How to Build a Frontend for Your Airtable Data

Published on November 30, 2021

The amount of things you can build in Airtable is impressive. From content calendars to CRMs, expense trackers and everything in between, the spreadsheet/database hybrid platform has become a must-have for thousands of users and businesses worldwide.


As powerful as it is however, most users will agree that Airtable is lacking in the frontend department. Until recently with the introduction of their Interface Designer (currently in beta), 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 a frontend for your Airtable base, what are some of the things you can build, and finally the options at your disposal to get started.


Let’s get to it!  

Why you need a frontend for your Airtable data

The first, obvious reason why anyone would look at implementing a frontend for their Airtable data 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 frontend 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. (You can also check out this article on Airtable data visualization.)



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 frontend 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's potential


The other, more positive reason why anyone would think about building a frontend 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: Airtable can be leveraged for advanced projects, without involving developers;
  • 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 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.

7 examples of frontend applications you can build using Airtable

Check out these examples of frontend 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 frontend 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).

Client portals

Softr client portal template

Client or customer 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.

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

“Frontend” 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 totally custom internal tools, at a fraction of the cost and energy.


Learn more about internal tools in our dedicated article on the topic.

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 marketplaces and process payments securely using Stripe. 


Wanna learn more? Check our article about a cost-effective way to create an online marketplace.

Online Communities 

online community example Meta Landing page

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

Resource Directories

resoucre directory startup coffee

Lastly, creating a 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 frontend display.


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

How to add a frontend to your Airtable data

Now, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty: How to build this frontend project for your Airtable. There are three main ways to go about it. Let's discuss each in greater detail.



1. Natively in Airtable 

Workstation inventory, frontend built directly in Airtable

Image Source: Airtable



The first option is to build your frontend project directly in Airtable, using either an add-on from their marketplace, or their interface designer.


Pros:

  • Staying within Airtable.

Cons:

  • Some add-ons are quite costly;
  • Interface designer still in beta;
  • You must be an Airtable user with access to the base to see the data;
  • Lack of advanced roles and permissions.



2. In-house solution

in-house solution for frontend

Image source: Unsplash



The second option is to develop a solution yourself, working with developers to build a frontend with code from your Airtable base. 


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 .




3. Third-party tool (Softr)


Softr landing page

Lastly, the third option is to use a dedicated third-party tool like Softr, built for that purpose. In the case of Softr specifically, the pros and cons are as follow: 


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 we have our favorite, and for good reasons. Building a frontend without code on top of your Airtable data is our bread and butter, and our 30,000+ customers seem to agree. 


To learn more, check out our extensive documentation and sign up Softr for free to try it out for yourself!



Conclusion


You should now have a better understanding of some of the reasons why building a frontend 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!


by Thierry Maout