Building A Social Platform Without Writing A Single Line Of Code

Lachlan Kirkwood building the ClickThrough product with no code.

Working in the tech industry, I’ve always been in envy of designers and developers who have dedicated communities to showcase work they create.

Whether it be GitHub, Product Hunt, Dribbble, or Behance – these platforms are used to host portfolios of real work examples.

As a digital marketer, I always found our industry was missing a community-based platform dedicated to our profession. 

Although social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter serve as a way of communicating with peers, no one platform allows us to showcase real examples of the work we produce.

When it comes to recruitment and sourcing work opportunities, digital marketers are still heavily reliant on the traditional process of submitting resumes.

Resumes are not only outdated, but also don’t showcase the tangible skills that a digital marketer can possess.

As someone who’s passionate about creating content and sharing my work, I know first-hand the benefits that building a portfolio can present.

Lachlan Kirkwood's digital marketing blog UI displayed in a MacBook Air.

To alleviate these problems, I built ClickThrough.

Drawing inspiration from existing online communities, I wanted to develop a platform that was the centre of the universe for all things digital marketing. 

As a digital marketer, I needed a place where I could openly share learnings, find inspiration, build relationships, grow my personal brand, and source new opportunities.

But as a solo and non-technical founder, I was limited to what I could build.

I started small.

In 2018 I created a Facebook group.

I used this as a channel to start building a community.

I knew that a community would be the core of the product. There’s a myriad of ways to monetise a community, but a product without an audience holds little value.

ClickThrough-Facebook-Group

After scaling this group to 300 members, I started searching for ways to build a product.

In the past, I’ve had experience working alongside development teams, but I’ve never learnt to write code myself.

I knew it could take years to learn the practical skills required to build a product.

Then, I stumbled across Bubble. 

Bubble is a no-code development tool that allows you to prototype and write logic for building dynamic products.

I was blown away by the tool. 

After watching a tutorial where someone had built a social network using Bubble, I knew it was possible to retrofit most of the core features into my vision of ClickThrough.

Around the same time I discovered Bubble, I stepped away from my full-time job and started freelancing.

With nothing but time on my hands, I got straight to work building the product.

8 hours a day, 5 days a week. 

I spent time learning how to use Bubble, then applied that to the product build itself.

Each week I documented my progress.

It took 10 weeks in total to build something I was happy to ship.

Throughout this process, Bubbles feature set continually exceeded my expectations. 

Although my platform was unique, I was able to craft my vision with the help of their community forum and some publically available tutorials.

With no previous design experience, I used a combination of Dribbble and Product Hunt as inspiration for the UI and core features.

Without touching a line of code, I was able to successfully build the features I wanted for ClickThrough, including;

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User Profiles

One of my main attractions to choosing Bubble was the ability for users to register accounts and create unique profiles.

As a social platform, this was essential for allowing users to publish their own content.

As you’d expect, users are able to also edit the content of their profile inside their settings page.

Within Bubble, it was even possible to create unique URLs for each profile, making it intuitive to search users and share profile links.

ClickThrough digital marketing user profile.

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Newsfeed

Using Bubbles repeating group element, it’s possible to easily create feeds of dynamic content.

By creating a unique dataset each time a post is created, I was able to display that data into a newsfeed on the homepage of the product.

It was also possible to integrate search parameters for this feed, allowing users to filter content on the discover page of the platform.

ClickThrough-Discover-Page

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Invite-only Registration

Taking inspiration from Dribbble, I always had the intention to make the platform an invite-only community. 

This would not only help me monitor the quality of the content published across the platform, but also aid as a growth tool.

In order to register an account, a user must have a unique invite code. To gain access to an invite code, they can receive a unique ID from an existing community member.

ClickThrough-Community-Invote

Members are awarded invite codes once they publish their first post. This helps incentivise users to actively engage with the community.

Once a user creates a post, they’ll gain access to an invite code that’s valid for 3 people.

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Weekly Leaderboard

To drive engagement across the community, I also developed a leaderboard based on user activity.

ClickThrough-Leaderboard

Using a repeating group and some unique logic, I was able to develop a ranking system that would calculate user engagement over the past 7 days.

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Profile Ranks

Accompanying the leaderboard ranking, I also built a profile scoring system to incentivise user activity.

ClickThrough user profile with a featured profile ranking.

A user will advance profile rankings based on the amount of posts they create.

ClickThrough user profile ranking score.

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Notifications

One of the most challenging features to build in Bubble was the logic behind notifications. With few resources available on the subject, it came down to a matter of trial and error to uncover the final solution.

ClickThrough-Notifications-UI

Notifications are generated when a user comments on a post, displaying the event to the creator of that post. 

Once a notification is selected, it will redirect a user to that unique post, then mark the notification as read in the database. As a result, this will leave the relevant notification row in the repeating group unshaded.

Sounds easy, but I assure you it was anything but!

All-in-all, the development process for ClickThrough was certainly challenging, but achievable.

Having no prior experience with Bubble, I found it intuitive to use and easy to pick up along the way.

No-code tools like Bubble are paving the way for the next generation of makers. 

By eliminating traditional barriers to product development, makers of all backgrounds can build and ship powerful products.

As it’s become easier than ever to create a product, it’s also now harder than ever to acquire users.

After shipping the product, I dived straight into my next challenge – scaling the platform.

As a digital marketer, I was under the impression that this would be the easier part of the process.

I was soon to find out I was wrong.

With so many products now available, there’s no shortage of ways for users to spend their time.

To deliver the most value through ClickThrough, I’ve spent the last few months actively speaking with users as frequently as possible.

Although I’m building a product for digital marketers like myself, I’m trying to solve real problems, not focus on my biased opinion.

Throughout the process of building ClickThrough, I’ve learnt so much about product management, design, and development.

Most importantly, I’ve learnt that you no longer need to write code to build a functional product.

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About me: 

I’m a twenty-four-year-old Digital Marketing & Conversions Specialist based in Brisbane, Australia. With a passion for all things digital and tech, I aim to connect and learn from as many like-minded digital enthusiasts as possible. If you have a passion for emerging technologies and digital practices, I’d love to connect and hear your story.