How Your Business Can Benefit from API Usage?

Today, you will come across the term “API” whenever you discuss web services, web applications or custom software development. And more often than not, you will hear that if you develop an application, you should definitely consider creating an API for your business.

Technically speaking, your application can exist without an API, and its basic performance will not be affected. However, it will be completely isolated from the rest of the software world. Imagine standing in a busy street of a foreign city not knowing a single world of the language people speak. There will be crowds bustling around you, but you will not be able even to ask how to get to your hotel. An application without an API will be similarly numb, as APIs are the language applications speak to each other.

What is an API and why would you need it?

Let’s start with the second question. APIs have numerous uses for all kinds of businesses. If you are a restaurant, travel agency or hotel with a website, you will probably want the site to show a map with driving directions. Of course, you can design your own map, but there are Google Maps already. They are detailed and reliable, they support lots of useful functions and everybody loves Google Maps. So, you can use the Google Maps API to display a little piece of them on your website and easily direct customers to your place.

Or, if your business is, for example, an educational portal, you would want your users to create accounts to follow their progress and to track their status. You will, of course, create a sign-in form, but a wise choice will be an option to sign in using social media profiles, e. g. Facebook. This way, your users will not have to fill in all their data as it will be automatically synchronized with their Facebook profiles and, what is also important, you will get Facebook presence through likes and shares. And how can you do it? That’s right, with the Facebook API.

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And another way around – you can make an agreement with the tourist information website of your region to have your hotel included in the "Places to Stay" section. Users visiting the website will be able to immediately check your availability and book a room. For that you will need to provide your API to the tourist information website developers, so that they can integrate your booking engine into their code structure.

So, as you can see, the benefits of an API for your business are numerous, both when you are using a third-party API and when you are creating an API for your business.

Let’s see what APIs are and how you can use them. The acronym API stands for “Application Programming Interface” and describes the rules according to which your application works. Depending on the availability for usage, an API can be private or public.

Private APIs

A private API is intended for use by the company developers and is not exposed to third parties. Although such API is not going to improve your service integration into other applications, it still has a number of benefits.

  • Opportunity to test the API. Developing a private API can be the first step towards digital transformation of your business. You may not be completely ready to provide your code to external developers but you can start with using it internally. Such strategy may help achieve multiple goals – testing API in a safe environment, at the same time improving integration between the components of your application
  • Unification of your development processes. Since APIs are, in fact, sets of clearly defined rules, applying an API for your business will make all development teams use the same rules and formats. Such approach will make the application code more streamlined and transparent. On the other side, using common API documentation will ease the development process and help new team members get started quicker and with more confidence
  • More efficient collaboration. If you approach software development from the point of view of an API, you will create different software components with greater attention to their integration. If software components communicate via an API, they must have the same data formats, the same requirements to mandatory and optional parameters and the same dependencies between fields
  • More consistent feature development. With a comprehensive API created for your entire business process, you can insert new features easier. There is less possibility of a new feature affecting any existing functionality, and a better chance of discovering errors, as any new component will be called by several other components
  • Reduction of the time-to-market. This benefit is a logical consequence of the ones described before. With development unification, increased collaboration efficiency and easier development, you can create more functional workflows and allocate resources in a more advantageous manner. This way, you can speed up your development significantly and roll out the finished product sooner

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As you can see, using an API even internally can have a positive effect on your business. However, including a public API into your business solution can be even more beneficial.

Public APIs

A public API, also called an open API, is available for access by third-party developers. When you share your business API, you allow other applications to integrate with yours using the provided methods. Using your API, another application can request a certain action to be performed by your application or get data from it.

The benefits of developing a public API for your business are quite considerable:

  • Customer database growth. With a public API, you allow other developers to integrate pieces of your code into their applications increasing your presence and attracting potential customers before they even come across your website
  • Increased conversion rate. A user finding your service through another application is more likely to make an enquiry or even a purchase from you. For example, if you browse the website of your destination airport and come across a car rental service offering real-time availability and price data, you will, at the very least, try to get a quotation. You won’t have to specially search for car rentals, because it’s right there, with pickup and return locations already set. It is easy and convenient for you and it is very advantageous for the car rental business, as they are getting customers through the other business’s resources. And what they did to achieve such results was provide their API to the developers of the airport website
  • Monetization. Yes, you can charge money for your API usage. Your cooperation with another application may be beneficial for both of you, so you can charge it for using your API. This is how most online payment gateways operate, PayPal in particular. It is prepared to share its API with other businesses to provide them with a fast and convenient payment system, but it charges a commission for its services

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However, while developing a public API for your business, you also have to consider additional requirements to the code you are going to share:

  • It must be free of bugs. Sharing an API which does not perform properly may backfire at you and cause great reputational losses
  • Its security system must be flawless. Exposing an API to third parties carries an increased risk both to your data and to the data of your partners, so security measures must be top level. You must be very careful with introducing changes and decommissioning older versions. Any changes which might affect your partners or end users should be announced well in advance to allow for necessary upgrades and adjustments. Also, new API versions should be backward compatible to ensure consistent performance
  • In developing your business API, you should keep to the commonly used formats and protocols and avoid custom technologies. This way, your API can be easily accessed and integrated into other applications without complex, resource-consuming adaptations. Today, the most commonly used API protocols are REST and SOAP, with REST getting increasingly popular. SOAP APIs exchange data in the XML format, while REST APIs use JSON

 

There are hundreds of publicly available APIs nowadays, because businesses recognize their value for the product promotion. Moreover, many companies encourage their API usage by third parties, as this brings them additional sales opportunities. For the above-mentioned Google Maps we’ve published a step-by-step tutorial on embedding their API in a web application. Using these instructions, you can easily insert a map showing your business location into your site content.

With Google Maps, such cooperation is beneficial for both sides – you get a reliable and convenient navigation service to which customers are used, and Google Maps, in addition to expanding its presence, gets direct revenue, as it starts charging you if the map is loaded more than 25,000 times per day.

So, we think we have convinced you that developing an API is a necessary component of your long-lasting business strategy. Make sure that your API is professional and consistent, so it performs the required functions properly. Keep in mind that in API “I” stands for the interface and this is exactly what it does – it assists your application in reaching out to the rest of the world. 

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