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A guide to understanding APIs

API’s first originated from the 1940s and chances are you’ve never heard of them but you’ve used them countless times. For businesses to expand their technological innovation and reach online, APIs are essential. With more users expecting multi-device functionality and links to third-party applications, this is the must-have application of the decade. 

In this blog post, we are going to be breaking down everything you need to know about APIs, the benefits they bring to your business and why they’re a vital addition to your website. So you can advance user experience, streamline searchable data and increase business opportunities.

What are APIs?

API’s stand for Application Programming Interface. This is a set of functions and procedures that access data and features on other applications or operating systems. This means that applications can work together to automatically deliver the information or functionality requested; without the user having to intervene. For example, when searching for ‘website development’ in the search bar on our website. This uses the ‘GET’ API function that allows the user to access our website database, retrieve associated results and choose the resource they want to obtain. 

How do APIs work?

A common real-world example used to describe how APIs work is ordering food at a restaurant. As the dinner guest, you represent the customer, the waiter represents the API and the cook represents the server. When you have looked over the menu and decided your order, the food is then prepped for you. With the cook, making your order and the waiter bringing your food. 

To break this down further, there are three items in the above chain: website or mobile application, mainframe API and finally server. All these applications work together to create this chain and execute the requested action. They allow the transmission of data and actions from system to server which creates multi-device functionality and connectivity. Whether you are accessing CMS servers such as Umbraco or purchasing an item off a website. 

Why are APIs important?

With more people owning different devices and wanting a streamlined customer experience, APIs are vital in helping the user get their request done faster and allowing better integrations with other applications. For example, an eCommerce website getting payment information from your chosen payment provider or embedding a Google Analytic script on a website. These integrations both guarantee a better user experience, increasing customer satisfaction and partial access to customer data, increasing the digital success of your business.

But what’s the difference between websites and APIs? Websites and APIs are very similar to each other they both return requested information whether this be data, written content, images and videos. But the websites return the front end information or the information seen by the user on the website. Whereas an API is back end information, information only seen by website designers and developers. Also known as the machine-readable information needed to place content resources on the website. Without an API, your business service wouldn’t be able to work over multiple interfaces; making this very problematic for potential customers.

Benefits of APIs

APIs are single handled transforming businesses. Making online business websites and content available over multiple platforms; allowing for a wider audience spread and a potential increase in business revenue. With more consumers being reached there are many more benefits that APIs can bring:

Website personalisation refers to presenting visitors with unique content tailored to their needs and desires; often through an API like Google Analytics. Looking at the amount of time spent on the website, page interests and traffic source. This means that you can curate emotional connections with the user, through their evidenced interests, boost website engagement, build brand loyalty and importantly grow overall conversion rates. 

Product information across multiple user devices and online platforms. By nature, APIs are built with connectivity in mind. They connect data from different sources to perform the requested action. For example, redirects from an Instagram post to the website content or listed product of interest. Or connecting published brand content to their product offerings. All of which increase brand recognition, click through rates and an overall increase in advertising-driven benefits. 

Improved user experience for every website and application visitor. User experience is the overall functional and emotional takeaway a website visitor has when using your website. APIs allow companies to cross-sell their products across a wide range of services with reduced loading times. It also allows cross-device functionality, providing content on multiple devices and overall easing user access to your digital business. Increasing audience engagement, brand efficiency and content shareability. 

Technological adaptation for each connected platform. As needs change over time, APIs adapt to work seamlessly with technology and better support data migration. Ensuring compliance with platform updates and data regulations; so your business is consistently keeping customer data safe whilst upgrading platform suitability. This makes APIs one of the most flexible programmes that any business can invest in. Changing with your business needs, to make your service provision more flexible.

Popular Web APIs

There are many different APIs available, that come in a variety of formats and functionalities. When choosing an API, it is important to see what major companies have available. Companies like Google, YouTube and PayPal have some of the most popular API software. Their credibility, experience and popularity make them vital to your business. Here’s a rundown of their API systems:

Google Analytics API – Google has a multitude of APIs, but their most popular API is their analytics package. When you implement the tracking code on your website, you can monitor website visitor information and overall web traffic. This also includes other analytics such as conversion rates, customer lifetime value and total session time. All of which can link back to your sales funnels and various success metrics; to increase conversions and product return on investment. 

YouTube Video API – YouTube is the second most popular website. So if you want to optimise video content for your user base, we recommend this API. Video content is one of the best ways to engage your audience, increase user threshold and further digital partnerships. The YouTube API allows you to embed their video player on your website, with the ability to customise playback and video recommendations. Raising awareness of your brands online content, increasing user engagement and potential cross-platform conversions. 

PayPal APIs  – This platform is the world’s biggest payment system. With many customers now paying for products or services online, using third-party platforms to encrypt their data. Especially for e-commerce websites integrating this payment processor is vital to easily and securely accept digital payments. It reduces the basket abandonment rate, is highly rated for security and makes purchasing online a breeze. 

Conclusion

Application Programming Interfaces have many business applications and can be integrated into your digital business model to upgrade your product offering and customer experience. Creating connectivity between both online platforms and the vast online user community. 

Here at Codeminers, our highly experienced web developers can help you improve your website development and integrate API systems; to streamline your digital processes and prevent any website maintenance issues.

Find out how we can help upgrade your website by talking to a member of our specialist team. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to see the latest technology updates in the website development space.

  • Written by Simon Proctor, June 11 2021