How to Build Airtable Dashboards with Softr (+ Visualize Your Data!)

Thierry Maout • Updated on May 20, 2021 • 12 min read

Airtable is a fantastic tool for storing, organizing, and managing data, but looking at a spreadsheet-database interface isn’t always enjoyable. 


Countless rows and columns can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult to understand what raw data is really telling you without a lot of digging. That’s why savvy users are looking for ways to transform their Airtable databases into visual formats like charts and graphs. 


This step-by-step guide will help you determine the best data visualization tool for your needs as well as explain how to get started with Softr, so let’s get going.

Making sense of data is tough when all you can see are endless rows.

Get dynamic data visualization with Softr graphs and charts.

What is an Airtable dashboard?

visual representation of data

Airtable dashboards are tools that turn columns and rows of data into beautiful visuals like charts and graphs.



An Airtable dashboard is a visual representation of data you have stored in your database-spreadsheet, like a chart, graph, or summary.


Consider the Softr investor portal template image above: it’s a graph that shows how much money a company is raising in different funding rounds. The data you see above is contained in an Airtable database, but this graph shows the viewer the exact same information in a visual format. Best of all, it’s updated in real-time so it’s always accurate.

 Why is data visualization important?


There are many reasons why visualizing your Airtable data is important, but here are some of the most notable:


  • Avoid confusion: databases are often difficult to process just by looking at them—especially when they involve complex Airtable formulas or if you didn’t create them yourself. Creating visual representations of your data lets you share only the most important information with people in a clear, straightforward format.


  • Increased security: if you need to share data with people outside your organization, you’ll likely want to pick and choose what they can see and keep some information confidential. 


  • Manage permissions: you might not want all your internal collaborators to have access to all your Airtable data, so setting different permissions based on roles or seniority can come in handy.


  • Make your data beautiful: databases typically aren’t very aesthetically pleasing. Visualizing your data is a great way to make plain rows and columns into something that’s both easy to understand and beautiful.


Who should use data visualization?


If you use Airtable databases to manage and organize your data, you can benefit from visualizing it. However, they are some specific use cases where data visualization is particularly useful:


3 ways to set up data visualization with Airtable 


There are three different ways to visualize your data with Airtable:


  1. Directly in Airtable with marketplace apps
  2. Softr
  3. Third-party apps


Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each option.



Airtable marketplace apps


Airtable app for data visualization

Airtable marketplace apps can transform your data into various digital formats, like the chart above.

Image Source: Airtable



Your first option is staying within the Airtable platform and choosing an app from their marketplace. Here, the word app is Airtable terminology for a widget that lets users analyze, manipulate, and take action on their data.


Creating a dashboard within Airtable might seem like the most obvious choice, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Some apps require technical knowledge and coding to set up and you’ll have to do some research to find the right option for your needs.


Basically, using a marketplace app to visualize your data is a viable option if you want to stay within Airtable, but comes with some notable drawbacks.


Pros

  • Straightforward: you won’t have to venture outside the Airtable ecosystem.
  • Secure: your data will remain in Airtable.


Cons

  • Pricing: you only get one marketplace app in Airtable’s free plan—so you’ll have to choose a Plus plan or higher if you want to use several.
  • Technical: some Airtable marketplace apps require technical knowledge and/or coding.
  • Limited control: not ideal for sharing with external stakeholders because of limited filtering options.
  • No embedding: your charts and data visualizations stay on Airtable—they can’t be embedded on websites.



Softr

Softr as a data visualization tool

Softr lets users quickly visualize their Airtable data without any coding or integrations involved.



With Softr, users can supercharge their Airtable data and transform it into fully-functional websites, web apps, online communities, and… data visualizations.

 

Bringing your data to life with Softr is much easier than with Airtable because it doesn’t require technical expertise or coding and you can get started for free. Softr also has more advanced features than Airtable like the ability to establish custom user groups and set up advanced access permissions.


All in all, Softr is a great option if you want to visualize your Airtable data quickly and easily, no coding necessary.


Pros

  • Ease of use: you don’t need any special knowledge to seamlessly visualize your data with Softr, so it’s great for beginners.
  • Compartmentalization: users can separate their databases from their charts and graphs for increased security and data privacy.
  • Permissions: view and edit who has access to your data on a granular level.
  • Smooth embedding: embed data visualizations on your website and beyond.
  • Advanced filtering: analyze your data from different viewpoints with interactive, role-based filtering.  


Cons

  • Fewer options: Softr offers fewer ways to visualize your data than Airtable, but we’re always rolling out new features to close that gap.
  • Leaving Airtable: you’ll have to venture outside Airtable to visualize your data with Softr (but it’s easy to do so).

Making sense of data is tough when all you can see are endless rows.

Get dynamic data visualization with Softr graphs and charts.

Third-party apps

Third-party data visualization tool Tableau

Third-party apps are typically dedicated to specific kinds of data visualization but aren’t no-code, intuitive, or easy to share like Softr.

Image Source: Tableau



The last Airtable alternatives for data visualization are third-party tools like Tableau or Microsoft Power BI. Large businesses and enterprises typically use these kinds of dedicated software to build advanced models out of their databases.


Pros

  • Dedicated: third-party apps typically do one thing and they do it well. They also sometimes have a range of features, making them good data visualization tools for organizations that already use their software for other purposes.
  • Advanced: good for complex visualization using large datasets.


Cons

  • Technical: most third-party data visualization apps require technical knowledge and sometimes coding.
  • Integrations: connecting with these kinds of specialized apps often requires getting your hands dirty with APIs.
  • Limited filtering: not possible to filter through your data based on roles and other interactive settings.
  • Difficult embedding: usually difficult to move your data visualizations outside the app itself.
  • Price: Can be expensive. For example, to create and edit reports with Tableau, you’ll need at least an Explorer plan, which costs $42/month.


All in all, the best choice for your needs depends on your personal goals, preferences, and budget, but Softr is a stand-out option if you’re looking for an intuitive, no-code platform that’s complete with advanced tools. Get started with a free trial to try Softr out for yourself.

6 steps to create an Airtable dashboard with Softr


Follow these six steps to create an Airtable dashboard with Softr and get useful visual representations of your data in minutes.


Note that charts are one of the main options for visualizing data in Softr, so we’ve used them as an example here.


1. Make a plan

2. Link your Airtable database with your Softr account

3. Pick your chart type

4. Set your chart options

5. Apply filters and advanced options

6. Build and share your dashboard


Before we begin, if you want more in-depth guidance about building Airtable dashboards with Softr, you can check out the following comprehensive video tutorials.

1. Make a plan


Before you start working on your data visualizations, it’s important to discuss and answer the following questions with your team. That way, you’ll know what you want out of the process and have more direction and purpose when you begin meddling with Airtable forms, numbers, and chart types.


  • What’s the purpose of your chart? Identify why you’re visualizing your data in the first place. Are you sharing it with clients? Trying to obtain funding? Putting together internal reports?
  • Who should be able to see your chart? Do you want your data to be visible to everyone, or just specific people? 
  • What data will it feature? Determine the kind of information you’ll be sharing with your data visualizations. Is it sales? Expenses? Digital marketing metrics? Key performance indicators?
  • Where will it be displayed? Think about where your data visualizations will live. Do you want to embed them on your website? Build a dedicated Softr web app for them? Share them internally?



2. Link your Airtable database with your Softr account


First, make sure your Airtable database is connected with your Softr account. This is as easy as finding the API key in your Airtable account, then copying and pasting it.


Then, connect your specific Softr chart block with the Airtable Base and Table you want to get your data from.

Softr with Airtable for data visualization

What you’ll see when setting up a Softr chart that represents Airtable data.



Selecting the relevant Airtable Base and Table will ensure that the correct information gets sent to your chart. 



3. Pick your chart type


Once your Airtable data is synced with Softr, it’s time to decide how you want to bring your data to life. There are lots of different chart formats to choose from, like:


  • Bars
  • Lines
  • Areas
  • Scatters
  • Pies
  • Doughnuts
  • Roses
 data visualization with charts

Charts are one way you can visualize your data with Softr, and there are lots of options to choose from.



Each kind of chart looks different and presents various advantages and disadvantages depending on the data you’re working with. For instance, classic bar charts work well for most situations, but line charts are handy to showcase competing data sets, and scatter charts effectively highlight outliers. 


Experimenting with different chart options will help you figure out which format works best with your data.



4. Set your chart options


Now, let’s get into how to set up a chart, including giving it a title, subtitles, and a legend.


Softr has some cool design options like orientation, light vs. dark mode, tooltips, and zoom capabilities. These features give your data representations a special touch, on top of being practical.

 data visualization with charts
 data visualization with charts

5. Apply filters and advanced options


Softr also allows users to level up their charts with advanced settings such as granular accessibility permissions so your data is displayed differently depending on who’s checking it. This is a significant advantage of visualizing your data with Softr vs. Airtable marketplace apps.

 

Use conditional filters to establish different levels of access. You can set parameters like displaying a specific part of a list to a specific logged-in user, for example. 

 

Check out a conditional filter in action in the image below. It shows a data set collecting each team member’s number of completed tickets, but we’ve used filters to see results for logged-in users only.

 data visualization with charts

Conditional filters let you manage and manipulate your data in advanced ways like with this CRM functionality, setting Softr apart from other data visualization tools.



Other advanced features like auto-refresh and data aggregation need to be done in Airtable but will be available in Softr soon.



6. Build and share your dashboard


Now that you’ve created your first chart, you can expand on it and start building a full visual dashboard based on your Airtable data. Integrate your visualizations into a new or existing Softr no-code web app, whether it’s a full-blown internal tool, a simple landing page, or a complete website.

 

When you’re ready, it’s easy to share Airtable data and there are two ways to do it:



Sharing your Airtable base

sharing Airtable base

To share your Airtable data, you can:


  • Add a specific collaborator to your Base so they can access it
  • Create a link to share your entire Base, your Workspace, or just a single View (useful if you want to restrict access to a specific part of your Base)



Sharing your Softr dashboard


Of course, the best way to share your Airtable data is by creating a visual dashboard with Softr. To share your work, it’s as easy as sending the link to your live project to whoever you want.


If you want to restrict certain people’s access to your data, you should set up specific permissions beforehand so you can control who sees what.


You also have the option to add collaborators so they can work on and edit your dashboard with you.

Making sense of data is tough when all you can see are endless rows.

Get dynamic data visualization with Softr graphs and charts.

Create an Airtable dashboard with Softr and bring your data to life


If you work with data in any capacity, you’ll likely have to share it with other people at some point. 


Transforming your raw numbers into dynamic, aesthetically-pleasing visualizations not only makes your data easier for other people to understand, but also lets you monitor progress at a glance and analyze information from different perspectives.


We’ve discussed three ways to make dashboards out of your Airtable data, but Softr is the best choice if you want a platform that’s beginner-friendly and has advanced features like compartmentalization, filtering, permissions, and easy embedding.

Making sense of data is tough when all you can see are endless rows.

Get dynamic data visualization with Softr graphs and charts.

Frequently asked questions about Airtable dashboards

Airtable dashboards visualize the data that’s stored in your database, which makes it much easier to process and understand at a glance. You can create Airtable dashboards with Softr, Airtable marketplace apps, and third-party software.

Yes, Airtable has several types of dashboards you can set up, whether you use Softr, a marketplace app, or a third-party app to do so. Some examples of popular Airtable dashboards include: - Charts (bar charts, line charts, pie charts) - Summaries (representation of a sum of values) - Pivot tables (tables that can be sliced and diced so you can see data from different perspectives)

How you share your Airtable dashboard depends on whether you build it with an Airtable marketplace app, Softr, or third-party software. If you use Softr, you can share it via a link, just like any of our other no-code web apps.

Using an Airtable dashboard to visualize your data has lots of benefits, including - Avoiding confusion - Increasing security - Managing permissions - Making your data beautiful

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