Third-Party API Can Enrich Your App Features And Reduce Development Costs. Learn How

By Maryna Cherednychenko

Modern apps and sites cannot be isolated. They use external tools to set up social login, online payments, delivery services, and more. For smooth operation, your app and integrated services must automatically exchange data in real-time. This is achieved through Application Programming Interface or API. In this post, we’ll advise how to expand your app functionality using third-party APIs. The information will help software owners who want to enrich their app with extra options and those who only set about app development.

What Is 3rd Party API, And How Does It Work?

In short, API is a description of how one computer program can interact with another. It includes classes, procedures, functions, structures, and constants. The better the API is designed, the easier it is to connect to a given service.

To describe the API in simple words, let’s imagine ordering food in a restaurant or calling a taxi by phone. In both cases, you need to voice your needs to the waiter or operator, who will pass them on to the chef or driver. In this example, you are an app; the waiter and operator are API, and the chef and driver are a third-party service. As you may have guessed, the API is needed to connect your app with an external service and get a particular result from it.

Third-party API is located on a server owned by an external service. To connect to its functionality, developers link to a JavaScript library via <script> element or make an HTTP request to a specific URL pattern. When the connection is established, the user’s request will go from the app through API to a server and back. You can see how it works on the scheme below.

How 3rd party API works

Why Use Third-Party API?

Integration with 3rd party services dramatically reduces development time. Instead of writing code from scratch, you can connect to a ready-made solution. Of course, you should choose the external source carefully. The buggy tool will likely harm your app and negatively affect the user experience. However, the trusted service can enrich your app features and grow clients’ trust, especially if it is a well-recognized brand.

Except for effortless development, you gain many more benefits. Here are some of them:

Lower costs. The less time you spend on development, the cheaper it will cost you. Connecting to running services may take few hours while coding — several days or months.

Better usability. External services create extra comfort and grow engagement with the brand. For example, FB or Gmail login simplifies authorization and increases the chance of opening your app.

Unique value. Depending on your app’s nature, you can integrate specific services to spice up the existing feature set and deliver a unique value proposition.

Augmented analytics. You can get insights about user activity from a third-party server and database. They will inform you about preferred devices, most visited places, commonly used features, and more.

Three Ways To Use Third-Party API

As mentioned earlier, the API is not a program or software but a way to reach a particular functionality. You yourself decide why you need targeted data or tools and how you will use them. Most often, devs use third-party APIs to do three things:

Activate features of other software in your app

A bright example is enabling online payments. To let the users pay by card on your site or app, you need to connect to a third-party payment service. Major payment providers like Stripe or PayPal supply clients with an API describing how to integrate a payment gateway into your store. Such APIs are usually open-source. So, you can study the docs and see if they work for you before entering into a partnership.

Pull data from other services into your app

Except for utilizing external features, you can make good use of 3rd party generated data. For instance, your banking app will benefit from currency conversion, and your real estate app may delight users by showing the places of interest around. In both cases, you do not need to develop the features from scratch. Instead, you connect to a service that already knows how to do it and use its data without ceremony.

Use hardware opportunities

Most apps use the resources of the device they run on. If you need to upload a photo of a document to mobile banking, the app must access the camera. If you want to perform voice access, the app must connect with the microphone. If you’re going to recognize QR codes, the app needs to connect to the phone scanner, and so on. Such connections are made through the APIs provided by the equipment manufacturers. The devs should carefully study them before implementing software.

Common 3rd Party Use-Cases

We have already touched on some examples of using third-party services. In this section, let’s take a closer look at trending use cases. If you are going to launch an app or a site, some of them will likely come in handy.

Chat

In most cases, the chat is used to organize customer support. Instead of writing a messaging program from scratch, you can integrate with popular instant messengers. When clients need help, they click the “chat online” button and choose the messenger where they want to communicate.

Common integrations: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram.

Authorization and Access

Earlier, we mentioned social login. This authorization method is suitable for end-users who use your product. If you are developing a corporate app, other services may serve you well. For example, you can implement a single sign-on to all systems registered under the corporate domain or use an external cloud directory to store all customers in a safe place.

Common integrations: One Identity, OneLogin, LastPass.

Recommendations

Accurate tips help you better navigate the new place and quickly find the right things. Such services are especially in demand among travel sites and real estate apps. Devs often enrich them with tools that help explore local places: cafes, clubs, gyms, schools, etc.

Common integrations: Yelp, Foursquare.

Polls

Polls are used in many business areas. You can ask customers to rate the support’s quality or share an opinion on the purchased product or service. You can also bring to a vote workflow-related issues or collect ideas for a product update in enterprise apps.

Common integrations: Form.io, Typeform.

Online payment

Payment by card is now available on almost every site and app, no matter what product you buy. It is implemented using a third-party API, which allows you to connect a payment gateway to process card data. Except for regular payments, payment gateways can also handle refunds, set up recurring charges, convert currencies, etc.

Common integrations: PayPal, Braintree, Stripe.

Media content publications

Any info supported by video or images is easier and faster to perceive. That is why media content is on-demand on entertainment, eCommerce, news, business, and many other sites. Now there are a lot of media resources that publish content on any topic. You can choose what suits you best.

Common integrations: Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, Last.fm.

Security

You can add security to your site with tools that filter bots and confirm that the logged-in user is a human. Often such services ask to enter the code shown in the picture or mark the image with a specific item or action.

Common integrations: Key Captcha, PhotoCaptcha.

Analytics

Integrated analytics helps track traffic, click-through rate, on-page time, bounce rate, and much more. Small and mid-sized firms see no sense in writing such a service from scratch as it is very time-consuming. That is why they often opt for third-party tools.

Common integrations: Google Analytics.

Geolocation

An enormous number of services use geolocation. Banking apps integrate it to show the nearest ATMs and bank branches, eCommerce apps display the nearby stores, real estate apps lay route from one object to another, etc. In-built geolocation brings many perks to your clients and enhances UX.

Common integrations: Google Maps.

Popular 3rd party integrations

Third-Party APY vs. First-Party API

We have considered the benefits of third-party integrations. But sometimes, it happens that external services cannot meet the needs of your business. Perhaps they have limited functionality, occasional updates, or outdated integration tools. If 3rd party API does not keep pace with your app, you may develop 1st party API. As the name suggests, the first-party API is an API made by an in-house team. This path is quite long and expensive, yet, it has distinctive pros.

The main benefit is that you are your own boss. You take care of API structure, security, and architecture. The team is involved in the development process during the whole lifecycle and can correct specific points on the go. As a result, you get the precise outcome you wanted. If the price tag is OK for you, you can safely pick this way.

In other cases, the use of a third-party API is more practical and realistic. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if someone else has done it well before you. For example, developing a map platform is pretty useless, considering that you can effortlessly connect to Google Maps.

Take Away

External integration helps expand app capabilities, improve UX, and automate data exchange. With third-party tools, you can add value to your app with extra features and valuable data. However, all projects are unique and depend heavily on business goals. So, the dev team must assess how a particular solution will solve a business problem.

At Softensy, we often utilize third-party APIs in big and small projects. We have worked with many services and know which ones serve best in specific situations. If you want to expand an existing app’s features or have an idea for a new project, we will be happy to bring it to life.

This article was originally published at Softensy.

Softensy specializes in fintech development and enterprise-level apps. Our team helps companies automate business processes by developing software solutions.