👀 What is Airtable?
Learn about what Airtable is and how it can help your business.
Thanks for reading, धन्यवाद 🙌
If you have ever used any spreadsheet and thought it can be your database that will automatically generate different web views and interfaces for you like dashboards and forms that you can access from anywhere, which grabs data from various external systems and provides its own automation on top of it? That spreadsheet in reality is Airtable. A colorful, useful, and smart data app that can help startups operationalize faster.
Airtable has a very unique approach to looking at data. Data first approach where any experience can be later added on top of it. How?
Let’s first understand some of the Airtable terms, then we will look at an example use case:
Base: Somewhat like your spreadsheet workspace. No, not just workspace but it also bundles your various views, automation, and interfaces around the data in your tables (data sources) that you configure. We'll dig deeper soon, hang tight. You can add multiple Tables (Data Sources) in your Base.
Table: A sheet in your spreadsheet workspace. (A data source which can be a spreadsheet, CSV, or even an external system like Salesforce from where the Data is synced into Airtable Tables)
Row: Individual record in the Table.
Column: Fields/Columns in your Table. (This defines the individual data cell of your data structure. Airtable provides a good list of field type options like LongText, Number, Currency, Date, CreatedDate, Rollup, Button, PhoneNumber, URL, etc.)
Automation: Here you can define the automated processes around your data. You can call immediate/scheduled actions on data triggers like sending an email when a table row is changed to a specific field/column value or combination of same.
Views: As the name suggests, views are different ways you can visualize and use your Airtable data i.e. list view, Kannan view, Gantt View, etc. Having different views on your data is a very important aspect of any business. For example: If you are managing Projects over time, a Gantt view gives you a better idea of the movements happening in the business. Whereas on the other side, if you are managing independent tasks as to whom it has been assigned to and at what stage is the current task like in an Agile Setup, in that case, the KanBan view gives a clear picture.
Interface Builder: It helps you build custom interfaces like gallery displays of your table rows, charts for analytics use, etc.
Page Designer: This is an Airtable extension that helps you build print-ready pages from your data table.
Universe: While you can use Airtable provided as well as 3rd party provided extensions from the Airtable marketplace, Airtable also provides a Universe from where you can directly pick, plug and play a prebuilt base for your specific business operations. More time saving while getting started.
I wanted to review Airtable this morning as I keep listening about it on an everyday basis. I just logged into a trial account and started with a sample scenario that I had in my mind - To create a Kitchen Order processing module in Airtable for restaurant business with a very basic dashboard kind of Interface. Here is how this went:
What is really Airtable?
1. Setting up the fields/columns (Note: I selected the Base Name - Restaurant Menu, its icon and colour before coming to this step
2. Then we will select a view - KanBan for our selected Data source (In this case I selected to create a blank table as a data source) to start operating some Kitchen Orders.
3. We can also set up other data sources including spreadsheet files or a full-fledged database like Salesforce.
4. In the Kanban view, you will see the View Controls and the Actual View.
5. I’ll create and switch to a list view. Here you can see an ‘+Add record’ action which will open up a popup form that allows creating records.
6. You can see two orders here in the queue however, I have not created these records using the ‘+Add record’ button. I have created a form view to create these orders. This form can be extended to Dining Tables for customers to make an Order request.
7. While in Grid view, you can easily add and update Fields as Columns, Airtable also provides a ‘Manage Field’ setup area where you can add/delete/update fields more comfortably.
8. Here is how the Form View setup page looks like.
9. Here is how the demo Form looks like along with the success message on submission.
10. One thing that makes Airtable different from other Form and Spreadsheet solutions is its automation capabilities which allow you to create workflows. Workflows that can help you notify, update, or integrate Airtable data on the fly based on record triggers. For example in our Restaurant Menu case, you can provide Order Status updates to Customer via SMS using Twilio service in the Workflow automation.
11. Going one step further, you can also build custom user interfaces just like Form to build out different experiences around your data for special users in your business process. For example: Building a Dashboard of current orders to be viewed by Managers.
12. Here is how the demo interface view looks like:
13. As discussed earlier, you can make use of the Airtable marketplace to use Extensions to operationalize your base modules. For example: Imagine you have built a base to manage all your social marketing efforts and there is this Airtable extension available in the marketplace that can help you post on your Facebook pages.
14. Out of these extensions, I will be highlighting here the two most important Extensions in my opinion which are created by Airtable themselves. First of it is the Page Designer. Page Designer helps you quickly build print-ready documents out of your Airtable data.
So when should you actually use Airtable?
If you are just starting up your business and don’t operate in a full-fledged CRM environment yet and are not sure where to start. Instead of Starting with any CRM immediately, one way is to start with Airtable. Implement and grow your business data on Airtable along with all the automation and extensions possible. When your business and Airtable implementation grows to an extent that there is a need for a robust platform along with compliance checks start migrating your core data on a CRM like Salesforce and keep it in sync with Airtable for whichever areas it still gives benefit to the business. In my opinion, it will be those areas where the viewer experiences like KanBan/Gantt provided by Airtable matter the most.