auto-build shortcuts

Use a table to auto-build an app

Updated: December 11, 2020

Click 'Auto-build app' from a database table to instantly create a new app, or add blocks to an existing app, based on the columns in your table:

In this lesson:

Preparing your database table

You can only auto-build an app after you create a database table with a column for each piece of data that you need to collect in your app. When you use the auto-build feature, you will create an app, or blocks to an existing app, with a question for each selected column in your table.

Using auto-build app

After you click 'Auto-build app', the first choice you must make is whether you want to create a new app or add blocks to an existing app.

Next, you can choose to have the newly added blocks enclosed in a loop section (a loop section allows you to ask the end-user the same question multiple times; this is the best way to collect information about an undefined number of people/items/things).

For each column in your table, you must decide whether you want to create a question for it. If so, you then specify the question type (e.g. short text) and label.

Add a number to 'Block group' to group questions onto the same block.

That's it! Click 'submit' and you have a new app (or an existing app has new blocks).

How this helps you start new app projects

If you've ever asked a subject matter expert (SME) to write their legal reasoning in such a way that you could use it to build an app, you're likely familiar with tangled logic flows that make you want to pull your hair out.

You should not start your app development with a logic flow. Instead, you should start a new app by writing down all the pieces of data (i.e. variables) that your app needs. This is equally true for those apps that populate a document as those apps that strictly provide advice.

Don't burden yourself, or your SME, at this stage by cluttering thoughts about what raw data is required with thoughts about what the user experience should look like. That comes later.

The auto-build app feature forces you to adopt a liberating separation of concerns when starting a new app, where the concern of "what data is required" is separated from that of "what is a good experience for the end-user?"

This reflects how we build our own apps:

Step 1

Think through exactly what data your app needs to collect. Don't think about conditional logic (for example, you may only want to collect a spouse's name if the end-user is married), just write down every piece of data you need for your app to achieve its goal. Now, create a database table with a column for each piece of this data.

Step 2

Use the 'auto-build app from table' feature. Doing so requires you to take a small step towards thinking about the end-user experience, as this feature requires you to think about how you want to group questions onto blocks.

Step 3

Open your new app in the App Builder. Now it's time to think about conditional logic (adding conditional logic to blocks or even questions within blocks) and the end-user experience. Now you can add explanatory text, images, Info Blocks, etc.

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