Best Ways to Build an Airtable Front End (with Real-Life Examples)

Thierry Maout • Updated on Nov 1, 2022 • 7 min read

By creating a front end for Airtable, you are able to turn your data into a user-friendly interface, easier to navigate and catering to the specific needs of your users. Additionally, you can control who can access it, and leverage it accordingly (by creating user-specific dashboards for example).


Airtable is a powerful database/spreadsheet platform that has a simple and intuitive interface, which allows you to quickly build a database that can then be used to power visualizations, build automations, as well as set up integrations for different use cases. As powerful as it is however, most users will agree that Airtable is lacking in the front end department. Until recently, with the introduction of their Interface Designer, it wasn't possible to create a graphical user interface (GUI) for your Airtable base, turning your data into a digestible interface. 


In this article, we will look at some of the reasons why you might want to consider implementing an Airtable front end, what are some of the things you can build, and finally the options at your disposal to get started.


Let’s get to it! 

5 Reasons why you need a front end for your Airtable data


The first, obvious reason why anyone would look at implementing an Airtable UI (front end) is simple: the limitations of Airtable as a platform. 


While you can do a lot within an Airtable base, some things are inherently limited and call for a front end solution to be added. Some of these limitations include:



Visualization


Airtable is still a database/spreadsheet platform and adding different colors in your rows won’t change the fact that it’s quite austere. We love spreadsheets as much as the next accountant, but not everyone shares that viewpoint. And it comes as no surprise that many use Airtable as a database when creating a website. 


It can really do magic when paired with a decent front end solution such as Softr, which we'll discuss a bit later. Thus, in many cases Airtable can be viewed as a backend and there are different ways of adding a front end on top of it.



Security


Having all your backend or sensitive information in one place sure is handy, but not the safest way to go about data safety. Especially when sharing external access. Implementing a gated front end is a way to control who can access what.



Permission-based access


As a direct follow-up to the previous point, you might want to show certain information to certain users, and limit access based on different permissions. This can be difficult to implement on Airtable without a lot of leg work.



Focus and compartmentalization


A typical Airtable base contains a lot of information about a given project, not all of which need to be shared. You might want to keep some of your backends… well, in the background, right?



Airtable UI potential


The other, more positive reason why anyone would think about building a front end for their database is Airtable's great potential:


  • Powerful: Airtable is an extremely rich platform and can easily serve as a backend for entire projects;
  • No-code/Low-code: At its core, Airtable is a low-code platform suited for application development. On one hand, it has a large set of Its no-code features that let users without technical background build applications and set up automations. On the other hand, Airtable provides more advanced users with possibilities to apply their technical skills to produce more custom solutions.
  • Team-work: Airtable holds a lot of data that can be useful if shared with stakeholders;
  • Integrations: From Google Workspace to Slack, Facebook or Twitter, Artable benefits from a rich ecosystem that can be connected to a lot of other apps;
  • Automation: The ability to set up triggers to build multi-sequence workflows or receive automated responses can turn your project into a well-oiled machine.


Are you starting to imagine some of the things you could build with your Airtable data? Let’s make it easier with some examples.

4 Approaches to building a front end for Airtable


Now, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty: How to build this front end project for your Airtable UI. There are four main ways you can go about it. Let's look at each in detail.

1. Softr, a user-friendly solution without code


Our first (and favorite) option is to leverage a no-code platform like Softr, built specifically for the purpose of creating Airtable UI (among other data sources). 


The easiest, fastest way to build a web app without code, Softr uses Airtable as a backend and allows you to manipulate 100+ pre-built blocks to organize and customize every element, without any technical skills required. On top of that, you’re then able to integrate with out-of-the-box memberships, payments and business logic to build actual, full-fledged professional apps. 


For Airtable users looking for an easy-to-use, turnkey solution to create a front end for their data, Softr is the way to go.



Pros:

  • No-code, accessible for non-technical teams and individuals;
  • Affordable, starting with a free plan, then $24/month.



Cons:

  • Another tool to add to your stack.


We might be a little biased, but building a front end without code on top of your Airtable data is our bread and butter, and our 80,000+ customers seem to agree. 


To learn more, check out our extensive documentation and sign up to Softr for free to try it out for yourself! Below, you can also find. a step-by-step video tutorial on building an Airtable front-end with Softr.

Create an Airtable front end in minutes

Softr is the easiest and fastest way to build web apps and websites on Airtable.

2. Airtable Interface Designer, the native option by Airtable


airtable interface designer

Image Source: Airtable



Airtable has recently released its very own Airtable Interface Designer, a new feature that allows users to create an Airtable UI on top of their data. 


Optimized for collaboration, the Airtable Interface Designer leverages what makes Airtable databases great to work with for teams already, such as the ability to manage user rights (so each user only sees what is relevant for them) and the straightforward yet powerful Airtable UI.



Pros:

  • Ability to stay within Airtable and avoid adding another tool to your stack
  • Very consistent with the general Airtable UI. If you’re familiar with the tool, you won’t be disoriented.



Cons:

  • The Airtable Interface Designer is still relatively new and lacks advanced capabilities
  • While it’s nice for the tool to be consistent with the overall Airtable UI, it doesn’t offer a lot of customization when it comes to design 
  • Mostly useful for collaboration use cases. Don’t expect to create a fully operational, external front end to use with clients, external collaborators and potential customers


3. Airtable Extensions from the Airtable Marketplace


Airtable Extensions from the Airtable Marketplace

Image source: Launching Next


 

Another option available to people interested in creating a front end for their Airtable data is to use an extension (formerly “add-on”) from the Airtable Marketplace.


The Airtable Marketplace features a number of apps and add-ons that can help supercharge your Airtable data, from pivot tables to charts or integrations with third-party tools. While there is a lot of choice to explore and many hidden gems, these add-ons can often turn out to be tricky to master, especially when trying to achieve a specific goal.


When it comes to creating an Airtable UI, a single extension might not do the trick beyond creating a few dashboard and charts.



Pros:

  • Staying within the Airtable ecosystem – no need to add another third-party tool to your stack.
  • Some of the extensions might answer your exact specific need



Cons:

  • Some of the extensions are quite costly
  • You must be an Airtable user with access to the base to see the data
  • Lack of advanced roles and permissions

4. In-house, building the solution yourself


building the solution yourself

Image source: Unsplash



Lastly, the final option for you to create your Airtable UI might be to code it in-house, whether by yourself (if you have the technical skills) or with a technical team.


Working with developers to build a front end from your Airtable data with code might sound like a lot of work, but it could be a valuable option to consider if you have extremely specific needs, or if your project requires advanced requirements that the other options might not be able to fulfil.



Pros:

  • Fully custom and can be perfectly made to fit your needs



Cons:

  • Very costly in the short term
  • Take time and energy you could use somewhere else

7 examples of front end applications you can build using Airtable


Check out these examples of front end GUIs you could build with Softr, using Airtable as a backend infrastructure. They are all available within Softr as templates and can serve as a good base for your own project.

Website


website example, Lending apps

The first thing that comes to mind and the most widespread use case with a front end interface is of course to build a website. Softr enables users to use Airtable data to create both multi-page sites or targeted landing pages, and to add a custom domain on it (for free).

website example, Lending apps

Client portals

Softr client portal template

Client portals are specific web applications where information is stored for a specific set of users. Access is limited to authorized personnel, who can login using their credentials. 


Check out our blog to learn how to create your own client portal. Or, if you prefer video content, take a look at the detailed tutorial on creating a client portal below.

A detailed tutorial by No-Code Ireland on building client portals with Softr.


Create an Airtable front end in minutes

Softr is the easiest and fastest way to build web apps and websites on Airtable.

Dashboards


client dashboard Softr, chart blcoks

Client dashboards are visual management tools used to display data. Leveraging their Airtable base, companies can create them to show relevant data in real-time, keeping clients updated about projects, KPIs and metrics. 


Check out our article on client dashboards to learn more.

Internal tools 

Softr internal tool template

“Front end” doesn’t always mean “customer-facing”. Companies need a solid set of internal tools to run efficient processes and productivity. From CRMs to directories, wikis, and more, internal tools come in all shapes and forms, but building your own has its benefits. With Softr, you’re able to create custom internal tools, at a fraction of the cost and energy.

student portal built with Airtable and Softr

The UN International School used Airtable and Softr to build a student portal


Marketplaces 


Softr marketplace template

Online marketplaces are platforms connecting supply and demand generally helping users to buy and sell products and services. Think Airbnb, Upwork, or eBay. Softr can help you leverage your Airtable data to create two-sided online marketplaces and process payments securely using Stripe. 


Wanna learn more? Here's a guide on creating online marketplaces the cost-effective way.

Makerpad's multipart tutorial on building marketpales with Softr


Online Communities 

online community example Meta Landing page

At Softr, connecting and nurturing an engaged online community has been key to success and allowed us to reach amazing heights thanks to our user base. Bringing users together on one member-only website using memberships and premium content is a great way to share resources, nurture relationships, and more.

nanny network online marketplace built with Softr and Airtable

Resource Directories

resoucre directory startup coffee

Lastly, creating an online directory is a useful way to curate resources, letting users browse, filter and search through a content database. This is a great use case for using Airtable as a backend structure while leveraging Softr to create an attractive front end display.


For more examples of applications created by some of our customers, check out our article showcasing 10 no-code apps built with Softr.

Create an Airtable front end in minutes

Softr is the easiest and fastest way to build web apps and websites on Airtable.

Conclusion


You should now have a better understanding of some of the reasons why building a front end for your Airtable data makes sense, and how to go about it. Having a visual interface can greatly extend your Airtable possibilities, and is especially easy when using a no-code, user-friendly platform like Softr.


What are you going to build? Get started today and make sure to share your projects in our community!


Happy building!


Frequently asked questions about Airtable front end

Here are the top reasons why you might need a front end for Airtable: - Visualization. Airtable is still a database/spreadsheet and is not particularly strong when it comes to visualization. - Security. Implementing a gated front end is a better of controlling access. - Permission-based access. Airtable doesn't allow to apply granular access permissions. - Compartmentalization. Not everything you have in your bases needs to be shared.

Airtable is a database/spreadsheet hybrid with relational database features, which makes it a great backend solution. And front-end tools like Softr successfully integrate with Airtable, using it as their backend for storing data.

Airtable is a low-code platform with lots of no-code features, which makes it a great solution for both tech-savvy users and the ones without much tech background.

Airtable has a free plan that’s perfect for freelancers, entrepreneurs, or small teams just getting started. It includes unlimited bases and up to five creators and editors. You can use the free plan for as long as you want, but they’ve also got three paid plans to choose from when you’re ready to upgrade.

Client Portal | Internal Tools | Web App Builder | Free Website Builder Made with Softr