a no-brainer to buy the course.
- Also Youtube but this should be obvious
Spend time following the course. Skip unnecessary modules and get to understand the fundamentals to build what you want.
Week 3-4 – Development
You should have more familiarity with Bubble and now build a simple app (by following the Bubble course). From this on it depends on your development style.
My style when building reviewkerja.com was:
- Week 3 is for UI/UX and the most important feature like onboarding users and displaying salary and reviews to users. The goal for week 3 was the simple version of working MVP.
- Week 4 is for polishing the simple MVP. I added the necessary pages, menu, and feature to make it more trustworthy when I launched it.
If you have templates, now is the time to use them. You can copy and customize the template to copy the feature that you want. I suggest you have more than 1 template (pick both free and paid templates) to have a comparison so you don’t feel stuck.
In this development phase, my browser tab is full of forums and Youtube videos. It’s normal. You’ll get through this. I get help from 3 interns to develop this. One intern is helping me with UI/UX and the other help with the feature development.
Week 5 – QA & Deployment
By the end of week 4, hopefully you have a ready MVP. In the last week, you should focus about:
- Spend time doing QA (quality assurance). Ensuring your app doesn’t have bugs and all features are working. Ask your target market to test your app and give feedback. This will be very valuable for you. Don’t skip this part.
- Install analytics to your app. Google Analytics is fine for now. You wanna track traffic and your goal. In my case, the goal was for users to register on the platform and user finish their onboarding.
- Plan your go-to-market plan. How do you deploy this MVP to learn and iterate? What’s your marketing strategy?
The work is not finished when you do QA and deploy. Remember the goal is to learn and iterate your idea. Building the MVP is only half the job. The faster you launch the faster you learn.
By the end of the month, you should have a working MVP. Let’s recap the criteria of MVP:
- Bubble is just $29 per month. The effort is lower if you pass the learning curve.
- You could deploy and iterate the app yourself. A small change in the button should less than 5 minutes to deploy now.
- You deploy faster and install analytics. This would enable you to learn faster too!
This guide can also work if you’re not working with Bubble. Maybe with even less time because Bubble is more complex to learn. Other no-code platform that I recommend are: softr.io (for simple database app), glideapps.com (for simple mobile app), and webflow (for building a beautiful website).
That’s it. You just learn how to launch MVP with no-code platform. You’re welcome.