Firstly, what is an Application Programming Interface (API)?
An Application Programming Interface (API) is, simply put, a messenger, that allows two applications to talk to each other.
A client will make a request on a website, the API fetches the data and returns it.
A commonly used example of how this works offline, is to think of a waiter as an API. You go into a restaurant and you choose what it is you’d like to eat and drink and you tell the waiter. The waiter then goes to the kitchen with your request and returns with your order.
An example online would be searching for a holiday via a website. You enter your requirements and the API goes off and retrieves the information from the holiday providers (often multiple providers) and returns this information to you.
APIs are constantly running back and forth, providing the most up to date information.
Why are APIs becoming very important for businesses?
The API economy is allowing businesses to expand at a rapid rate, giving them the opportunity to move into areas they may never have considered before. They can help you to improve all aspects of your business.
APIs also enable businesses to benefit from the work already done by someone else. Allowing them to access the data and use it to benefit their own business. Why build something from scratch if someone has already done that hard work and is giving it to you for free?
If details of locations are on your website, you can simply add a Google Maps API which gives you a vast amount of information without having to spend a huge amount of time creating and developing that data. This benefits the user as it provides correct and up to date information that they are most likely familiar with e.g the Google Maps interface.
You can rely on APIs for updates, with deliveries for example. You can add APIs to your website to keep your client’s up to date automatically. Preventing the need for them to contact you, chasing for delivery progress updates.
APIs can be used throughout your website to improve all areas, providing additional information to improve your customer’s experience. You can also use them on your internal systems to highlight new or recurring business opportunities.
Examples of businesses leveraging APIs
• Google Maps APIs– This was mentioned earlier in the article and a huge number of businesses use the Google Maps API. Estate agents use it to show property locations and local amenities without needing to go out and find that information for each individual property. It is also often used to show your business listing on your website.
• Weather Widgets/APIs - These are often used on smartphones, the smartphone provider doesn’t need to find this information themselves, they can just add a weather API to the mobile apps to give additional information to the user e.g. the OpenWeatherMap (openweathermap.org). This API is used by over 2.4 million customers and can be accessed for free. Holiday companies will also use weather APIs, allowing the user to quickly check the weather and predicted weather for their chosen holiday destinations.
• Accounting APIs – When creating invoices, the information can be entered into your client management system and the API for your chosen accounting software (e.g. Xero or Quickbooks) will receive that information and create an invoice to be sent to the client. Drastically increasing productivity and reducing duplication for data processing.
• DVLA API – Car Mechanic businesses can connect to the DVLA API to receive updates on previous customers. This enables them to be proactive and send alerts by SMS or email for MOT reminders.
• Social Media Posting APIs - there are a number of tools such as HootSuite and Buffer which allow you to schedule social media posts from a single interface rather than logging in and posting individual posts on each Social platform. These solutions are able to schedule and publish posts by utilising each social media platforms API.
The benefits of using APIs for your business
There are many benefits of using APIs, including:
- Enhancing user experience.
- Automating business processes.
- Automating labour-intensive tasks.
- Saving you time.
- Reducing the possibility of human error.
- Stopping the need for duplicating work.
- Offering scalable solutions, you can quickly grow your company as they can enhance your product/service and attract more customers.
- Having automated systems in place makes you less reliant upon employees.
Start utilising modern technology today
A web developer will be able to connect you to modern technology, such as APIs, and the most efficient and cost effective ways of using them. They have the expertise and understanding to be able to find the best solutions for your business.
API management is second nature to web developers, they fully understand the ins and outs of them and can easily identify where they will be beneficial to your business.
During software development, developers can access public apis which can be incorporated into your business interfaces and systems.
Contact Rushax today to see how APIs can help your business.
If you have an idea that you would like to pursue and you’re not sure where to start. We can work with you from the very beginning, including helping you to build a brief. Through to finding and implementing a solution to make your idea a reality.