Airtable is more than a fancy spreadsheet.
This app was made as a database tool as well. Whether you need to control your inventory, create a content calendar, or track your employee’s data, Airtable helps you visualize how your business is performing on one table. And what’s better, you can quickly learn how to set up a database with proper guidance.
Fortunately, this post covers the basic features you need to learn in order to get the most out of this powerful tool. Including how to create tables, link records, and how you can use software to make it run on automatic.
So keep reading to know how using Airtable as a database can reduce your workload.
5 Steps to Build an Airtable Database
Step 1: Create a new base
First, login to your Airtable account.
You can either sign in with your username and password or with your Google account. If you don’t have any, then click on sign up for free and create your Airtable account.
After login into your fresh account, the first page you’ll see will be your bases ordered by workspaces. So go to your workspace and create a new base.
If you already have data to import, it will save you time. But if you don’t, just hit start from scratch.
Also, you can start organizing your workspaces on the left side of the main page. Useful if you’re working with many bases for many projects.
It’s a good practice to separate your different projects if you want to manage your Airtable account better.
(This is true if — for example — you’re a freelancer/service provider working with several clients and you need to have separate workspaces for each.)
Once you’ve organized your bases, named them, and selected your favorite color, let’s get started on your database.
Step 2: Add your tables
Databases have two fundamental elements: Entities and Attributes.
Entities are objects, persons, ideas that give context to your data. Such as cars, employees, sales, houses, and so on. The first thing to do in your Airtable database is to add tables to represent those entities.
Pro tip: Learn how to design effective relational databases to start this process with the right foot.
In this case, it’s a customer database for an e-commerce brand that sells shoes. The entities here would be “Customers”, “Products”, and “Purchases”.
Once you have this clear, you should be setting up the attributes.
Step 3: Set up the fields with proper formatting
Attributes are the features that define the entities. In Airtable, you add attributes by creating fields in your tables.
Here, you can add as many fields as you need, and format them according to their type.
For example, field types can be either number, a checkbox, select options, simple text, currency, phone number, and so on.
Plus, you can also include formulas to process data, and link records with other tables to create relationships and eliminate data redundancy.
In the Customers table, you’d want to add the following fields:
- Customer’s name (single-line text)
- Customer ID (single-line text)
- Email (single-line text)
- Address (long text)
- Phone Number (Phone)
- Last purchase (Date)
With all the fields in your tables properly set up, you can start adding data.
Step 4: Insert/import data
There are 3 ways to add records:
- Importing your data from a .csv file, google sheets, or other platforms (you have to import data before creating a table).
- Integrating Airtable with other apps, like Shopify, to add all the purchase information on autopilot (more on this later).
- Adding them manually.
In the customer database, this is how it looks when you fill the customers and products tables:
For some tables — like the Purchases table — it’s better to add data after linking records from other tables and grouping them up properly.
Step 5: Link records to visualize your data
Linking records is necessary to share data between entities in order to avoid data redundancy.
In your Airtable database, you link records by creating a new field, clicking on “Customize field type”, and selecting “Link to another record”.
You’ll be able to choose the table you want to link to, and the attributes you want to retrieve from it.
After successfully linking your tables, it will be easier to visualize and manage your data by changing the view.
To do this on the customer database, click on: “Group” —> “pick a field to group by” —> “buyer”
You’ll get a view of your customer’s purchases, see how much they’ve spent, their lifetime value, and add new purchases right away with ease.
From here, you’re free to add more views, tables, fields, as you start getting more data and expanding your business.
For example, if you’re building a content database, you’ll be finding yourself adding more attributes and formulas as you get to publish more and more content.
Upgrade your Airtable Database with Automation
Considering that the more you grow your business, the more data you’ll need to process. Updating your database can become very time-consuming. Even if you just import data from other platforms, it is a task that you need to be reminded to do regularly.
When using automation software, you can integrate your Airtable database with plenty of other apps to automatically fill and update records. Here’s what you can do with Automate.io to upgrade your database with automation:
Looking to integrate with more apps? Use Airtable integration to sync your Airtable database with more than 200 apps.
And that's a wrap.
Using Airtable as a database leaves room for a lot of data. You need to learn about relational databases, and how to create a system that works. But eventually, you’ll face more data than you could ever manipulate, and things will get out of control.
That’s why it’s essential to start automating as soon as you optimize your processes.