There once was a time when your clients desired certain features that either left you scratching your head as to how you’d pull it off or dreading all of the work it would take to manually put something like that together. However, with the rising popularity of application programming interfaces, or APIs, that’s no longer an issue…
With an API, you create a connection between your website and an application for the purposes of drawing on its data or features. This allows you to not only enhance the on-site experience, but to streamline a lot of the processes that would otherwise require much tedious hand-holding behind the scenes. Many of you are probably familiar with the multitude of APIs Google has created.
But it’s not just Google that’s trying to make it easier for web developers and designers to create impressive online experiences. According to APIHound, it has a repository of over 50,000 APIs while ProgrammableWeb lists over 22,000. Even if only the top 1% are usable, that’s still 200 to 500 high-quality APIs you could be leveraging to build websites.
That said, I’m not going to leave you to figure out which ones are worth your time. Below, you’ll find the 15 best APIs for web design and development:
1. Google Analytics
Tracking visitor activity on a website with Google Analytics is non-negotiable these days. But there’s more to get out of this platform than just watching web traffic go up and down. You can use the Google Analytics APIs to:
- Monitor custom data, like e-commerce conversion rates and lifetime value calculations.
- Create special tracking dashboards for the backend of your website.
- Go deeper with sales funnel tracking and analysis.
2. Google Geo-location (Maps)
Google Maps is the more commonly recognized geo-location API from Google. However, there are other ways to use this API to your advantage:
- Make embedded maps look however you like (e.g. street view enabled, 360-degree pivot, etc.)
- Show route data along with real-time traffic insights.
- Equip search fields and forms with pre-populated geo-location data that matches real world locations.
3. Google Fonts
The Google Fonts API gives developers a way to call on a Google Font from the directory. This way, you don’t need to host any cumbersome font files on your server. Google handles the load.
4. Google Translate
Building an international website and need a quick and convenient way to translate it into numerous languages? You can use Google’s Cloud Translation and API service to help. All you need is an HTML and Google Translate will take care of the rest.
5. Google Calendar
For a business that hosts lots of events — online or in-person — a calendar would come in handy for the website. With the Google Calendar API, you can instantly make that connection and start displaying public or private events.
6. G Suite Apps
Google’s suite of apps have their own corresponding APIs, too. So, let’s say you have a contact form that provides your client with important information prior to a sales call. You could configure the Google Sheets API to capture the data submitted by users, which would help the sales rep or business owner in preparing for the call ahead of time.
You know it’s not a very good idea to upload video files to your server. Thanks to the YouTube API, you can easily embed video players into your website and customize the playback settings. You can also use the API to pull in data from YouTube to your website’s dashboard.
Vimeo is another popular video playback solution that has its own API. If your clients would prefer to manage their video content with Vimeo, know that you have the ability to leverage the API to embed videos on the site, pull in usage data, and customize playback.
9. Facebook Messenger
Want to build a Facebook Messenger chatbot for your website? With the Messenger API, you can do that. What’s more, you can program how the bot interacts with visitors, so it doesn’t just end up being a holding queue for visitors waiting to connect with a real person through the site or over on Facebook.
10. Facebook Apps and Plugins
Facebook provides developers with APIs so they can get more out of their marketing efforts on the social media platform itself. However, it also provides a set of APIs and SDKs that can be used on websites. With them, you can:
- Add a Facebook login.
- Embed social media feeds and posts.
- Track website conversions in relation to Facebook.
Truth be told, all of the leading social media platforms have their own APIs. But if we’re looking at the more valuable ones to include on your website, Facebook and Twitter are probably them. That said, Twitter’s offering for web developers is a bit lighter than Facebook’s. With it, you’ll gain the ability to embed Twitter feeds, posts, as well as share buttons.
If you’re not familiar with it, the Twilio API is an incredibly powerful tool for businesses that want to integrate voice, SMS, chat, or AI bots into their websites.
For instance, think about a website that allows visitors to schedule appointments. By asking for a phone number in the request, you can program your API to automatically send appointment reminders via text.
You could also use this for something like a free SaaS trial. You include a few additional fields like Business Name, Company Size, and Phone Number in the signup form. Then, a few hours after the visitor signs up, a sales rep follows up by phone to see how they’re enjoying it.
Do you need a secure place to store files from your website? You could use the Dropbox API to make that happen with ease. You can also use the API to handle more complex tasks like enabling website visitors to upload documents to your Dropbox account (like resume files). You could also use it to get prospective employees, tenants, or clients to e-sign documents.
There are different ways you may want users to engage with your website, but most of them are likely to end in a form — lead gen, contact, or e-commerce.
If you’re using MailChimp to power your email marketing efforts, then connecting its API to your form and website would be useful. You can manage your email lists and automate how your site and email work together through it.
15. Payment Processors (Stripe and PayPal)
There’s no reason to manually process payment information anymore when payment processors have created such a reliable means of connecting their platforms to our websites. The APIs for payment processors like Stripe and PayPal are what enable developers to do more than just collect payments, too. You can enable tracking, handle refunds and disputes, and more.
The above list covers the essentials you’re going to need when building a website and adding all those critical features your clients desire. But there are so many more APIs you can leverage.
If you’re new to this and want an easy way to work with lesser known APIs, consider leveraging IFTTT or Zapier. These tools help you create “recipes” that connect your website to existing APIs. Think of them as a friendly go-between.
Featured image via Unsplash.