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Airtable and Directual. Reasons for combining and for migrating

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Airtable is one of the pioneers on the no-code market. Using that “spreadsheet on steroids” a lot of people are automating such processes as CRM or applications collection. Airtable seems to be almost ideal table view for your data. But it is not almighty. Today we will figure out in which cases Airtable complements Directual capabilities and in which—it is reasonable to migrate your project from Airtable to Directual completely

Airtable vs Directual features

Viewing and handling data

Both Airtable and Directual offer a database features. Users can create interconnected tables with such fields as text, number, email, date, links to other table, etc.

Airtable approach

Directual approach

Airtable is an intuitive tool. You simply create a table and work with it as with a familiar excel-like spreadsheet.

💪 Strong points:

  • Great grid-view with plenty of options for sorting, filtering and grouping;
  • Several data views: Grid (table), Kanban, Gallery, Calendar;
  • Airtable Blocks—visualisation and formatting tools like Gantt, Page designer, Org chart.

😔 Could be improved:

  • Few appearance customisation options. Some of them (e.g. record colouring) are available only on the Pro plan;
  • No folders for tables;
  • Blocks are available only on the Pro plan.

Directual database section looks like a relational database.

💪 Strong points:

😔 Could be improved:

  • Web-page components are in beta now—the components are being improved;
  • Not so user-friendly grid view;
  • No such data types as ‘image’ or ‘rating’. Sometimes it could be counterintuitive to store such data in ‘link’ or ‘string’ fields.

Here we can admit that the features for viewing and handling data in Airtable is almost perfect. But, as we see further, often that is not enough for meeting all the needs of modern app development.

Capturing data

Form in Airtable is one of the table views. Form in Directual is a web-page component (it has been announced recently).

Airtable approach

Directual approach

💪 Strong points:

  • WYSYWYG-approach to form building;
  • Limits to specific collaborators;
  • Conditions on other fields;

😔 Could be improved:

  • Field permissions are available only on the Pro plan;
  • No such controls as range sliders;
  • Few options for styling.

💪 Strong points:

  • Form is based on API-endpoint, which can be configured according to the role model (e.g. admin and regular user see different fields);
  • Online responce processing;
  • All the features are available on the the Free plan.

😔 Could be improved:

  • No conditional fields (based on other form fields);
  • File upload will be available in the nearest releases only.

Both Airtable and Directual have profound form-building features. We cannot choose the leader here.

Using as a backend

Basic backend is a database plus APIs (sure, often some backend logic is also needed—we will have a look at that a bit further). As we have seen, Airtable offers perfect database viewing features. Could it work as a backend? Let’s figure out!

Airtable approach

Directual approach

💪 Strong points:

😔 Could be improved:

  • The API is limited to 5 requests per second (app frontend will brake down for more than 3 users simultaneously);
  • 1,200 records on the Free plan and only 50,000 records on the Pro plan (rare app has less that 100k records in the database).
  • No permissions for certain roles in API.

💪 Strong points:

  • The most advanced API-builder;
  • Filtering, sorting, validating;
  • No limits on request per second;
  • No limits on quantity of records (limit on the Free plan is 2 GB, on the Business plan—200 GB);
  • Significant limits on requests (10k monthly on Free and 2M monthly on Business);
  • Strong user-based security.

😔 Could be improved:

  • We don’t know. If you do, please, describe your idea at hello@directual.com.

No doubts, Airtable can merely be applied as a backend platform for an app. Directual, in turn, was made as a low-code platform for building complex and scalable backends.

Realising business logic

App logic usually includes data transformation tasks, integrations, event-driven actions.

Airtable approach

Directual approach

💪 Strong points:

  • Easy to use.

😔 Could be improved:

    Airtable announced feature Airtable automations (in beta today).

  • Only linear scenarios like trigger→actions;
  • Speed of processing is not perfect;
  • Automations are available only on the Pro plan;
  • Trivial actions.

💪 Strong points:

  • True real-time event processing;
  • Scheduled jobs;
  • Total flexibility thanks to universal steps;
  • Integrating from scenarios;
  • Interconnected scenarios.

😔 Could be improved:

  • Interface seems to be rather complex. Flexibility has its cost! We are aware about that and work hard to make development on Directual easier.

Airtable supports the very basic automations, and on the Pro plan only. Directual scenarios are the heart of the platform. They are available to all the users. Scenarios are powerful and flexible enough to implement any business logic.

Combining Airtable and Directual

Criterion

Your app is going to be small (much less than 50k records in the database). You don’t need intensive data exchange experience.

Solution

  • Airtable works as a perfect interface to your data;
  • Directual covers all the other needs, including data transformation, integrations, etc.

Have a look how to connect Airtable and Directual.

Migrating from Airtable to Directual

Criterion

Your Airtable-based app is growing. You need to connect additional services (e.g. Integromat or Parabola) to cover some backend-logic. API and database limits are about to be hit (or already have been hit).

Solution

  • Migrate your database from Airtable to Directual completely;
  • Grow your app on Directual platform.
  • Profit.

Migration process

Pavel Ershov
August 11, 2020
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