In this series of posts we've talked about how long a headless website build takes and how headless commerce isn’t more expensive than traditional full-stack development. Now, let’s take a closer look at APIs — despite what you may have heard, they are not always necessarily an “easy button” for headless commerce solutions.
Given the rising popularity of headless commerce services, the benefits of headless implementation (speed, custom design, easier integrations) are becoming well known. But there are also some headless commerce myths or misconceptions that we hear as well, and we would like to set the record straight.
As our previous posts in this series clarified, headless builds are not necessarily more time consuming or expensive than a traditional full-stack website. The truth is that headless commerce can be the more affordable, reliable option for some companies.
For others, implementing a hybrid solution or adopting traditional tactics to modern ecommerce solutions might be the right move. After all, there is no one-size-fits-all ecommerce answer. You need to find the platform or software solution that works best for your business and not let confusing or inaccurate information scare you away from viable options.
Myth: There’s an API, so it must be easy to work with
An application programming interface (API) is a set of definitions and protocols that lets developers channel data between services. Developers use APIs to handle business logic, define requests and manage data.
In the real world, you’re connecting numerous systems to do anything online. Think of connecting your website to a social media platform — you’re probably using an API to grab content from that social platform and then displaying it on your site. There are dozens of other examples, all involving connecting services together. And they’re all likely to use an API to get that done.
APIs help web developers adhere to established conventions when building and managing software products. As a result, APIs are often foundations around which ecommerce websites get built, and optimized APIs can make development that much easier.
Unfortunately, this leads many to believe that simply because headless commerce solutions utilize an API, they must be easy to work with.
While this may be true in many cases, it’s not a good idea to approach all headless commerce solutions as one-size-fits-all, API-driven answers to your design challenges.
1. Not all APIs are the same
While many professional headless commerce platforms offer enhanced developer API options, not all APIs are the same. Just because a service says they have an API doesn’t mean it’s what you need it to be.
Unfortunately, some APIs only offer pieces of an interface and charge you extra to add modules. Developers are left trying to piece together a workable API out of bits and add-ons.
You want an API that’s “full coverage” and workable on Day 1 so you can integrate data and processes seamlessly. Otherwise, you’ll spend valuable time and resources building out an API that might not have the functionality you need.
Again, not all APIs are the same. Poorly designed APIs could require multiple calls just to fill a user’s shopping cart. You want a headless commerce solution that has a well-designed API.
2. Well-designed vs. poorly designed APIs
It would make sense that not all headless commerce platforms are the same if not all APIs are the same. If a business has a bad experience with a headless commerce website — spreading the myth that headless builds are complicated — there’s a good chance the culprit is a poorly designed API.
Two important factors separate a well-designed API from a poorly designed one: hidden functionality and complicated shortcuts.
Well-designed headless commerce APIs deliver logical data for use. For ecommerce shopping carts, it only takes a single call for a well-designed API to deliver information like the order items, order total, promotional data and so on. Everything is gathered and delivered seamlessly.
Poorly designed APIs require multiple calls to deliver the same data. This, in turn, reduces speed and adds complexity to processes.
3. Hidden functionality means more plugins and add-ons
A well-designed headless commerce API provides all the services, data and functionality that developers need. There’s no reason to purchase extra modules or search for add-on workarounds, because the API has all of the tools and endpoints for core product functions built in.
A poorly designed API might hide important functions, not have them at all or purposely limit developer access behind plugins and paywalls. Pretty soon you’re spending more time and money simply getting the API to work as you need it to.
There’s a dramatic difference between a commerce platform built for integrations — like Slatwall’s hybrid platform — and one that’s built for a different way of doing things. The APIs might be different for both, and you can’t expect one to operate exactly like the other. What’s more, a poorly designed API, no matter how well-intentioned, makes your website design process that much more frustrating.
Headless commerce APIs are still exceptional
Just because APIs aren’t one-size-fits-all doesn’t mean headless commerce solutions aren’t valuable. Headless commerce platforms are built to make it easier for ecommerce businesses to operate and succeed. Headless commerce done right will result in API options you can rely on — and will change the way you do business.
Learn more about combining the power of headless commerce with headless content.