How to build a MVP if you can't code

Posted by on May 31, 2021 · 10 mins read Categories: Travoshare

Have you ever been worried about telling somebody about your idea? There’s a reason a lot of people will laugh and tell you not to worry, and the reason is that there are a lot of ideas out there. It’s the building and the following through that’s actually hard.

Once you have your “idea” you have to figure out what’s next. What do you do?

That’s what I was trying to figure out when I first thought about travoshare (let alone what to name it). The problem is that I was trying to make a web application, and for someone with no technical background, this seemed impossible.

What I did first was to sketch out a simple mockup by hand.

At this point I had never used Figma before and all I had with me was pen and paper on a flight home to Toronto as I tried to think through it more carefully.

I thought about what the key screens I would need (for a Minimum Viable Product or MVP), and focused on translating what was in my head onto to paper.

Next, was the hard part. Figuring out how to actually build a prototype. Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to build a full functioning product - I really just wanted to validate my new ‘fun idea’.

What I realized, was that there were really only a few options if I wanted to build a MVP:

  • Learn to code and built it myself
  • Use a no-code solution
  • Pay someone or hire an agency
  • Find a technical co-founder

Learn to code

I knew pretty early on that this wasn’t likely to be my solution, and this was for a couple of reasons:

  • I thought it would take too long. I thought that even if I was able to figure out how to build it myself, that it would end up taking a year and taking far too long. In reality, I actually ended up working on this for over a year, so it was probably a bit naive of me to think that it would be that much faster if I hadn’t chosen this option!
  • I thought it would be too complex. I honestly thought that the features I was trying to include was too difficult for me to build. This isn’t to say, that I’m opposed to learning to code. In fact, I did end up taking an online course, but given my constraints, what I’d be able to build wouldn’t have been sufficient.
  • I wanted to focus on other areas. Of course it would be helpful to have a technical understanding, but I also realized that not all founders need to have the technical know-how. And that because there ends up being so many areas to work on, I’d rather focus on my strengths.

Use a no-code solution

No-code solutions were growing in popularity and I had been hearing about Webflow and What I soon realized was that if I wanted to build a web application, would probably be a better fit than Webflow.

So I tried and played around with it, but what I soon realized was that it still had a pretty steep learning curve. With almost no technical background, it would have still required quite a bit of hand-holding. I’d also been looking for some additional features which I thought would’ve been very complex to implement (very possible that I was wrong, or that it just would have been difficult to do).

However, I do think it’s worth considering, given the amount of success I’ve seen people have with it. I think today there are also more Bubble consultants and support available now, and perhaps an even bigger support system beyond the Bubble forums.

Pay someone or hire an agency

Even here there were a few options, I realized I could:

  • Pay an agency
  • Pay a freelancer
  • Pay a college student

Pay an Agency: I did some googling to try to figure out how much it would cost to pay for a MVP. I looked at some websites such as “” and also ended up speaking to someone in my personal network who had some experience in the space.

Personally, at my stage of mind, I was someone who was ‘just curious’ about this application (that would not have any initial revenue). This wasn’t something I was ready to commit or to invest in - really this was me trying to figure out if it was even worth pursuing! That being said, I had quite the sticker shock when I realized that these could be tens of thousands of dollars!

Pay a freelancer: Again, I saw how expensive development talent could be be, and felt like it would end up being just as expensive. If I had been building a SaaS or another product, where there an immediate form of monetization I would have given this more thought. However, in this particular case it didn’t seem like the right situation.

Pay a college student: I actually thought that there could be some potential here. Students are always looking for problems to solve (e.g. Hackathons) and looking for additional projects that they could show case in their portfolio, right? One problem was that it would be difficult to find said student (I do think that there could be pretty interesting platform idea here connecting students with people like myself looking for very simple prototypes). I’d already graduated a few years ago, and had few friends who were still students in school.

I also realized after talking to a few people, that it would be a difficult arrangement for someone like myself since it would require a lot more supervision (ideally from someone who was technical). As well, students were already busy with their own projects and co-ops, and it’s likely the timeline would have been be more unpredictable.

Find a technical co-founder

This felt extremely unlikely at the time. I realized that within my bubble of friends, absolutely no one had gone into development or had any technical background. I tried looking at a few websites as well, but ultimately didn’t think I’d find anyone who would be the right fit.

So what did I end up doing? I honestly ended up getting lucky.

After doing a lot of googling and researching, I reached out to a lot of people in my network for advice. To be honest, it kind of sucks. You have to put yourself out there, and you have to get past the fear of reaching out to people; however, it can really pay off. Even though I ended up getting lucky, it did work out.

After talking to enough people, a connection of mine actually said that he “knew a guy who could build something for cheap”. Sound sketchy, doesn’t it? He ended up knowing someone who was based out of India and who had a small agency, and could put something together. I know, the classic outsourcing story. We ended up having a contract put in place and all that; however, a lot of it came down to trust since it had been recommended by someone I considered reliable.

I outsourcing my initial MVP for <$1K, an option that I hadn’t actually considered initially. There are a lot of horror stories, so I would approach this cautiously. I do believe (and learnt first hand), that you do get what you pay for.

You need to know exactly what you’re looking for. Going into it I knew that this did not have to very pretty (and it wasn’t), and that it just needed some simple functionality. I would have likely approached this differently, if I haddn’t been looking for this MVP. There were definitely obstacles and challenges that came up, but at the end of the day it allowed me to convey my vision and to collect feedback from initial users.

Did go through a similar process? What did you end up deciding to do? Let me know below!