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DIY Databases Using AirTable

Build, test, and document custom database applications

Devin Balkind

Content management systems like WordPress made it possible for people to publish without having to code. Now DIY Databases like AirTable and Coda make it easy for anyone with basic spreadsheet skills to create their own custom databases and integrate them into useful web services. Learn the basics of database design and API configuration and you’ll be making your own data-driven apps in no time - and without having to write any code.

There are two fantastic types of uses of this technology. One of them is to build working apps for your life and your business. Build a database to manage projects, organize inventory, track correspondence, record transactions, etc.

You can also use DIY databases as a way to build, test and document data models for more complicated, custom applications. This is a great way for product managers, front end designers and clients to get more deeply involved in “build with” software development practices.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • Build database apps to manage stuff: projects, inventories, contact directories, accounting, etc.
  • Build databases to communicate complex data models to software developers building complex applications.
  • Use DIY databases to connect and clean CSVs/spreadsheets together to create high quality data, perform extract/transfer/load (ETL) processes and more

This training course is for you because...

  • You’re pretty good at spreadsheets but can’t currently build your own databases
  • You want to test out data models and then communicate them clearly to developers
  • You’re tired of managing lots of spreadsheets that are outdated as soon as they’re finished


  • Basic spreadsheeting skills
  • A can-do attitude
  • Zest for life

If you would like to follow along with the examples, you will need an AirTable account and access to Google Sheets. If you don't have those accounts, feel free to watch and learn.

About your instructor

  • Devin works at the intersection of the nonprofit sector, the free/libre/open-source (FLO) movement, and grassroots community organizing initiatives to help each benefit from the best practices of the others.

    He currently serves as the president of the Sahana Software Foundation, a nonprofit organization that produces the world’s most popular open source information management system for disaster relief and humanitarian aid. He also serves as the executive director of Sarapis, a nonprofit that helps other nonprofit organizations leverage open source tools and techniques to more effectively advance their respective missions.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

DIY Databases: Build working apps with AirTable (90 min)

Instructor will:

  • Explain what DIY databases are, why they’re important for individuals and organizations.
  • He will then walk you through AirTable, a popular DIY database app, show you its main features, and review some useful templates to show you what is possible with the system.
  • He will also demonstrate how to use Airtable in conjunction with wireframes to communicate a custom app design. Finally, he will discuss a few issues related to how DIY Databases can influence organizational development and operations.

Participants will:

  • Listen and ask questions, select a template to play with and follow along with the instructor as he explains various features.
  • Use what you’ve learned from the session to identify and build your own AirTable.
  • You can do this by starting with an official AirTable Template or Universe Base, or creating your own from scratch. The important thing is you’ve found a good reason to use AirTable and you’ve begun exploring how to use it to meet your needs.