The world of web design and development is changing rapidly. New programming languages, open source blogging and CMS platforms are popping up left and right, and there are more proprietary systems out there than one person could ever hope to learn in one lifetime.
In this world it might seem like web design and development is moving in a thousand different directions, but in reality I think there is one constant that we are going to see grow more and more in the very near future and that is application APIs.
What is an API?
API stands for application programming interface and is created to allow certain functionality or data of one application to be accessed by another.
What Good Are They?
APIs allow us to tie functionality into websites that would otherwise take an enormous amount of time and effort to build from scratch. APIs are a sanctioned way of reusing someone else’s functionality without having to build it all yourself.
How are They Influencing Web Design?
Social Media – User Registration
More and more websites need (or want) to collect more user data for a variety of reasons. Previously this was a difficult task. You first had to convince a visitor to your site that there was a good enough reason to register with your site.
You then had to direct them to a registration process (which you probably had to have custom coded to meet your needs) and hope they fill it out correctly and don’t get frustrated and simply abandon the process.
Social Media APIs have totally changed the way user registration is handled. Now registration for a site is as simple for a user as entering their Facebook, Twitter, Open ID, or Google account information on your site. With this they can log in to your site and you are free to use whatever information the API makes available.
These APIs make it easier for your users to register for your site and these implementations usually require less or the same amount of coding as a standard user registration process. I believe soon we will be looking at 4 or 5 major online identities which will be carried with us across the Internet. Custom site registration will become a thing of the past.
Social Media – Viral Content
It has never been easier for you to push your content out to social media platforms while also allowing your users to do the same. The Facebook and Twitter APIs are probably the 2 best examples of this. With a proper setup utilizing these APIs you can basically put your social media publishing on auto pilot, furthering the reach of your website and blog article.
Many of the big online mapping services have, or are developing, APIs for people to use on their websites.
The result is that we are increasingly seeing more and more complex geo services taking shape on the web. Anything and anyone can be mapped and it’s as simple as getting an API key, including some scripts and writing a little custom code.
Almost all of the big email marketing companies have some sort of API which allows you to automatically add your new users to a mailing list (with proper permission of course), manage lists from external websites and automate your email marketing efforts.
Who knows what new technology will be easily accessible to web developers in the near future? With almost every large software and web company developing APIs for their products is it possible we are entering a point in web development where developers will simply be tying multiple APIs together to achieve functionality on average websites that was unimaginable five years ago?
Only time will tell.