Comparing the performance and features of nocode backends like Airtable, Backendless, Bubble, Supabase and Xano

Toby Oliver
Bravostudio.app
Published in
4 min readJun 2, 2022

Often when you want to build an application fast, no-code tools can really help to speed up the process. You can either do the whole project in a platform like Bubble which will provide both the backend and the frontend, or a mixture of different tools for frontend and backend. Personally I tend to prefer combining different tools to get the exactly functionality I require as its rare for one platform to deliver everything you are looking for (which is why we built www.bravostudio.app).

In this article I will talk through a few platforms that can be used as a backend for your application. There has been a dramatic increase in these headless platforms, and they offer a wide variety of functionality and performance One caveat, this article is based on my experience YMMV.

Headless Backend Overview

The main point to consider when comparing these tools as that many of them have been created for different purposes, however they all can used as backends for app development.

In my performance tests I used this dataset https://www.airtable.com/universe/exp6LQ8brylagtDPY/ny-fun-list?explore=true, and stored it in each platform and then requested back 100 rows of data 10 times and averaged the results. I have not optimised the query although where I could I chose instances in Europe near me.

Key Feature Comparison

Backend Tool Detailed Description

Airtable

Pros:

  • Super easy to use with great documentation on the API
  • Supports some logic in the tables themselves, but more complex logic is available with airtable blocks (not free)
  • East to import CSV data

Cons:

  • It is primarily focussed as a data tool, so it doesn’t have support for authenticating users.
  • Not a lot of storage for free

Backendless

Pros:

  • Very flexible, they have built up number of features over the years it has been available i.e. push notifications and geolocation support
  • Has a graphical builder for building logic on top of the data.
  • Has the ability to add in custom code (in javascript or java)
  • Detailed learning materials built to learn the platform

Cons:

  • Its a feature rich platform but it is complex so there is a steep learning curve in getting started
  • Complex pricing — there are many add ons to access different features
  • Free plan only available when you complete the learning materials

Bubble.io

Pros:

  • One of the first no code tools, with a large number of tutorials and templates to use.
  • You can access APIs to access existing workflows so you can easily add a mobile app to an existing Bubble application.
  • Easy to import CSV data.

Cons:

  • Bubble has a lot of Bubble specific terminology, its a pretty powerful tool, but it can take months to learn it well.
  • It is not cheap, you have to be on a paid plan to access APIs and you need to pay for each app.
  • It has the slowest performance of all the backend tools I compared.

Contentful

Pros:

  • It has great content management support allowing easy distribution and updating of any content you have.
  • It has the fastest performance of the backend tools we compared.

Cons:

  • It is primarily focussed as a content management tool, so it doesn’t have support for authenticating users.
  • It doesn’t have much in the way of supporting logic in the backend.
  • Loading CSV data was not easy.

Firebase

Pros:

  • Provided by Google so lots of easy connectivity to Google Cloud
  • Lots of features.

Cons:

  • Is complicated to setup
  • Both database options (realtime and firestore) have pros and cons for mobile but can be overly complicated for simple applications.

GraphCMS

Pros:

  • It has a well developed GraphQL interface which allows you to get the information you need from an API in less calls.
  • It has great content management support allowing easy distribution and updating of any content you have.

Cons:

  • It is primarily focussed as a content management tool, so it doesn’t have support for authenticating users.
  • It doesn’t have much in the way of supporting logic in the backend.

Supabase

Pros:

  • Very flexible as you can always connect to the database directly if you need to (it is based on Postgresql which is a popular opensource database)
  • Generous storage on the free plan.
  • Can be used with sequin.io to replicate Airtable to get the best of both worlds.

Cons

  • Documentation has a number of gaps if you are just connecting to Supabase with APIs rather than an SDK
  • Any logic has to be done with code

Xano

Pros:

  • Fairly easy to use and allows logic to be created by pointing and clicking as well as with code
  • Easy to import CSV data

Cons

  • Its a newer tool, so there is not as many resources for it yet, although the team is rapidly adding new content so it is improving.

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