There are many applications on the web that are made for collecting and storing data. Today we’re taking a look at a bunch of different web-based databases that you might find useful for everything from client records to details about the vaccinations each of your thirteen dogs have had in the last few years. Whatever tickles your fancy.
Blist‘s goal is to fool you into forgetting that underneath the glossy interface, there’s a relational database that the average user doesn’t know much about. I’ve always though that a great interface with average features is better than an app with great features and an average interface. I’m not talking aesthetics, either—but if something is designed well enough that it saves me both time and stress, I’m happy.
In terms of interface, Blist works somewhat like everyone’s favorite basic database, the spreadsheet. Displays are filtered using what’s called a lens—that and the form designer make it clear that Blist’s goal is to create “the database for the rest of us.”
Wufoo isn’t so much about a database that you populate: it’s a service that allows you to create quite attractive HTML forms so you can collect information from visitors to your site, without needing to learn a programming language to do it.
The advantages of an easy-to-use form designer is obvious in business when you wish to collect as much information from customers and clients as possible. In your personal life, a variety of applications exist but my favorite was when a friend used a web form to allow his Gmail contacts to fill in their address book entry for him after he lost their phone numbers.
Zoho Creator basically allows you to create simple database applications using a flashy AJAX interface and a lot of wizard goodness. It comes with plenty of templates, so you don’t need to start from scratch. There are free options, though they’re pretty limited—on the free Personal account, you can only create up to five applications, but that may suit your needs for a long time to come.
Some of the best features of Zoho Creator include the ability to embed your application in your Web site, and if you’re an advanced user, you can go beyond the wizard-style database designer using Zoho’s Deluge scripting language.
Coghead is another offering that allows you to visually build web applications and goes far beyond simple forms. Of course, without becoming a programmer you can’t create any new web app that pops in your head, but Coghead makes it possible to realize quite a broad range of applications—especially databases for a variety of purposes—using the simple power of drag and drop.
Coghead also has start applications, like Zoho’s templates, including issue trackers and a CRM that you can expand on. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Coghead features a great visual workflow editor that allows you to add functionality beyond data capture without using a scripting language. This is an excellent choice for those who want powerful business-oriented applications with a certain level of complexity but aren’t interested in programming at all.
Dabble DB is another easy database application builder, with a reputation for being quick and easy to use—you can have a finished application ready in minutes flat. I didn’t have any trouble getting an app ready in minutes with the other web sites I tried, but Dabble DB’s process did seem to flow a little faster even if it didn’t quite have the same aesthetic pizzaz.
If you’re looking for a free service, give Dabble DB a skip. The only free option makes your content Creative Commons and visible to everyone and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but if you’re looking to build a database application chances are it’s to store private information like your friends’ or clients’ contact details.
TrackVia has a strong focus on taking your spreadsheets from Excel or what have you, and allowing you to turn them into powerful databases with its web service. It then allows you to create web forms and run email marketing campaigns from within its web app, so it’s got a very strong emphasis on business.
Furthering the suspicion that TrackVia is not for the personal user is the fact that there are no free accounts on offer. The cheapest plan with a monthly fee of $30 does offer quite a bit of room for your money—150,000 database records and 1 GB of file storage.
WyaWorks is certainly not the prettiest web app on the block, but it has a slightly different focus on essentially the same thing that many of these start-ups are tackling: WyaWorks is about creating database applications for collaboration.
That focus on collaborative work is a definite plus and could be a selling point for many businesses, but for anyone to take it seriously, the programmers behind this app need to put more thought into the way it looks. The design is bad, but the interface is worse—if there’s one thing that this thing needs, it’s a coat of paint and a more usable and intuitive layout. Nobody would buy products from a handwritten catalogue, after all, and the web is no different (especially when you’re after business customers).
FormAssembly is a form designer with a bunch of great features that are useful for the personal user, the business user and everyone in between. It provides email and RSS notifications, statistics including graphical charts and Excel export, as well as e-commerce features such as PayPal and Salesforce integration. You can use FormAssembly for just about anything that involves forms, including order forms.
While the focus on form designer apps is to get information from others, there’s nothing stopping you from using a FormAssembly or Wufoo form as a pseudo-database where you use the form to create records yourself.
There is a free version, though your forms will be ad-supported and there’s no auto-responder, secure forms nor file upload. In short, the features that business-oriented users will want to shell out for—I think the free plan works fine for the average user.
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