If you’re not entirely new to WordPress, you’ll have likely stumbled across the term ‘API.’ If you’re unsure what it means, it’s an acronym for application programming interfaces. Put simply, APIs consist of a set of functions that allow applications to access data. This, in turn, enables them to interact with microservices, operating systems, and external software components.
API developers can use these interfaces to make specific requests to send or receive data. For WordPress projects, this often means enabling your website to work with a third-party tool. The right API developer needs to be skilled and comfortable in disciplines such as coding, mobile tech, cybersecurity, and more. This is imperative for ensuring the end-user enjoys an efficient and user-friendly experience.
However, for those not in the know, programming languages and coding are often overwhelming topics. Consequently, WordPress API development might be something you need a professional’s help with.
In light of that, we’ll discuss how to handle API dev and find the right person to outsource this kind of work to.
What is an API?
As we just hinted at, an application programming interface (API) is a mechanism that allows two applications to interact with one another. These interactions follow the rules outlined by the API developer in the code.
In short, APIs are helpful because they allow you to add specific functionality to your WordPress site without having to code the feature entirely from scratch for your WordPress backend. Instead, you can use an API to connect your WordPress site to a third-party tool without an existing native integration.
There are Different Types of Web APIs:
Open APIs: Also known as public APIs, there are no access restrictions for this API type. They are open source and often supplied by software companies to encourage developers to create new integrations.
Partner APIs: These require the developer to possess specific rights or licenses to access the interface. They are not available to the public.
Internal APIs: These are private APIs that are only accessible within internal systems, such as within a company.
Composite APIs: This type combines several sorts of APIs. It can describe a sequence of tasks that run synchronously upon execution and not at the task’s request. Typically composite APIs are used to improve the performance of listeners on web interfaces.
Additionally to these main types of APIs, there are also web service APIs. These are systems or software with a URL on the web used to provide access to its services.
The most common types include:
- SOAP (simple object access protocol): This protocol uses CML as a format to transfer data and define the structure of the message and communication methods. It uses WSDL (web services definition language) to publish a definition of its interface.
- XML-RPC: Unlike SOAP, this protocol uses a specific XML format for its data transfer. It’s older than the first type and uses minimum bandwidth. It’s also simpler than SOAP.
- JSON-RPC: This protocol is similar to XML-RPC. However, it uses JSON to transfer data instead of an XML format.
- REST (representational state transfer): REST, unlike the other web service protocols, is a set of architectural principles. REST requires characteristics, including simple interfaces (these are resources identified within the request and the manipulation of resources using the interface).
About WordPress API Development
There are many projects for WordPress websites that require access to APIs. Many use API development to produce custom WordPress themes, plugins, add specific functionalities to their site, or integrations with third-party tools.
When it comes to WordPress API, there’s a specific set of APIs you need to know about:
REST API (AKA Restful API)
WordPress’s REST API is an interface for app development. From here, apps can interact with your WordPress site by sending and receiving data as JSON objects. This API is also the foundation of WordPress’s Block Editor. You can use this API to enable your custom theme, plugin, or application to present powerful new interfaces for publishing your content. WordPress’s REST API is the best way to get data in and out of WordPress in a structured and extensible way.
The REST API provides access to content that’s publicly visible on your site’s front-end. You can also set the authentication to enable access to private or password-protected content.
For non-developers, you just need to know that the REST API allows the block editor and modern plugin interfaces to function while maintaining your website’s privacy and security.
You might need an API developer to work with WordPress’s REST API to create a custom theme, plugin, or external application for your site.
A WordPress plugin is essentially an app defined by PHP files. You can use plugins to create additional functionality for your site that isn’t overwritten whenever WordPress updates its software.
WordPress plugin development makes use of three key elements:
Hooks: WordPress hooks enable you to manipulate a process at a specific endpoint. If automation is your priority, you can also trigger functions and code snippets at particular times that apply to actions and filters.
Shortcodes: Shortcodes let users insert dynamic HTML elements into posts and pages. A shortcode allows you to communicate with the theme and display information to the user, which comes in useful because plugins don’t directly access WordPress themes.
Widgets: Widgets are another way for plugin developers to display content to the final user. WordPress comes with a WP_widget class in PHP that can be extended to create widgets inserted onto your site.
This API is a simple and streamlined way of retrieving and manipulating WordPress object type metadata. A simple key-value represents the metadata of an object. Objects can contain more than one metadata entry. Entries can share keys with others and differ only in their specific value.
The data, in this case, can include things like posts, users, comments, and terms. An API developer could come into play if you need more extensive metadata on other objects, such as custom objects with a plugin.
The Anatomy of a Great API and Full Stack Developer
If having read the above, you’re still a bit confused (don’t worry, you’re not alone!), hiring an API developer is likely your best bet. A pro can create intuitive features for your website that are easy for you to work with and great for boosting visitor engagement.
That said, here are a few pointers on recognizing a great API developer.
In-Depth Programming Knowledge
An API developer’s technical skills are more important than anything else. They must possess in-depth programming knowledge to leverage WordPress’s APIs effectively. Primarily, this requires expert knowledge of JSON and REST. Its imperative developers understand the REST architecture, including all of its permutations.
On top of that, the best API developers should also be willing and able to explore new styles, recent trends, and protocols as they become available.
Great API developers take an API-first design approach. This means their implementation iterates API design decisions which they optimize as they go along. This includes finetuning resource access and improving the existing design to construct appropriate URI patterns or query parameters.
Knowledge of API Frameworks
Knowledge of the API framework in question enables the programmer to make effective choices as they implement solutions. With this info, they’re better positioned to embellish it and re-use libraries in the proper context to work efficiently.
While technical skills are absolutely crucial, a few soft skills help ensure a smooth-running development process. For instance, a great API developer should also be an excellent communicator. They’ll be able to ask the right questions to understand your needs and brief you on the process. This includes writing precise functional specifications and product information.
Other critical soft skills include:
- Superb attention to detail
- Leadership skills that drive solutions
- Being able to work collaboratively with other team members
You can evaluate soft skills by requesting social proof – for example, testimonials from clients or recommendations from previous colleagues. Remember, you should feel comfortable and confident collaborating with your chosen software developer. So search until you find a good fit; in the long run, it will be worth the extra time.
Attitude and Mindset
The best API developers have their client’s interests at heart and possess a sharp judgment. This means they’re capable of deciding what’s best for your project. For instance, is it worth re-using existing APIs and opportunities, or is it time to innovate and create something new? A first-developer will be able to make that call.
Will your developer go above and beyond the set limits? API-driven companies frequently seek flexible and dynamic engineers that are willing to drive innovation across technology stacks. Software development isn’t about following the same repetitive steps every time. The best developers adapt, learn throughout the process, and take an agile approach to design to ensure a great user experience.
The Best Way to Find a Great API Developer
Now you know how to identify high-quality API developers, where can you find one? Vetting prospective developers for your project can be a time-consuming and challenging task – especially if you’re unsure what questions to ask.
There are many ways to go about hiring API developers. You can find them via job boards, developer communities, or professional networks like LinkedIn or Reddit ForHire. Numerous specialized freelance platforms come to boast vast talent pools. We’ve explored some of these possibilities in our guide on hiring WordPress developers.
But suppose you want to rest easy knowing the developers you interact with have what it takes to excel. In that case, you can’t go wrong with submitting your projects on Codeable.
Codeable saves you the headache that comes with screening candidates. Instead, they do the leg work for you by ensuring all their developers have the skills and years of experience to do your job justice. They then put you in touch with reliable web development partners, so all you need to do is choose from a few select individuals. Simple, right? So, what are you waiting for? Submit your project today to get a free estimate from Codeable’s vetted experts.