Google Drive is a free and convenient way to create and share documents in the cloud. Google sheets has allowed access to a spreadsheet service that competes with Microsoft Excel and comes with the added benefit of cloud storage and global access. At first glance, Sheets is a simple interface with limited functionality, but can become very powerful with the addition of the AppScript add-in, also provided by Google. The sharing feature is advanced, with the ability for multiple users to maintain the same file, with little to no conflicts; a great feature that Microsoft Office didn’t do well originally. Although functional, and easily accessible, the interface is not streamlined and companies may need to consider ways to convert Google Sheet to web app. In this article, we look at ways to extend or upsize your Google Sheets in a way that will wow your customers and increase the useability of your coworkers.
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When should you consider upgrading or moving away from Google Sheets?
If you are reading this article it’s likely you are already considering if sheets is the right tool for your needs. This usually happens when
- Security is becoming a concern – once you share a google sheet granular security controls aren’t available, with locked tabs being inconvenient for users who have clearance
- Limitation on privacy and data residency – for healthcare providers and banks using google sheets means allowing the data to live in the provider’s servers in a foreign jurisdiction, which may violate regulatory requirements like PIPEDA
- 100 person user edit limit – Google sheets cannot support more than 100 users editing at once, furthermore, if more than 200 people need to access the sheet additional configuration is required (source)
- Not intuitive for non-technical users – if there are users that may be less technically savvy on the use of spreadsheets and a more friendly UI is required
- Struggling to manage all the data – having data isn’t enough and there is a desire to get alerts and reports so actions can be taken
- Lack of mobile-friendly design – oftentimes the data input would be best used on a mobile device, which makes spreadsheets harder to use, even with their mobile app as users thumb across columns
- Made to track data not manage a process – Sheets is great at managing data but not processes
Benefits of converting Google Sheets to a Web Application
Despite the power and ease of use of Google sheets, there are some benefits to moving to a web app approach.
- Streamlined interface for data display and entry
- Data can be tailored to multiple user/audience types
- Access control to specific data and reports
- Consistent point of entry, as the active sheet is no longer based on last users’ access.
- Mobile-friendly solutions
- Improved professional Interface
- No need to rely on App Script to perform special functionality.
- Reduced need for worrying about multi-user access to the same data store.
Issues in Upgrading Google Sheets to a Web App
Whatever the reason, you will likely run into some roadblocks when porting to new technology or expanding the sheet to suit your needs.
There are some common pitfalls when replacing google sheets:
- Macros that were developed in sheets are difficult to access or need to be rewritten.
- New programming languages are necessary in the new technology stack
- Sheet formatting no longer applies which can hurt data visualization
- Reports and graphs aren’t accessible or as easily created
- Ensuring the new technology allows multiple users to edit becomes an issue
3 Ways to Convert Google Sheets to a Web App
There are three types of conversions for a Google sheet.
- Extend – Improve your Google AppScript to publish a Web App
- 3rd Party – Improve the sheets interface by connecting a 3rd party interpreter
- Direct Port – Develop custom code to consume data and create advanced functionality
1 ) Extend with doGet() functionality from App Script
Google sheets has a built-in method to use when it’s time to convert google sheet to web app. This is done through native App Script’s doGet() function. This method provides the ability to create an HTML powered page that can display data and create input forms.
- Functionality is an extension of the google sheet itself
- CSS styles can be imported to make the application look more professional
- No recurring cost
- Intrusive Google 3rd party warning always displayed on top
- Debugging and deployment is clunky and relies on scripting versus making use of leading technologies for source code and deployment pipelines
2) 3rd party Converter Apps
The popularity of sheets has led to a large number of 3rd party app solutions. These apps are surprisingly good at automatically creating and deploying intuitive and highly functional web apps through a very quick configuration process. If simplistic but intuitive forms and reports are what you need, then these providers should be considered.
- No code necessary – the provider uses the sheet set up to interpret your data needs
- A variety of predefined templates are available.
- No need to replace the underlying sheet functionality
- You can have a private or public application published within minutes.
- They can generate mobile applications that are downloadable
- Automated notifications and email integrations
- Macros are not likely to be accessible without extended coding
- These tools are paid subscription services and may be costly depending on how many people are using the app.
- Some apps require payment before they can be deployed to an App store
- It is also important to dig where the data is being held
- There are performance limitations as these tools are optimized for ease of use versus scalability
Options for Converting Google Sheets to Web App Using 3rd Party Tools
App sheet has a very simple and intuitive sheet import process that makes it easy to convert google sheet to web app. Simply create the app process and attach your google sheet. AppSheet automatically creats forms based on the sheet data, but these forms can be easily modified. Multiple views and reports can be added and then quickly published to a web or mobile application.
The Zoho platform is quite extensive and can consume many different data sources. Zoho has created a google integration that allows a custom application to be generated directly from the Google Sheets interface. This solution is quick and easy to use but you will still share the sheet the old traditional way.
Algo by AirDev
Algo is a very simple way to add form functionality to your google sheet and then publish to the web. This method is more suited to simple data collection or survey style sheets.
3) Custom Software Development
As organizations grow, their data and technology needs follow. At some point in an organization’s life, solutions that worked in the past are no longer suited to capture the enhanced complexity of it’s business needs. This can happen when new parties need more robust reporting methods, or when the data collection is scaled up. This is when you may want to consider using custom software to convert Google Sheet to web app, with more advanced database designs and custom interface options.
- Provides most flexibility compared to other options
- Taylor made solutions are generally better for employees and customers as they incorporate the organization’s unique relationships and structure.
- Provides the most control and predictability for an organization long run
- Ability to fully reap the benefits of user experience and security features
- You aren’t at the whim of data ownership and contract fine print
- Most pertinent way to safeguard any sort of secret sauce
- Tends to be more expensive upfront
- Require on-going hosting
- Needs a strong product vision and in-house champion to ensure requirement analysis and scope creep is managed
- Organizations need to understand their process and have clarity on where they want to upsize towards
Convert Google Sheet to Web App Proven Experience
Mindfield Consulting has helped organizations lead their industry by creating powerful technologies birthed from spreadsheets and macros, that allowed our client to redefine a global business process to reduce risk and increase the delivery velocity of key products. We help organizations find the right mix of packaged and custom software from planning service delivery to remote locations to global trading systems for precious materials and resources. Mindfield Consulting has over two decades of experience delivering technology that meets every mission. Our client’s win when they are empowered with the right technology and the right people for over 19 years across Canada. Mindfield specializes in custom software development, elearning for corporate training, and jira expert consulting.