Interface Designer: Your guide to designing an interface

Airtable bases are designed to power your workflow and help your team reach ambitious outcomes. To do that, they hold lots of data—from deadlines to bylines to timelines. 

And while color-coded records and fields may help you capture tons of great information, not all collaborators need to see everything to take action. In fact, too much information can confuse or intimidate a collaborator into stagnation, when what you really want is to move your campaign, initiative, process, or project forward.

Some good news for you: using Interface Designer, you can create a visual, streamlined front door to your base so collaborators only need to view the most relevant information to make decisions. Interface Designer is an intuitive drag-and-drop builder that lets you connect your underlying base data, so any action taken from an interface automatically updates the data in your base—no coding needed! 

By choosing a layout, importing a table, and adding unique elements, you can create an interface worthy of presenting to colleagues and higher-ups in minutes.

Interfaces are ideal for:

  • Stakeholders who need to review and approve assets to unblock their teams

  • Leadership and cross-functional partners who need to check in on progress updates and results

  • Collaborators who need to make individual updates to pieces of information, like statuses

The design process is simple, and the result is a dynamic interface that visualizes information from your base in a more simplified, welcoming way. And it looks pretty good, if we do say so ourselves.

Let’s dive in and design an interface now.

Getting started

Where to begin? Knowing where to start can be a challenging part of the design process, but it helps to consider the use case you’re building for. 

If you’re stumped, try filling in this sentence: I’m building an interface to [insert action] for [list audience]. For example, “I’m building an interface to get creative assets approved by key stakeholders.”

Need multiple solutions? Good news: you can create multiple interfaces per base, so you don’t have to rely on just one interface for your workflow. For example, you might need one interface to share your product roadmap, another for triaging customer feedback, and another for assigning tasks to your team.

Create an interface

Now that you know what (and whom) you’re designing for, you’re ready to create. Find the “Interfaces” button in the top left corner of an existing base. Clicking the button will show any interfaces you’ve made so far, as well as an option for creating a new interface. If you create multiple interfaces for a single base, you can navigate between them with ease here. For now, let’s create one new interface.

“Create a new interface” takes you to a screen where you can name your collection or group of interfaces and provide a description to add some helpful context. Just like when creating a new base, you can choose a color and logo for an interface. The name, logo, and color will show up on the homepage for all collaborators with access to the base after you publish your first interface. Select “Create new'' to choose a layout.

Choose your layout

Each workflow is different, which is why Interface Designer offers a variety of layouts to choose from, including record review, record summary, dashboard, and a blank layout to get creative with. 

Record review

This layout is useful for triaging or reviewing many records at once, like approving assets for an upcoming campaign, assigning resources for a major initiative, or reviewing customer feedback. Individuals can quickly switch between records with ease, making the layout a no-brainer for creators who want to keep teams on top of their tasks, and collaborators who need to add or update information directly.

> Check out this example content approval workflow using the record review layout 

Record summary

A record summary is just that—a layout that provides an overview of key information based on the selected record. This is a helpful layout for those who want to focus on one record at a time and don’t need to make quick switches. For example, a record summary is ideal for reviewing strategy memos, digging into user research, or really any scenario where you need to focus on one topic or record. 

> Take a look at our guide on customer feedback using the summary layout

Dashboard

The dashboard layout is ideal for giving stakeholders and executives a snapshot of key information, and keeping them in the loop. With this layout, you can highlight key metrics with charts and graphs, or show progress with a timeline. 

> View our how-to on creating a product roadmap using the Dashboard Layout

Blank

Have a specific idea in mind that lies outside of the provided layouts? Or do you simply want to start from scratch and see what you can build? That’s what the blank layout is for. Using the drag-and-drop features allows you to create structure quickly and watch your ideas take form.

If you change your mind about which layout to use, you can always create a new interface. 

Select a table

Ready to feed data into your new interface? Interfaces are built on top of data in existing tables, and after choosing a layout, you’ll be asked to select the table you’d like to connect it to. Just like in your base, you can apply filters, sort records by fields, and toggle the display on fields to control what you see.

Finally, add a name and description to your interface so collaborators know what it does.

Now it’s time to customize your interface. 

Drag and drop your design

Here’s where things get fun. Using the handy drag-and-drop, you can move fields around the interface and stack them (like Tetris, but your blocks aren’t going anywhere!)

Beyond rearranging content, you can incorporate fields and elements from your base to further visualize rich data. Simply click the add element button in the lower-left corner of the screen.

You can add any fields from your base, but some examples of helpful fields to incorporate include the collaborator fields to assign owners, long text fields for description, and attachment fields to show off creatives. When you add an attachment field, you’ll be given the option to display your images in one of three ways: as a Field, Carousel, or Hero.

Add elements to your interface

In addition to fields, you can add a variety of elements to an interface.

Visual elements to display your data

  • Grid: Add a table, or multiple tables, from your Base with grid elements. We recommend paring down the amount of information with filters to highlight what’s most relevant. You can adjust row height, group, field visibility, and color. 

  • Number: Keep your eyes on the prize. Numbers display a numerical value, which you can pull from a designated record count or field summary.

  • Timeline: Similar to Timeline view, this element displays records over time based on a table’s date fields.

  • Chart: Report on key data with a bar, line, scatter, pie, or donut chart.

Design elements to spruce up an interface

  • Text: Create a text box to provide context for your collaborators. This is a great way to create section headers, calls to action, and more.

  • Divider: Break up fields or big chunks of text with a crisp divider (this is perfect for interfaces that utilize a lot of elements!)

Record picker element

The record picker lets you view one record at a time, along with any associated fields you choose. Use the drop-down menu in the elements panel to choose which fields you want to see associated with the record. 

Comment element

Create a space for collaborators to add or view comments on a selected record. 

While you’re more than welcome to add as many elements to your interface as you’d like, we recommend choosing only the elements critical to your workflow to avoid information overload. For example, try limiting the number of text boxes in your interface, and cut down on the amount of scrolling needed to view all your information. 

⚡ Quick tip: If you find that you’re cramming too much information into one interface, consider creating two interfaces.

Make your interface interactive 

The best interfaces are interactive—below are a couple of ways you can engage collaborators.

Making elements editable

Clicking some elements will bring up edit access options, letting you classify them as view-only or editable. Editable elements are a great way to make an interface actionable for your collaborators. For example, you may want your collaborators to update the status of a campaign, or assign an owner—in that case, marking the element as “editable” is ideal. 

Applying user filters

⚡ Pro tip: You can encourage interaction in an interface by assigning unique views to collaborators through user filters. When applied to elements, this filtering allows collaborators to only view the records that have been assigned to them in a base. No need to create dozens and dozens of personal views (insert sigh of relief here).

To apply user filtering, first check that you have an existing collaborator field in the table you added to your interface. If you select “filter by” on the layout or any element that is pulling data from the base, then choose the collaborator field and make it equal to “current user.” This means that when each collaborator views the interface, they will only see the information that is relevant to them.

Preview, publish, and share

Once you’ve added elements and arranged everything to your liking, use the “view as” toggle to see how everything will look to a designated collaborator. You can also click the preview toggle to see how the interface will look once published. When you’re happy with the final results, click publish. Congrats—you’ve just designed an interface! 

Sharing is caring, and we’ve made it easy to connect directly with your collaborators. Click the share button in the top-right corner of your interface to invite others via email. Once you’ve shared the interface, it appears in their Airtable home screen in a new section called “My Interfaces” above their bases, as well as be discoverable within the base using the “Interfaces” button. If your collaborator already has access to the base, you can also send them a direct link. 

That’s a wrap. 🎁  You now have a functional, organized interface you can access at any time from your base and customize the experience for your collaborators and stakeholders so they know exactly what you need from them (and dazzle them in the process). And you can create as many unique interfaces as you want—for each workflow, campaign, or whatever else you dream up. 

Happy designing!

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