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Petition for the attention of the (wonderful) Airtable Product Team - Please decouple the Add Field and Add Record buttons from a Table ๐Ÿ™

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andywingrave
10 - Mercury
10 - Mercury

Hey there,

I want to first off note that I donโ€™t want this to sound like a complaint. :pray:

I love Airtable, and I have used it now for 3 years across countless large organisations and medium-sized clients. Heart

I use it for everything I do. But there was always one part of the UX that I always saw stressing users out, and that was the way you can just click and accidentally add a brand new record at the bottom without ever meaning to. The process to create a record was so easy it was overwhelming, because to non-experienced, pressing command + z is often not learned, so theyโ€™d see Airtable as a place where it wasnโ€™t safe to click anywhere (A problem later solved, in part for teams, by restricting peopleโ€™s ability to add records in a base, or just using a sync so nobody can create records), and letโ€™s not even talk about creating a record which is part of a filtered view because thatโ€™s just madness squared โ€ฆ But when teaching Airtable, all Iโ€™ve ever heard for 3 years now is a lot of โ€œWhoopsโ€โ€ฆโ€œDidnโ€™t mean to do thatโ€โ€ฆโ€œWhoops, where did that go?โ€, โ€œWhoops, how do I?โ€/โ€ฆ etc etc etc

And even to experienced users, the daily mini-frustrations I, myself, have when accidentally creating a record and having to command + z was one thing I was sure that Airtable would fix sooner or later, so I didnโ€™t let it bug me, and went on my merry wayโ€ฆ Loving pretty much everything else about Airtable, creating thousands of accidental records along the wayโ€ฆโ€œWhoops, command+zโ€

CleanShot 2021-02-10 at 11.39.54

Then August 2020 hit, and they let a team mess around with the record creation flow, causing mayhem among my clients, and colleagues alike, creating, what I think is one of the longest threads on this community yet.

We all had a little moan, a little joke, and I think for the most part they changed the functionality back - even though, itโ€™s still, in my opinion, clunkier than it was before it was messed with.

But then something happened about a month backโ€ฆ Whereby Airtable have given the field creation process the record treatment and made all sides of their app complete and utter minefields. So today, as I created my 10th accidental field of the day, I decided to write a polite petition to ask the UX designer and Product teamโ€ฆnay, BEG them to fix this!

Hereโ€™s my suggestion as an alternative:

  1. Keep the Plus signs. Theyโ€™re nice and clear. Everyone is happy :green_circle:
  2. Please for the love of god stop messing with this empty space - This is important space that doesnโ€™t need to be clickable ๐Ÿ”ด

CleanShot 2021-02-10 at 11.49.09

and โ€ฆ

  1. If you really, REALLY have toโ€ฆWhy not add a little friendly round button that a user can click on, so that we can all be very comfortable that this behaviour was intentional :large_blue_circle:

It feels like this decision was made to increase field creation, which just seems mad to me. I typically want less fieldsโ€ฆNot more! This is the graph of user frustration that I imagine the analytics doesnโ€™t show:

funtimes with graphs

Please say itโ€™s not just me :cry:

As a side note, Iโ€™ve actually been building my bases in Google Sheets recently, and my stress levels have been decreasing as a consequence, but it still feels a little like this

And as another side noteโ€ฆAirtable Product team - Sorry for the rant. I rant because I care :crazy_face: โ€ฆ You all rock :metal: !

67 Comments
andywingrave
10 - Mercury
10 - Mercury

Sadly it was a bug @ScottWorldโ€ฆ Itโ€™s not fixed at all.

@Jason any news on this?

I just coached a new customer into Airtable, and it was an absolute disaster. Why wonโ€™t your team engage??

ScottWorld
18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

A wise friend who left Airtable for another product told me something enlightening about Airtable:

Weโ€™re not their customers. Their VCโ€™s are.

Let that wise gem sink in for a moment.

And yes, this clicking to the right of the grid view thing is the most disastrous interface decision theyโ€™ve made in 5 years of disastrous interface decisions.

Christy_Roach
Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi all,

Iโ€™m Christy and I lead our product marketing team at Airtable. I apologize for the time it took for us to respond to this and the frustration youโ€™re facing with accidental record creation.

Thank you so much for the candid feedback and insights. I wanted to give you additional background on why we rolled out this particular feature. We are always balancing the ways for our product to support our wide range of customers including those just getting started to those, like you, who are more seasoned experts.

For this particular change, I wanted to give you some background on why weโ€™ve made the decisions we have:

We know that one of the biggest challenges new Airtable users face is getting their data out of where itโ€™s currently stored and into Airtable. We also know that new Airtable users sometimes get confused about where they should add their information and that can keep them from getting value out of the tool right away.

By making it easy to add new records and fields to your Airtable base, weโ€™ve seen new users get up and running with Airtable more quickly. Because weโ€™ve seen such improvement from this design pattern with new users, weโ€™ll be keeping it in place. That said, we recognize that this change is causing frustration for those that are very accustomed to using the product and hope that our future plans might help mitigate some frustration.

I realize that recognizing frustration isnโ€™t the same as fixing it but Iโ€™m hoping that hearing the explanation of why we went in this direction will give you a greater understanding of our planning and decision-making process. We want to continue listening and collaborating with you every step of the way even if we disagree at times. With that in mind here are a few areas we are excited about (and hope you will be too!) with regards to product feedback and engagement:

Community engagement: Having an active, engaged community is not something we want to take for granted. In the coming months, weโ€™ll be putting more resources towards our community program, including ways to keep our product team more involved in the community and give you more tools to give us feedback and get answers to your questions. We will be reaching out to many customers, including members of the Airtable Community to weigh in on our plans. You should start seeing and experiencing these changes during 2021.

Product updates: We know that being able to collaborate with team members, collaborators, and clients is key for workflows in Airtable. But we also know that it can be tricky. Different people need to see different cuts of data and not everyone should have the same level of editing access. Our team is actively working on giving you new collaboration tools and interfaces that help you manage your data in Airtable and better control so you can give your team members more of the information and data they need and less of what they donโ€™t. Weโ€™ll be rolling out small collaboration improvements over the coming months, with a large update coming in the second half of this year.

I hope that peeling back the curtain on some of our internal processes and plans has helped give you more insight into our decision-making. Your feedback continues to be extremely valuable to us and we bring the feedback and requests we get from our community into our product road-mapping process each quarter as we create our plans and set our priorities.

kuovonne
18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

Welcome to the Airtable community @Christy_Roach!

Thank you for taking the time to join the community and pull back the curtain a little.

Recognizing frustration is an important first step. Finding the right UX/UI design can be tricky, and recognizing pain points for everyone (new users, existing users, power users, etc.) is important. In this case, it feels like Airtable prioritized new users over existing users.

In my experience, new Airtable users do best when they either (1) have database experience already or (2) were personally introduced to Airtable by someone they know who already uses and likes Airtable. In addition to focusing on brand new users, maybe there can be an approach that supports the โ€œmentoringโ€ process beyond giving free credits for new account referrals?

Iโ€™m really sad to hear this. I believe that there are other UX/UI designs that could better accommodate both new and existing users. I suggested one upthread (or possibly in one of the related threads on this topic).

Iโ€™m super excited to hear this and look forward to seeing the changes. Iโ€™m also happy to provide feedback.

Being able to set permissions on who can see what would be huge. Note that this is different from more variations on personal views, since personal views donโ€™t really restrict what a person can see.

I hope that you will announce these improvements in the community so that there will be official threads to post comments on. The announcements could include information on the rollout and how to provide feedback. In the past a few people discover new features and start their own threads, which leads to disjointed information and confusion when different people have different experiences.

The prospect of a large update in the second half of this year is also exciting. Thank you for this rare peak at your roadmap.

itoldusoandso
10 - Mercury
10 - Mercury

Yes. And I already submitted similar post and also petition to their support about adding a button in the user interface for new record. They said they will look into that but it has been a while already. My suggestion was to add a button in the interface to add new record. Logically, I would want to add new record just below the row I have selected. If no row is selected, the new record will be created as top most record. There is no really point of them having the plus signs on the table if the table has 1000 rows and I donโ€™t scroll down every time to create new record. So yes, you got my vote.

Michael_Andrew
7 - App Architect
7 - App Architect

Sure new individual users are important and Iโ€™m sure you investors like seeing your user count tick up as new individuals come on board to try things out. I love that AT is flexible, intuitive and easy to use, but it is possible for it to be โ€˜too easyโ€™. Certainly it being so easy that you can really โ€˜accidentallyโ€™ discover how itโ€™s done will quicken the pace, but once you stumble on this, users quickly get frustrated by that same accident when extraneous records or fields are regularly created and have to be cleaned up. I suppose itโ€™s a delicate balance, but at some point of saturation you are going to run out of the pool of new users and will need to focus on the needs of your pro and enterprise users. There are some good ideas on this string for how to balance this.

Maybe another idea is that this is the way it works for free and plus users while pro/enterprise users that feature is turned off.

Bill_French
17 - Neptune
17 - Neptune

This โ€œfeatureโ€ is not the reason new users adopt Airtable; adoption drivers is an entirely separate dimension.

In what database universe could anyone conclude that these actions should be considered equal?

In almost 100% of the successful database system designs, database schema actions are vastly kept separate from data capture actions because pretty much everyone - and by โ€œeveryoneโ€ I mean all 8 billion of us - spend a small amount of time configuring tables and sheets relative to the amount of time we spend adding data to them and working with them.

I predict โ€ฆ

  • The positive analytics you claim that are driving this decision to sustain this madness would likely be offset by magnitudes if you took the time to look at other analytics such as the number of times new fields are deleted shortly after mistakenly clicking in the grey area. Another useful metric is to examine the number of unused fields per table before this change and since this change.
  • The pressure to remedy this awkward behaviour will increase as consultants and users discover the impact of cleaning up messy tables.
  • Itโ€™s entirely likely you will see an increase in support calls related to the appearance of unexplained fields.
  • Airtable will eventually eliminate this โ€œfeatureโ€; itโ€™s just a matter of time before a few competitors use this as an example of poor design.
kuovonne
18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

I completely agree with this!

Consultants might be the exception to โ€œeveryoneโ€. I expect that many consultants spend more time configuring things than manually adding data. However some of the most vocal complaints about this rampant creation of fields is coming from consultants who spend a greater portion of their time creating fields compared to other users.

Bill_French
17 - Neptune
17 - Neptune

Perhaps, but not if you factor in testing which probably makes it at least slightly more time performing tests than configuring. Iโ€™m fine with being right by just one millisecond. :winking_face:

ScottWorld
18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

Welcome to the community, @Christy_Roach!

Thank you for chiming in here, but I am beyond disappointed & beyond frustrated with your message. I am essentially in a state of shock over what you have written.

I will really need to calm down before I type up a full reply, because I am just too shocked right now at what you said.

You have essentially doubled down on everything we have been complaining about.