Visually Assemble APIs with Crowdbotics

Getting Started with the Crowdbotics Model Builder

Crowdbotics model builder view with data models assembled
Create and edit data models visually with the Model Builder in Crowdbotics

All apps have a frontend and a backend. The frontend is what the user sees, interacts with, and experiences (buttons, colors, fonts, stuff like that). The backend is everything going on behind the curtain.

Just as the Crowdbotics Storyboarding Tool helps you lay out your user flow, the Crowdbotics Model Builder is for building backends.

You might’ve heard of an API before, and it’s important for backends, so here’s what it is and how it works: API stands for Application Programming Interface, and it is a way for information from one program to be shared with other programs.

Imagine you’re at a fast food restaurant. You can’t get your food until you order, and you have to order through the cashier. Think of the cashier as an API. The API takes your order, reports it to the kitchen, and the kitchen makes your food.

When you have a program on your laptop, it can do a lot of digging around and talking to parts of your laptop. However, it cannot go over to LinkedIn and mess with data there, because just like the restaurant doesn’t want you in the kitchen, LinkedIn doesn’t want your programs in their data. So LinkedIn offers an API: a menu for ordering specific stuff. The program on your laptop makes an order through LinkedIn’s API and LinkedIn fulfills the order.

Now you’re getting the hang of APIs.

Crowdbotics’ new Model Builder makes creating these APIs very simple. You don’t need to learn Django and you don’t need to use Firebase. You can just use the CB Model Builder.

How to use the Crowdbotics Model Builder

Your app’s data models are addable to apps within the app dashboard’s “Models” view. The database section lets you add a list of models, specify fields for each model, and generate code with working APIs, database structures, and basic webpages that can be downloaded as a folder and then uploaded straight into a GitHub repo.

Crowdbotics model builder default screen
The Model Builder comes with a few prebuilt data models

Each model should contain individual fields that correspond to the data records it will need to reference. You can pick reasonable choices for each field’s data type: strings, characters, and so on. Enter all of your models. When you’re done, click “save” to get a ZIP file of all the code, ready to add to the Crowdbotics app.

Once you’ve uploaded your models, go ahead and click “Deploy App” on the Crowdbotics dashboard, then head over to the admin panel (found on the left-hand menu of the dashboard). Remember, credentials get emailed to the app’s creator, but you can change them once you go into the app admin panel.

Your app is now live with a working backend and a temporary frontend. You have the following three things available:

  • Admin panel containing all the models you created
  • Basic web views for all the models you created
  • User registration, user login, password resets
  • APIs for each model you created

Understanding the admin panel

Crowdbotics generates terrific admin panels that have a lot of handy built-in features. Here’s what you can do out of the box:

  • Add and remove users
  • Reset passwords
  • Define which users have access to the admin panel (click the staff checkbox on a user’s account in the users list and save to give someone access)
  • Create user groups (click on Groups, or click on a user and click + to create a group)
  • Define which user groups have which permissions to access which models
  • View all database objects that you’ve created
  • Add and remove database objects individually

It’s always speedy to add or remove things to and from the admin panel, so we recommend using this as the main way to admin your database.

Automated API documentation

When you use the Model Builder, you’re actually creating cloud-based, secure, fully documented REST APIs through visual assembly. These APIs are generated in the background whenever you edit a data model.

List of API endpoints automatically documented by Crowdbotics
Crowdbotics automatically generates self-documented API endpoints

The Crowdbotics Model Builder uses self-documenting API endpoints. This means that if you visit any URL for an API in a Crowdbotics app, it will show the automatic documentation for that API. This documentation includes the valid parameters you can submit and any notes from the comments in the code, saving you the effort of writing your own documentation after the fact.

This type of documentation comes directly from Django Rest Framework, so you will get it anytime you’re building backends with Django (even if you don’t use the Crowdbotics Model Builder).

Storing and manipulating data is the fundamental purpose of all apps. With the Crowdbotics model builder, you can create your app's foundation all on your own – no coding required.

Do you have a great app idea? Try out the Crowdbotics Model Builder today.

Originally published:

April 10, 2020

Related Articles