It’s fantastic that the Airtable team is so receptive to feature requests. Realistically though, many of the requests now being made are for niche things desired by a small percentage of your userbase.
I see many parallels between Airtable and Wordpress, particularly in how easy it can be for a non-developer to get up and running with a system that does most of what they need.
It’s awesome to have such a robust API that lets you pull information out of Airtable really easily, but I get the sense that what a lot of users are after is a way to do more within the Airtable environment rather outside of it.
I think Airtable is reaching a point a lot of these feature requests could be reacted to faster in the hands of third-party developers.
A plugin library really could have the effect that launching the App Store did for the iPhone. Time and time again I’ve seen users in these forums saying ‘the lack of x feature is the only thing stopping our whole organisation from using Airtable’ and that seems like a shame to me.
My instinct is that the key to success in this regard would be, much like Apple, to created confined spaces to innovate within.
This would let the development resource at Airtable concentrate on:
- Ensuring full feature parity across mobile and desktop
- Higher level feature requests such as the ability to link between bases
I would initially give developers four types of plugin that I’d allow them to create:
1. New base view type
Gantt, which could work for any record with two dates to function as a beginning and end)
2. New field type
- Location (lat-long, address etc)
- Time (In pure hh:mm, rather than the time of day)
3. New record view type
This could knock out all requests for designing a page for printing / reporting
Developers could provide off-the-shelf templates, or users could roll their own with HTML/CSS. To keep tighter control, maybe avoid CSS altogether and restrict to Bootstrap and inline styling.
Spaces for where data should appear could work using a shortcode system like Wordpress, something similar to a mail merge, or even something like Zapier’s recipe-building system
4. Base output
This would give developers the ability to export the full contents of any view in a certain format, such as XML, that could be accessed through a HTTP URL.
As the API has a rate limit on records that can be retrieved at once, this would be great for people with multiple hundreds of records in a base that only need to do anything meaningful with the bulk of the data a couple of times a day.
- A plugin that would turn a view of products on sale into a Facebook Dynamic Product Advertising-compatible CSV file
- A plugin that would turn a view of products on sale into a Google Products-compatible XML feed