What Is An API?
What does an Application Program Interface (API) Mean?
The term “API” can be kind of a confusing to a lot of people, and if you look at the expanded acronym, “Application Program Interface”, the terminology is even less meaningful to those people who do not understand its exact purpose. Still, it gets the general idea across that it is something to make things work together. I guess the easiest way to say this is in order to have an API, you have to have something you want to give limited access to, for example, a database on a server.
A web-service is an API, but not all APIs are web-services.
You market your service, and provide people with something to access using a key or keys, often in the form of a user/pass login with a cookie key, sometimes using what is known as an ‘API key’. Now, you’re probably thinking, “well, that half sounds just like a normal website,” and you’d be right. A web service is a form of an API to a client’s browser, wrapped in the HTTP protocol. So a web-service is an API, but not all APIs are web-services.
More commonly though, robots (well, scripted procedures) communicate automatically on behalf of people, and we provide services to these robots with computer-readable information they can interpret and return to their overlords, and this is the process most commonly referred to as an API. In this sense, there was a client program, which communicated to an application through an interface. Usually these interfaces provided have some rules set in place to keep things secure and the data structure consistent, and these rules are found in the “API Documentation.” It can take a lot of time to add these rules to a serving program and even more to keep them updated as the program grows over time, so an API tends to be a very nice commodity provided by applications who both mean business and have mastered their process.
Why Is It Important?
This is a hard one to write as a programmer. I’m just like, “It’s important because it inherently is important.” So, let’s say someone says, “I’ve never had to use an API before, how could it help me function online now?”
The answer is, you could practically use it to extend your productivity in any way you can think of.
An API is a way for you to access a program that someone has already done the work of making. You can use small pieces of code to vastly extend the functionality of what you already have existing to suit those specific needs, from information collection, to credit card processing, to validating addresses and phone numbers. As you can imagine, some of these are integral parts of what someone may need to incorporate into an online process, and applying these prefabricated solutions can save one both precious time and money.
How DesignInk Uses APIs
Here at DesignInk, “API” is part of our everyday terminology! A couple small ways we use APIs to enhance site functionality is through the Google Maps and the MailChimp API’s. Using a small amount of code, you can place a small, interactive map from Google on your page, choosing to show location information or Google business records. Using the MailChimp API, we can efficiently help you collect emails for different marketing campaigns to push product and branding information and follow up with participation incentives.
Increase your functionality
One of our most impressive usages of an API has been with a company by the name of “Infusionsoft.” Using the Infusionsoft API, we were able to write custom code surrounding an application that allowed us to create and track user profiles, accept and process credit card transactions associated with the accounts, and create retrievable subscription information based on current payment statuses. This enabled us to create a powerful application for our clients which focused primarily on their functionality needs while still providing the most important parts of maintaining their business.
If you would like to know more about how your website could function more productively, or if an API could increase your site’s functionality – contact DesignInk for a consultation.
Note from Kathy, a creative… If you don’t understand anything about APIs and want to increase your website’s productivity and functionality – then definitely call DesignInk and we can help make it happen. You don’t have to understand anything about the robots communicating on behalf of people and then reporting to their overlords.