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.

create new base airtable
Creating new Airtable 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.

airtable workspace
Workspaces in Airtable

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.

entities airtable database
Add Entities in Airtable Database

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.

fields in airtable database
Setting up Fields in Airtable Database

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:

data in airtable database
Adding customer details in Airtable Database
importing data in airtable
Adding product details in Airtable Database

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”.

visualize data in airtable
Visualize data in Airtable

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”

groups in airtable
Grouping data in Airtable Database

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.

purchase details in Airtable
Purchase details in Airtable

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.