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Nov 10, 2021 • Issue #70 by Aron Korenblit

Airtable launches Interfaces—what that means for you

After Airtable Automations and Sync, it's time for Interfaces. In today's edition, I thought I'd talk about what Interfaces is, who it's for and most importantly to a lot of you I expect what it isn't.

What is Airtable Interfaces?

Airtable Interfaces is, in tech parlance, a front-end for your base. As the core of your workflow, your Airtable base contains a lot of information which in turn attracts a lot of different stakeholders. In a CRM use-case that includes your leads, the companies they work, how much each salesperson closed recently. All of that is consumed by different stakeholders each wanting a slice of that information. Salespeople want to update their pipeline & track their commissions while VPs want to click on a pretty dashboard to prep their next meeting.

In a content usecase your writers want to draft their takes, while the SEO team wants to understand trends.

Before Interfaces, each of these stakeholders interacted with your base through views and to a lesser extent app dashboards. Views and apps gave everyone Airtable's experience: you could pick the type of view and the fields shown but were otherwise limited. You couldn't give them a unique front-end—an interface—that exactly matched their role in the workflow. A summarized dashboard with high level metrics for the VP or a place for a salesperson to update only their leads.

Now with Interfaces, you have new primitives to create an interface so each stakeholder has a unique and much more relevant experience. Give salespeople a clear way to update a lead's status and take notes during calls (all that update your base's underlying information). Content writers can draft their content in one interface while a reviewer can approve content in another. VPs can get numbers and the visibility into underlying relevant information all in one page.

They also look amazing and are super easy to build.


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Images taken from https://www.airtable.com/product/interface-designer[/caption]

Who is Airtable Interfaces for?

Interfaces create a clear distinction between base creators and base consumers. That distinction has always existed (👋 hello editor role) but it's now much crisper. Creators are responsible for base building. They decide on a base's structure: the tables, fields, and often relevant views for different stakeholders. You know that person on your team you turn to answer Airtable questions or build new ones? Yeah, they're your creator. If you're reading this newsletter, you're probably a creator.

Base consumers on the other hand are those adding in records, keeping information up to date or overseeing the workflow. With interfaces, I expect creators to be responsible for building relevant interfaces. Furthermore, I expect most base consumers to update & extract information through Interfaces in lieu of views! No more explaining what a record is or which views to look at. Simply point them to a relevant interface where they can get or update the information they need!

Yes, it's going to take time to build and fine tune those interfaces. That said, imagine how freeing it will be though to no longer have folks fiddle with your base? Every type of stakeholder will have an interface that fits their needs perfectly. They'll be happier, you'll be happier, your workflow will run smoother...

What Airtable Interfaces isn't (today)

Airtable Interface is not the minimum viable product for your business. It's also not a user portal. Today, permissions in interfaces are the same as your base: anyone who has access to an interface also has access to the underlying information of your base. So no it will not replace your (or my) Webflow-Memberstack-Zapier website (unless you're building internal websites which I know folks do!). You can filter elements based on who is looking at the page (e.g. update the dashboard numbers based on the user) but that user cannot be external to your base. To interact or view an interface, a user has to be a collaborator on your base.

I repeat: you cannot build your company's MVP on Interfaces today.

That said, I couldn't be more excited about this step. It's taking Airtable one step closer to providing enough primitives to truly create an app!

I'd love to see the interface everyone builds! Reply with screenshots!

Until next week, keep building!

Aron

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