Zapier adds third-party database and user interface tools to its automation service

Since its inception in 2011, Zapier has focused on facilitating the automation of routine tasks and the creation of seamless connections across important business technologies. That has been very successful for the company, but modern consumers need more, so it has been working to diversify its offerings over the past few years. Transfer, an app that facilitates the transfer of information across other applications, was the first of these new offerings, debuting in October of last year. During today’s ZapConnect conference, the company is taking the next step on this path by releasing Zapier Tables and Interfaces, a database service and UI builder that will enable end users to engage with preexisting Zapier processes.

Google Sheets is used as a database, Zapier is used to generate the business logic, and Salesforce or Trello is used as a form of front-end to these workflows by the company’s customers today. Zapier co-founder and president Mike Knoop said in an interview before today’s announcement that these software-related use cases now account for around half of the service’s traffic. Of course, that’s also a highly fragile system, as a single typo in the spreadsheet might bring down the whole operation.

While Zapier provides excellent coverage of the logic side (or code side, if you prefer), customers “were simply telling us about all these usual pain areas like needing to connect third-party solutions for the UI and for the data storage layer,” according to Knoop.

However, Zapier can only do so much with Google Sheets or other similar tools since they were never meant to be the “system of record” for an automation system.

We’ve been able to get high-velocity change records because we built an automation-first version of Tables, and we can now say things like, “Okay, we’re going to protect this system, and if you make this change we’ll automatically sink it to the underlined system or alert you about which apps are dependent on it.” Knoop elaborated, “We basically simply ran down the list of all the usual failures.”

To balance out the user-centricity of Tables, we also have the equally important Zapier Interfaces. The goal is to facilitate the development of scalable, user-driven websites that integrate Zapier and a database (Tables or otherwise). Knoop pointed out that users nowadays frequently construct their own systems, but that these, too, are fragile and difficult to manage after first deployment. New features include a simple drag-and-drop interface for creating forms, editing data, sharing information, and activating automation triggers.

Transfer, Tables, and Interfaces are all brand new capabilities available now through Zapier’s Early Access programme. Knoop did not reveal the company’s future plans, although there are clearly many additional problems that might be solved.

We find Zapier’s new direction to be really intriguing. Knoop said that the business became comfortable and is now playing catch-up to fulfil the demands of its clients. Some effort was required to alter the company’s mindset toward innovation, but the fruits of that labour are already appearing.

Besides these two flagship offerings, the company has also released eight other highly-requested features, such as the ability to draught Zapts, versioning, new tools for building more complex Zaps, the capability to schedule transfers in Transfer, custom error notifications for users on some of the higher-priced tiers, subfolders, and the addition of a super admin level.