When you find yourself in a restaurant in a foreign country where the staff doesn’t speak English, you definitely need someone to translate everything for you. But imagine if the menu in every restaurant had an English dictionary with a phonetic guide that could help you order your dinner without anyone’s help. Well, that’s basically how an API works.
An API functions like a dictionary that allows two pieces of technology to communicate with each other. It allows a piece of software to use specific functionalities from a different program, platform, and technology altogether. While most people are not aware of what they are, APIs are unsung heroes of the modern tech world.
And while we explained how APIs function, you probably still don’t know a whole about them. Here are a few things your average person doesn’t know about APIs…
The key to designing a successful API is the communication between the developer, API owner, and the end-user. The developers, of course, have the hardest job because they need to have a full understanding of the service, users, as well as business needs, just to name a few.
The chain of communication will filter through the app development all the way to the API users. For that reason, the developer needs to start working on API documentation even before a single line of code has been written down.
But the developers also need to have a close working relationship with the marketing and the sales team. In order to build a fully responsive API that will represent the app perfectly, the developer needs to build a good relationship with the stakeholders before the project even starts.
Apps always change during the design process – certain features get added, other ones get left out, etc. However, it’s rather important to know what you want your application to do before you start putting in work on your API. If the direction of the project changes halfway through, you’ll end up losing a lot of work hours in the process.
That’s why the developers need to have a talk with the stakeholders and figure out what they want the app to do. Only after that, the developers can map out the consumer journey and think about the app behavior. This part of the process should give you a clear indication of what the app is going to do for the end-user.
Although a vast majority of APIs out there is free, some of them will cost you. As a matter of fact, some companies even offer their APIs as services. The company might offer a certain amount of data for free. However, if an app that’s using their API starts generating huge download numbers, the app owners need to pay for the use of the API.
That leads us to our point – a lot of companies base their API pricing structure on download and user numbers. So the API may free for the first 1000 downloads. But if the app becomes popular, the owners need to pay a good sum of money to access the API data.
Therefore, businesses that are working an app need to factor this into their plans. For instance, if you’re planning to monetize your application, you’re probably trying to have a good number of users. And if that’s the case, you need to be aware of what APIs you’re using in the design of your app and see whether you’ll be charged for using them or not.
Now that we established that you need to pay for some APIs, you also need to be aware that not all APIs are easy to find. Of course, some of the more popular ones – Twitter API, Facebook API, and Google Maps API, for instance – can easily be found with a quick Google search.
On the other hand, some smaller companies that have large amounts of user data stored want to capitalize on it. For that reason, they build their own custom APIs. If you have a WordPress or an e-commerce website, that data needs to be translated into a mobile platform.
And these are what we call private APIs. In general, they are designed with a single, specific purpose in mind. They also require a lot of thought about the type of data the app needs from the site, server, or database to work properly.
There are countless articles out there talking about the functions and possibilities of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and the Internet of Things. However, tech writers sometimes forget about the glue that keeps all of those technologies together – APIs.
If you’re working on an app, chances are, you’ll try to develop an API at some a certain point in time. That’s why you need to know its role in the entire process and understand what you want to form it.
We hope this article provided all of the information you were looking for and that you know how APIs work. If you have any additional questions on the matter – or if you feel like we left something out – feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.
CEO and Founder at Mighty Shouts.
*Enter your best email, we'll send this case study directly to email.
** Don't worry. We never spam or share your information with anybody.