When we talk to our clients about their websites a number of questions arise, one of which is what is an API, so in this blog we will explain simply what an API is, and how they are used.  Most of you are using one without even realising it as most popular applications use an API as they help create good user experiences across different channels.

What does API mean?

API means application programming interface

API’s allow unrelated software to share data, common API’s include, Public, Partner, Internal and Composite.  It is the protocols that govern how an API operates these protocols are known as REST, RPC and SOAP

So basically an API follows specific rules on how different programmes communicate with one another, it is the protocols that define how the API is presented… Let’s talk about this in laymen terms!


REST which stands for “Representational State Transfer” is read using JSON, and is probably the most common approach to building an API.  This approach is incredibly flexible in development and implementation.

If you have used websites such as Amazon, eBay or Google then you would have used a REST API (also known as a RESTful API)….. here is an example of how it works-

Let’s take travel as an example

trivago apiYou go to a travel site and you put in your requirements, 2 nights in Southam Warwickshire because you are planning to pop into the XRF Digital HQ to discuss your project, and our MD is sure to suggest meeting you in the evening to discuss your project further over a beer (Overnight stay required).

The travel site you are on will be linked to several other travel sites to help you find the best deal.  It is the API that takes your requirement for the date, location (and any other info you have put in) and pings all the other sites, those sites will then send that requested data back. This is then displayed to you, and you get to choose the best deal.

You may recall in the first part of this blog-

“Most of you are using one without even realising it as most popular applications use an API as they help create good user experiences across different channels.”

What is SOAP API?

Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) rather than use JSON this type of API uses XML which means Extensible Markup Language. If you are sharing data between different components that are written in different languages then this would be when you would use SOAP API.

What is RPC API?

Remote Procedure Call or RPC  was the former and simplest API before REST and SOAP.


So with all these various API’s connecting and transferring data, you may have concerns over security. As I mentioned earlier REST API’s are the most frequently used, they support TLS (Transport Layer Security encryption) so basically, if you go to a website and the web address starts with HTTPS then you know TLS is in place.  This means that when you go on to a website such as Amazon to buy an item, no one can see your credit card details, password etc…

The Websites We Design & Develop

All of our websites are designed around a mobile-first scenario, our standard use of API (non-page-based) means that the websites we create are fast on all viewing devices.

With each project we work on every client has a different requirement for an API such as internal API, or for data gathering from a third party, our project team will discuss your websites objectives and user journeys (UX) to ensure that all the API’s your website requires are in place, this, in turn, will ensure your website is delivering the best customer experience.

A good example of an API we use regularly is Google maps, which is usually displayed on a Contact Us Page of a website, take a look at the video from Google to see how an API key is created.

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