How I built Bebob to fix what’s wrong with building websites

I’ve been a web developer and a designer for ten years now. I’ve created websites from start to finish, designed layouts for other developers to build and turned other people’s design into functioning websites.

All this has led me to the inevitable conclusion: the process is flawed.

Two years ago I started building Bebob that is a visual web builder for professionals. In short, it was my way to fix what’s wrong with building websites. But before going into more detail with that I’ll explain why I felt something had to be done.

Minor tasks take over your schedule

Building websites was simply inefficient. I used to hate changing the design or layout of a website I just finished building. I could understand why those changes were needed: there might be new ideas coming in, the layout could use a new feature or two or then I simply missed a detail. More often than I’d like to admit it was the latter.

Even with a solid development workflow with a version control, a build system, and a publishing pipeline, it took a lot of time to update minor details like line-heights and margins. You could do some hacks like adding styles in the header or changing production code in the user interface, but when updating the whole structure of a layout, well, you just shouldn’t.

So I spent a lot of time on fixing minor issues, which was a big minus. Mainly because it’s exactly that kind of work I dislike: repetitive, dull and had a little to do with actual developing.

If you think of any website project, it’s not just a developer’s working hours we are counting. When your customer wants to add a new e-mail to the footer the following happens: they come up with the idea, the project manager handles the request and the developer does the work. Toss in a designer if you want to and you’ll see how working hours add up quickly.

This leads to a situation where changes are discouraged rather than encouraged. Not to mention production cycles where you spend several months — even a year — building a website — and then you leave it alone before it’s time to totally revamp it. That’s not very efficient. Or agile for that matter if you want to build effective campaigns.

How to speed up building websites

I felt I needed to speed up the process of building websites because that’s what I thought my clients would need. The coding part was clearly a bottleneck because it was the most time-consuming part.

What if you could build and edit your websites more effectively? And what if you didn’t have to be a developer to do it? You’d be able to edit all the content and structure with a user interface, which saves a lot of time and hassle. Just pick the element you want to edit, change the margins, colours etc. see how it looks and publish if you are happy with the result.

It would be a simple and elegant way to build.

So I decided my solution would be a visual web development tool.

So instead of just developing a tool for making layout structures and some basic styling, I wanted to create a visual web development platform where you could create dynamic and functional websites and services without a line of code.

Fixing the flaws while ditching the code

My initial idea was to create a visual designer for existing systems. I was using CMF called ProcessWire at the time, so I started developing an editor that could help me to create layouts. At that point you still needed to create the base theme for it to work; including the header and the footer, typography and basic structure. The layout editor could create a structure for one page and add basic styling tools to make elements look the way you wanted.

After creating an alpha version for this, I realized it was really hard to create a tool for an existing CMS. Besides, it didn’t solve the bigger problem, which was the inefficiency of CMS tools I was using. (You know the drill, you start a project with installing the CMS, pick the modules/plugins/widgets and install a basic theme with blank CSS and a build system…)

So instead of just developing a tool for making layout structures and some basic styling, I wanted to create a visual web development platform where you could create dynamic and functional websites and services without a line of code. And that is how Bebob came to be.

I wanted to change both how you execute any website project and what you think web development should be and who could do it. Building a new website is a matter of hours with drag and drop tools and a visual user interface. Changing a layout is a matter of minutes — and anyone can do that. My idea was to focus on building campaigns — and use less time on technical development. But I didn’t want to bargain with the technical side. For me, visual web designer was not enough. Instead, I aimed at creating a visual CMS.

Bebob is my way to fix the flawed process. Creating customized websites is super fast and so is updating and changing content. In the future, we are planning to introduce Bebob Commerce and Bebob Apps. The idea is to introduce similar workflow for e-commerce sites and Apps that help you craft automated web services for businesses.

But one step at a time. Right now we are helping marketing and ad-agencies to create websites that are easy to manage and that bring in the results they want.

Teppo Kallio is the CEO/Founder of Bebob. He’s been a professional developer and web designer for ten years now. Teppo is based in Helsinki region and believes effective website development and successful marketing campaigns go hand in hand.