I remember seeing the embed script for SiteCrafting’s very own third-party integration spinning up and working on client websites for the first time. After being a consumer of this type of script for so long, it was a thrill to see our own code weaving the same type of magic.
Seeing our third-party integration in action reminded me of driving a car after riding in the backseat for 15 years. This is something that a handful of team members and I have wanted to do for some time now, but how did we actually get here? How did SiteCrafting find ourselves offering a third-party product after spending decades consuming these technologies in a service role?
For our organization and others, it is a natural progression that comes about when expertise on a particular topic matures to a point where a solution can be packaged up and made available to others.
What are Third-Party Integrations?
In any software project, third-party integrations are the tools and technologies that a vendor didn’t create but can leverage to solve business problems for their customer. Third-party integrations typically solve narrow, yet critical problems within a software solution such as accepting payment online, sharing GPS locations of buses on a route, and delivering SMS messages to a subscriber’s mobile device.
Focus Powers Problem-Solving
By focusing on narrow problems, third-party companies can allocate the time and talent necessary to examine their problem from every angle and solve it in a way that a vendor could not possibly afford to do on their customer’s budget. The third-party companies then offer access to their technology for a small fee, so that vendors like us can compose our software with stronger and more powerful components than we’d be able to build on our own.
An integration is commonly implemented using an API (application programming interface) made up of endpoints that execute very specific tasks within the third party’s specialized system. These API endpoints allow a website or app to remotely authorize a connection with the specialized system and perform actions like querying existing records, adding new records, and performing other system-specific functions.
A Brief History of API-Type Integrations
Beyond API-type integrations, it’s interesting to take a step back and look at how integrated the entire realm of web development has become over time. As recently as 10-15 years ago, it seemed like all web firms were building sites on their own proprietary content management systems. And while there were APIs for the most common needs (ie. bank card payment gateways), the landscape of APIs, frameworks, and web technology libraries was so young and esoteric that firms often ended up building nearly every part of their delivered solution from scratch. We know, we’ve been there.
Project Success with Third-Party Integrations
Fast forward to today and most websites are built on third-party integrations CMS’s (ie. WordPress, Drupal) that leverage a host of third-party plugins that add functionality. At SiteCrafting, we are well-versed in leveraging third-party integrations to develop solutions for our clients. We’ve learned through experience that there are a few things to consider before selecting a third-party integration for our projects:
- What opportunities for third-party integration exist in this project?
- What offerings are on the market to address these opportunities?
- How customizable are the offerings to flex and expand to meet our client’s specific needs?
- How well-supported and documented are the offerings?
- What sort of one-time or recurring costs are associated with the offering?
SiteCrafting’s Third-Party Integration: Sitka Insights
Back to that embed script that sent me soaring. After spending more than 20 years using third-party technologies to build web applications, SiteCrafting is embarking into the realm of offering a service of our own that other vendors can leverage for their projects. We call it Sitka Insights. It blends the best of search, polls and feedback and content inventory to transform user experiences and make managing websites smart and efficient.
Smart Websites, Empowered Users
Sitka Insights integrates with your website to dramatically improve on-site search and your understanding of how content is performing. It encapsulates and automates the processes and expertise that we’ve honed over the years so that you can benefit from our journey of discovery rather than having to embark on your own. And to bring this article’s narrative full-circle – our product itself is built with several third-party offerings including AWS, ElasticSearch, Phalcon PHP, Scrapy, Tabulator, and countless others.
If you’re starting a web project and could use some help with certain areas of functionality, just look around. You will find a wide range of solutions to most problems out there. If you end up using an open-source solution, don’t be shy to contribute back to the project in the form of code-improvement pull requests or financial donations. If you run into difficulties using any third-party software be sure to check the documentation, search message boards and reach out to the developer for help (in that order). If you’d like to know more about integrating our new product Sitka Insights, visit https://www.sitkainsights.com.