LGSS Digital Blog
Service design for local government
APIs for dummies
What’s an API, I hear you cry?
Be prepared for a magical whistle stop tour through the mind of Will Wise, senior developer and top diamond geezer.
API stands for Application Programming Interface. Yeah, I get that anybody can Google that, but what does it actually mean?
Well, an API is a bit of software that helps one thing talk to another thing.
Here’s the tech…
The two systems don’t actually directly relate to each other. For example, you could completely rewrite one application, but if it’s still outputting the same data in the same place, anything that’s calling it can continue to consume that data in the same way.
Here’s a real world example…
I’m Luigi and I run a traditional Italian pizza joint.
I’ve created a database that holds information about my pizzas. I’ve also created a website that customers can order the pizza from.
To help the website talk to the database, I’ve created an API which will take the list and feed it onto the site. I know, doesn’t it just sound wonderful? But how is this relevant?
Well, the database I’m using is far too expensive, so I need to move to a cheaper database.
But Luigi, it’ll cost you so much to make changes to your database, API and site!
Well, here’s the first advantage of an API…
I can replace my database and just point my API to the new database and 🎉 my website is already reading the new data. Isn’t that just magical?
“An API is a bit of software that helps one thing talk to another thing…
…isn’t that just magical?“
Another reason why APIs are awesome…
Luigi we’re in the 21st century now, we have mobile phones to order a pizza!
Here’s another benefit of creating a great API. Luigi can call his mate Antonio – who has vast years of experience building mobile applications and owns his own ice cream van – to build him an app.
The great thing about the API is that you can also use it within the mobile application so it shows the SAME DATA!
So now, Luigi has a thriving business selling pizza to the masses and it’s all down to APIs.