If you’ve been around websites long enough, chances are you’ve heard the term “API” (just say the three letters: A – P – I) by now… and you’re still wondering what exactly an API is!
The literal meaning of “API” is: Application Programming Interface.
In layman’s terms, though, an API is a set of rules that allows two completely different systems (or Applications) to interact.
For instance, if your business has an Instagram account and you post regularly to it, you should definitely put all those images on your website! Using the Instagram API, your website can communicate with Instagram to retrieve your images and info, and put them right on your website.
The most common use of APIs on the web is probably for payment processing. Instead of building your own payment processor, storing customer credit cards and other private information, and checking the validity of the credit info, you can use the API from a company like Stripe to process your customer’s payments. Stripe does ALL the heave lifting when it comes to processing credit cards–your website will just need to send it the right API commands with the right information, and their system will make sure things run smoothly all the way to Visa/Mastercard/Amex.
Now, if you plan on using an API on your website, it’s not just a simple matter of making the connection–it’s a copy-and-paste kind of solution. You’ll need to write code that verifies the authenticity of your connection, grabs exactly the right data that you need, and displays it in the fashion you want.
If you’re building a website from scratch, there’s always some coding involved to make it work. But if you have a WordPress website, there are plenty of free and premium plugins that already provide code that will connect you to different APIs (ie Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Stripe, USPS, UPS, Fedex, etc.) so you don’t have to do all the work–you’ll just need to spend a little time setting it up!