If you’re a tech person, you know exactly what an API is. But a lot of people who are seeking help with EDI and online order management would rather focus on the products they sell and the brand they want to build. If that describes you, hearing about something called an API makes your eyes glaze over.
API is an acronym that stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s a conduit, gathering information and sharing it with the appropriate applications, databases, and devices. The right one allows data to flow easily, reduces manual data entry, saves valuable time, and prevents errors. By merging order information with other systems, a good API brings everything together.
Think of an API like the menu in a restaurant. There is a list of dishes that are like your programming options. When you decide what you want, the kitchen does the work and the server delivers the finished dishes to your table. You don’t know exactly how the restaurant prepares that food, and you don’t really need to.
Similarly, an API offers a menu of operations that developers can use, along with a description of what they do. The developer doesn’t necessarily need to know, for example, exactly how an operating system builds and presents a SAVE AS dialog box. The developer just needs to know that it’s available.
This might be an oversimplification but it gives you some idea. APIs save time because developers can use the built-in implementation system to do the detail work. This means developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel with new code, and it’s easier to integrate with the system — an ERP, WMS or accounting software — that the company already uses.
For programmers, an API is an invaluable resource, giving them the building blocks they need to build an intuitive, customized interface, and deliver the digital shopping experience that people expect. Behind every robust online sales platform, for example, there is a hardworking API that makes everything possible.