Airtable Data Visualization: Creating Airtable Dashboards with Softr and Other Tools


Published on November 23, 2021

Table of Contents



Working with databases can quickly become overwhelming. While Airtable does a great job at providing the necessary tools to organize, sort, and present data in a somewhat digestible manner, a bit of visualization is necessary at times. Especially when sharing that data with other stakeholders, whether they’re clients, management, or collaborators.


Charts are a great way to visualize your data. Not only are they easier to process and digest but they can tell a story in a much more efficient way. It’s simply a much more enjoyable experience than reading through rows upon rows of data.

 Data Visualization

Image Source: Neil Patel


In this article, we will go over why data visualization matters and how to turn your Airtable into visual charts using Softr. Let’s start!



Why and how to turn your Airtable data into visual charts?


Are you looking to create a client dashboard? Or maybe you’re interested in building internal tools for collaborators. Regardless of your situation, there are several reasons why you might want to look into turning your Airtable data into visual charts:


  • Avoiding confusion: A database is not the easiest thing to decrypt, especially when you haven’t been involved in building it. Presenting only the necessary data might be a better option.
  • Increasing security: Dealing with people outside of your organization, you might want to keep some information confidential, picking and choosing what they can see 
  • Managing permissions: You might want to set permissions for internal collaborators, deciding who can access what based on their roles for example.
  • Making it beautiful: Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to present something that looks good, instead of a raw database of numbers.


We can agree that it makes a lot of sense, but how to get started with Airtable data visualization, and what are the benefits for each option? 

How to create data visualization for Airtable?


There are three main ways for you to go about creating charts for your Airtable data: Directly in Airtable using an app from the marketplace, using a third-party data visualization tool, or with Softr. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each:



1. Airtable App


Airtable app for data visualization

Image Source: Airtable


The first option is to stay within Airtable, by picking an app from Airtable Marketplace since charts are not a native feature in the platform.


While it might seem like the more obvious choice, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Incorporating some charts might require exploring code blocks, and you’ll have to find and implement the right app from the marketplace. This comes with obvious drawbacks but is still a viable option if you plan to stay within Airtable.


Pros:

  • Straightforward: You stay within the Airtable ecosystem
  • Secure: Your data remains in Airtable


Cons:

  • Pricing: Installing apps is not included in the Free Plan
  • Technical: These might require some technical knowledge
  • Limited control: Not ideal for sharing with external stakeholders because of limited filtering options (interactive, role-based, etc)
  • No embedding: Your charts and data visualization stay on Airtable



2. Third-party data visualization tool


Third-party data visualization tool Tableau

Image Source: Tableau


Another option to generate visual charts from Airtable data is to use a third-party data visualization tool such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI. These advanced tools are generally used by businesses and enterprises to build advanced models from a database.


Pros:

  • Dedicated: These tools do one thing and they do it well, they’re the ideal choice for organizations that already use them
  • Advanced: Good for complex visualization using large data sets 


Cons:

  • Technical: Most integrations will require technical knowledge and sometimes coding
  • Implementation: Integrations with these tools require some work with APIs 
  • Limited filtering: Inability to filter based on roles and other interactive settings
  • Hard to embed: Difficult to take the visualizations out of the software
  • Price: Integrations with Tableau for example requires an enterprise plan



3. Softr


Softr as a data visualization tool

Lastly, Softr allows users to leverage Airtable data to build websites, web apps, and… data visualizations. Without code or complicated integrations, users are able to generate charts to display in various projects.


Pros:

  • Ease of use: Seamless implementation and simple, no code setup
  • Compartmentalization: Users can separate the database from their charts for increased security and data privacy
  • Permissions: Ability to control who has access to which data 
  • Smooth embedding: Ability to use your visualization on your website and more
  • Advanced filtering: Interactive, role-based filtering available  


Cons:

  • DIY: No-code does involve getting your hands dirty a little 


In short, the method you’ll choose will depend on your objectives and the effort you’re willing to invest. We’re obviously a little biased, but we believe creating charts with an external, no-code solution like Softr brings a lot to the table. If you’re interested in going in this direction, let’s see how you can get started today.

How to build charts using your Airtable data in Softr


Using Softr, you’re able to leverage your Airtable data to easily create beautiful charts, without code. Our community has created several projects, and we’re showcasing Startup Metrics on our website, an example of what could be done using our tool:

Softr as a data visualization tool with charts blocks

How to create your own charts? It comes down to two things: planning and executing. The planning part should happen ahead of time before you even start meddling with data and chart types. Can you answer these questions?


  • What’s the purpose of your chart?
  • Who should be able to see it?
  • What data will it feature?
  • Where will it be displayed?


Focusing with your team on addressing these points will help determine what type of data you should consider for your charts, which chart type will be more fitting and what permissions should be set up. Once you’ve agreed on the strategy, your can start building your charts with Softr.



Building Softr charts with Airtable data


Using the Charts block in Airtable is fairly straightforward. If you want to get into details, head to our dedicated documentation on charts to learn more about chart creation in Softr. Here, let’s run you through the general steps:



1. Link your Airtable Base


The very first step is to connect to your Airtable Base and Table, which requires you to have your Airtable account linked (as easy as finding your API key, then copying and pasting it). 

Softr with Airtable for data visualization

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


2. Pick your chart type


Once your data is synced, it’s now time to decide which type of charts you’re going to go for. There’s a wide variety to choose from: Bars, lines, areas, scatters, pies, doughnuts or roses. 

 data visualization with charts

Each presents different aesthetics and advantages to displaying certain types of data: while a classic bar chart is good in most situations, lines are handy to showcase competing sets and scatters to highlight outliers. Experimenting with different styles will help figure out which visual data fits which data set best.



3. Set your chart options


Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of your charts! You’re able to set a title, subtitle and legend for your data visualization of course, but also some cool design options such as the orientation, whether to display the info in light or dark mode, including tooltips, zoom and more.

 data visualization with charts
 data visualization with charts

These will give a special touch to your charts, on top of serving a practical purpose.



4. Apply conditional filters and advanced options if necessary


Softr also empowers you to add some advanced settings to your charts. One of the advantages of handling your Airtable data outside of Airtable is that you can display it differently depending on who’s checking it. 


With conditional filters, you’re able to decide on certain parameters, such as displaying a specific part of a list to a specific logged-in user for example. In the following example, we have a data set collecting the number of completed tickets for each team member, but we want logged-in users to only see their own number of tickets completed:

 data visualization with charts

Other advanced options such as aggregating data need to be done in Airtable but will be available in Softr soon, along with the ability to auto-refresh features - refreshing a chart every few minutes to show the latest data.



Conclusion


Creating charts using Softr is a great, powerful way to visualize Airtable data while keeping total control over what you want to show. We’ve been over how to create and personalize charts and create a unique experience for your users.


What are you trying to build? And how can Softr help? Come and join our Slack community to share your dashboards and charts!


by Thierry Maout