Integrations and APIs. They’re words that are getting tossed around more and more as companies start to create websites, apps and marketing platforms that work across all kinds of devices and operating systems.
HubSpot alone was up 33 percent from its first-quarter results in 2018 to its results at the same time in 2019. Think of all of the different devices that are accessing content just via HubSpot!
But all of these platforms working together mean we also need APIs to get them to play nicely. Sometimes there’s a pre-existing API ready for you to implement and use, and other times you have to build one yourself.
When should you use an API, and what’s the difference between one that’s already been created and a custom integration you have to build yourself? Let’s take a look.
The Difference Between Custom Integrations and APIs
APIs: API stands for application programming interface, and it refers to the tools that specify how different software components should interact. If you have two puzzle pieces (or two applications or software components) that need to go together but don’t fit, an API is like the ready-made missing puzzle piece to connect the two. It ensures communication between the components and gets them to play nicely together. There are thousands of APIs ready made and available for use.
Custom Integrations: A custom integration works the same way that an API does. The biggest difference, though, is that it must be built from the ground up—there isn’t an existing interface to connect the two software components. While there are many, many APIs to choose from, sometimes custom integration is the only solution because there isn’t an existing API made to suit your needs.
The difference? Think of it this way: You need a special suit for an upcoming event and you have two options: You either can buy a suit off the rack, or you can have a suit tailor-made for you to your exact specifications. In this case, the off-the-rack suit is an API, which could end up fitting you perfectly. Custom integrations are like tailor-made suits designed especially for you.
Custom Integrations Can Be Time-Consuming (and Expensive)
If you’ve ever built a custom integration between two unique pieces of data, say your app and some other software program, then you know that this can be a very labor-intensive process that can sometimes take a month or even longer. Since you’re building the entire integration from scratch, this can be a lengthy process that requires funding.
Keep in mind, some custom integrations can be time consuming. Others may be done in a matter of minutes. It all depends on what you’re looking to create.
Also, custom integrations can be costly to keep up. As the creator of the integration, you need to have developers constantly performing maintenance to ensure your integrations stay up and running—and the budget to pay these developers too.
That doesn’t mean custom integrations aren’t worth it sometimes. For the marketing data you can collect, for example, there are tons of potential benefits. It does mean that they require some heavy lifting from your team up front at their creation and then throughout their life to keep them going, but the payoff could be well worth it.
APIs May Have Built-In Support
One of the benefits of working with a pre-packaged API? If something goes wrong, you can ask someone else for assistance. Google, for example, offers support, tutorials and more for their APIs like Google Drive. When you need a little extra help getting something to work, the API creator is there.
With a custom integration, there’s no one to offer advice or assistance; it’s just you and your team troubleshooting when errors arise. You may have incredibly skilled programmers that can adjust and fix errors, and this may not be an issue for you, but it is something to consider if you are thinking about building a custom API.
Custom Integrations Let You Measure What’s Unique to You
Just take a look at this example of librarians using custom integrations to measure values of the work they are doing—values that otherwise don’t have quantifiable data. Financial or operations managers may not be able to see the economic or statistical impact of a corporate librarian without these custom integrations.
Suddenly, these librarians can easily demonstrate what they do; it’s easier for them to share resources and quantify the work that they are doing, and their work becomes more visible so resources are shared more often within the corporation. Metrics are clearer with their custom integrations to follow the benefits of the work these librarians are doing.
If someone in your company is doing something unique that’s crucial to your daily operations, there may not be an API in place to track this. Developing a custom integration to manage marketing statistics or individual contributions may not be possible with a ready-made API, but it can happen with a custom app integration.
Looking for some extra assistance, or still trying to decide between custom integrations and APIs? Let us take care of it for you.
At Webbege, not only can we handle your web development and choose the right APIs—custom or not—so you can focus on more important tasks, but we can be an extension of your design and marketing teams too! Imagine how unstoppable your website and app can be when the design and development are all handled by the same team.
Ready to talk development with Webbege? Contact us today!