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Airtable: Benefits, Downsides, Use Cases

It feels like yesterday no one heard of Airtable, but now it's giving Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel a run for their money. Set on democratizing software development for businesses, the company combines the advantages of spreadsheets, databases, project management systems, and more. Today I'll walk you through the Airtable benefits and share a couple of impressive use cases that you might want to model and implement with your team.

In the Beginning

Before the talk of Airtable benefits and use cases began, it was nothing but a concept in the minds of Howie Liu, Andrew Ofstad, and Emmett Nicholas. They launched their company back in 2013 and spent three years building a prototype. Unlike most startups that try to rush the launch and make money fast, the team behind Airtable embraced the power of 'simmer' and let people sleep on the concept before releasing it into the wide world.

While unorthodox, this approach ultimately resulted in a huge success. The company turned unicorn in 2018, securing $1.1 billion of investment in a Series C funding round. From there, the solution's popularity exploded. With an impressive list of partners and customers, Airtable certainly made an impact. Time, Medium, Netflix, BuzzFeed, Expedia, and more are using this product to increase efficiency, cut costs, and increase profits. We'll talk more about Airtable use cases in a moment, but first, let's consider the benefits and pitfalls you might encounter to ensure you go into adoption with your eyes wide open.

CRM Airtable Story Pros Cons Cases

Must-Know Airtable Pros and Cons

The full list of Airtable benefits and features would not fit this post, as every block comes with a long list of potential advantages. Considering the most popular uses of this solution, I've created a list of crucial benefits that may bring business value for any niche or market:

Intuitive, user-friendly interface. While traditional spreadsheets have been around for decades, many still struggle with advanced features, like filters and formulas. Airtable removes adoption barriers by relying on a visual interface that requires virtually no training to get used to and implement effectively.
Dribble, a social platform for designers, is a perfect example of a clean interface. The navigation and filter systems are both clear and make the user experience seamless, while the whole website relies on a set of consistent design elements.

Adjustable views for different uses. This is one of the most popular Airtable benefits mentioned in user reviews. You can choose different ways to browse or present data depending on your goals and needs. Switching between different views is fast and easy, and you can share specific views with team members or clients.

Additional data dimensions powered by Bases. Unlike your usual spreadsheets, Bases do not merely contain data, they can be transformed into a Kanban board or a calendar, which is invaluable if you want to use Airtable as a CRM. Keep in mind that Airtable is primarily a database, so it might not have all the usual Kanban management system tools, like trackers or surveys.

Extensive data tracking system. Considering Airtable is intended for collaborative use, tracking changes in individual tables and records is crucial for data integrity. You can follow all edits using the detailed log and identify collaborators making those changes.

Blocks create an additional layer of functionality. They provide an intuitive way to create extra solutions. For instance, with a Page Designer Block, you can create custom templates for PDF reports, invoices, or other documents that will include the information from your database and look gorgeous. Blocks can create a Ghantt diagram to visualize the timeline of a project or map out the addresses in your table. The Scripting Block is there if you want to add custom code to Airtable and further broaden the functionality.
Now that you are aware of the benefits of Airtable, let's talk about its downsides. According to my research and analysis of dozens of reviews, some of the biggest issues include:

  • Visual, media, and interactive content embedding troubles. The database handles these features poorly or not at all, causing problems for design researchers and other users dealing with a large volume of images and videos. Form embedding may also be out of the question.

  • Integration limitations. Some businesses avoid using Airtable as a database due to its limited integration capabilities and low adoption rate across the industry. When your partners rely on Google Sheets or Excel, implementing Airtable might be counterproductive and inefficient.

  • High cost for large teams and enterprises. While single users can enjoy the benefits with a free package, businesses will need to invest. The pricing starts at $10 per user per month (annual billing), and it can quickly go out of hand if your team includes a dozen members.

  • Load speed issues. While Airtable is considered a lightweight and fast solution, the more features and data you use, the slower and more cumbersome the database will become. If fast response time is vital to your operation, consider other solutions.
If you are confident in your understanding of the pros and cons of Airtable, let's move onto adoption cases to tickle your imagination.

The Best Airtable Examples and Use Cases

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Time magazine team uses Airtable as a database to keep track of production expenses, invoices, and other content-related processes. Automated email notifications integrated into the solution allow freelance team members to stay on top of their payment status. Moreover, having all information on different projects, production teams, and expenses in one place helped the executive producer, Jonathan Woods, make sense of the budget. According to him, editorial planning in Airtable helps Time create better coverage of the events across the country.
airtable CRM project management
HubSpot uses Airtable benefits in a similar fashion, with a focus on team collaboration across professors working on Academy content. With formula-automated processes, the HubSpot team members use Airtable as a database and save up to 30 hours by having everyone on the same page in terms of project completion status, pacing, and more.

Using Airtable as a CRM, Insomniac Events help music lovers find their lost items quickly with a wait time of merely 30 minutes. One of the crucial factors of success was the use of select fields that reduced the number of errors and duplicates. Forms integrated into the solution enabled users to claim their lost items in-between and after concerts. Faster lost&found turnaround time translated into increased customer satisfaction. As a bonus, employees could go home earlier, resulting in a boost to their morale.

You can also use Airtable as a backend for your online project, especially if it is as simple as a directory. Unlike other solutions, Airtable lets you set up the database in hours without the need to support the API. Instead, you can devote your time to other aspects of the project. Alternatively, you could request your IT team to use Airtable to save your development time and budget. Even a year-long subscription plan might be cheaper than wasting man-hours on creating a custom API.

As you can see, Airtable is not a passing hype, but a well-thought-out and beautifully implemented solution that can benefit your business in multiple ways. Despite its shortcomings, you can use Airtable as a CRM, database, and even a backend for a simple website. Used wisely and appropriately, Airtable can be an invaluable addition to your business processes. Freshcode developers have already implemented Airtable-based solutions for multiple clients, so if you need a consultation or an estimate, contact us.
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