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API 101, and why you need to start using the “craft glue” of online apps

24 Oct 2017
API 101, and why you need to start using the “craft glue” of online apps

Guest Post – Smarter Business Processes

What even is an API?

In the simplest explanation – an API is something which allows third parties to interact with the underlying data within a system. Think of it like a gate which allows external “plugins” to hook-in to an app and add functionality to the underlying application.

For example – imagine the interaction between a billing system and separate accounting system.

In the bad old days, you would create invoices in the billing system and at month end, re-enter those into your accounting system.

If both of these systems had an API – you could create a “glue” which would detect the created bill – then automatically create this bill in your accounting system, sync up any contacts from both systems, and generally eliminate all manual data entry (did I hear you say YAY!).

Practically, a lot of online applications build their own integrations (glue) with popular complementary apps – think about tools which can import and export data into, say, a CRM for you – this would be an example of where the API interaction has been done for us.

The best online “glue” – Zapier

By glue – we mean the stuff that combines and holds things together.

Zapier is a web tool which allows you to connect your web apps together, make your own glue and do cool stuff. It connects with hundreds of online tools (all of them have an API) – and it allows you to create triggers (e.g. new invoice created in billing system) and actions (e.g. create invoice in accounting system).

Zapier has a very simple interface which allows you to hook these things up, and there are literally millions of combinations of things you can do. I would recommend checking out some of their free offers and combinations.

What have we used Zapier for?

Here are some of the Zaps that we use to make our lives easier:

  • Read data from a formatted email (from an external web form) – push that data into a Trello board, and notify a message on Slack
  • Create a new google contact based on a new asana project (so that you have the email address in your address book)
  • Notify slack whenever a purchase is made through our stripe web store
  • Setup a new google doc based on a prospect being added on a Trello board
  • Automatically add a LinkedIn post based on a new WordPress blog
  • Create an email template from an iForms uploaded form

In the time it took our marketing manager to read this post, she’d already thought of a half dozen new apps she needed to glue together. How many have you got?

Make a list of every time you have to do the same task or enter the same number into two different systems, then register here for our complimentary workshop to find out how your systems could be improved.