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API Series: Guiding Tenets of the API

When we first started design discussions for version 2.0 of the Znode API, we talked about all kinds of things. What should the URLs look like? What technology should we use to build it? Should we support both JSON and XML or just one or the other? If based on REST, how far do we take it? How do we make the endpoints flexible enough to support robust querying and filtering? We asked ourselves all kinds of questions, and in doing so we came up with a few tenets that guided our approach to the overall design and implementation of the API.

Tenet #1: Easy to Consume

Our primary driving tenet with the API is that, above all else, it must be easy to consume. To put this in perspective, think about two other well-known APIs: PayPal and Stripe. PayPal’s API is historically bad and hard to use due to poor documentation and inconsistent design. Stripe is at the other end of the spectrum and has a really nice API with good documentation, sample data, and a design that is consistent from one call to the next.

We wanted our API to be on the side of the spectrum that Stripe is on, and in fact, we used Stripe’s API as part of our design inspiration. And we think we’ve succeeded. All of our endpoints are completely consistent across the board, and we provide thorough documentation and sample data at every step along the way. We took the guesswork out of using our API, and all of this together makes for an API that is easy to understand and use.

Tenet #2: Predictable

The second tenet of our API design was that it must be predictable in nature, and this is a direct correlation to a consistent design. Specifically, this means that the behavior exhibited for every endpoint should be the same.

For example, every time you make a successful GET request to retrieve data, you will not only receive the expected data, but you are also ensured to get back an HTTP status code of 200. Similarly, when you POST data to an endpoint to create a resource (such as adding a new product), if successful you will not only receive back the newly created resource, but also a 201 status code and a location header with the URL for where the newly created resource exists.

Predictability is an important aspect in any API, and the Znode API has it in spades.

Tenet #3: Discoverable

Another tenet of our API is that every aspect should be discoverable, and in the Znode API this comes down to two things: 1) the built-in help docs and 2) being able to open endpoints in the browser. Let’s start with our API documentation.

The Znode API help is built directly into the API itself. There is no Word document or PDF that you have to read through to know how to use the API. The API is a living, breathing thing that you can understand as you use the various endpoints. The homepage of the API lays out all of the parts that make up the API and what they mean, while each endpoint help page lists all of its supported features and sample data to get you up to speed quickly (which also serve as the perfect reference material).

Being able to open endpoints in the browser was also important because it allows you to “see” and “touch” the API with your own eyes. You can easily open any endpoint URL in a browser and play around with its options – expands, filters, sorting, paging – and see the data that gets returned. This goes a long way toward providing consumers of the API a high comfort level.

Tenet #4: Wide Open

Finally, the last tenet of the API is that it needed to be completely open. In other words, we didn’t want to hide any data. The reason for this is because the API serves two purposes: it’s used to build frontends for applications and it’s used for integrating with other back office systems.

We also understand that we don’t know exactly how every customer will use the API and the underlying platform. Every customer’s business is different and it would be ill-advised of us to try and determine how the API should be used. It was created to provide the biggest extension point of the Multifront platform, and that couldn’t happen if we limited it in some ways. So we left it wide open and we’re excited to see what people build with it.

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Tips To Cheat Your Way To Endless Lives On Candy Crush

This 30-second technique could save yourself/ruin your daily life.

As any Candy Crush addict understands, there’s nothing mo Re depressing that returning up from the countdown of disaster.

Fear not. There’s another manner. All you have to do is follow these three easy steps…

You have lost all of your lives. Again. And you have got to wait almost 20 minutes before it is possible to have another proceed. Yes, you could join using Facebook, at which point you can plead friends and family for lives. But no one wishes to acknowledge how far down the Sweet gap they have dropped.

Measure 1: Go to your own telephone number/tablet’s settings and turn the substitute for automatically set the time and date OFF.

Step 3: Move right back into Candy Crush.. BINGO! The countdown has disappeared and you once more possess a full complement of lives.

Measure 2: Every time you use up all your lives, move the date forward with a day.

It is about to get a LOT worse in the event you believed your addiction was bad before.

Note: Transferring the day and time forwards may possibly quit your iMessage, Fb, Facebook or other apps from working correctly.

When you want to play, to avoid this issue, when you’ve finished enjoying Candy Crush simple get back the date and time to the correct options, then, only move them forwards again. Good fortune!

But remember, most of the lives on earth will not help the fact that you’ve been stuck around the same amount for six weeks.

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API Series: Introducing the Znode API 2.0

Last week we announced the release of Multifront 7.1, the latest version of our .NET ecommerce platform, which continues to improve the overall experience for our customers. Multifront 7.1 includes a number of important enhancements and additions, such as multiple ship-to addresses, customer-based pricing, and an improved internal provider engine. But the most significant item in Multifront 7.1 is our new API. In fact, it’s so important, it gets it’s own version number: 2.0.

Overhauled for the Long Haul

Version 2.0 of the API has been overhauled from the ground up and redesigned with the future in mind. It’s a completely open set of REST endpoints from which nearly anything can be built on top of the Multifront ecommerce platform. From the shopping cart checkout process to creating administrative reports, it includes rich querying and filtering capabilities that allow you to request as much or as little data as you need.

A Shift In Thinking

This new API represents a shift in our overall platform architecture as it now becomes the key piece in almost everything we do. From building user interfaces and applications to integrating with various back office systems, the API is being positioned as the central figurehead that makes everything go within, and outside of, the Multifront ecommerce platform.

Why Is It So Important?

There are three reasons why the API is as important as we’re making it out to be:

  1. The Headless Engine – We’ll talk more about the headless engine in a later post, but it’s really about being able to build any type of UI on top of the API. External web sites, desktop apps, mobile apps, whatever.
  2. Integration – Naturally you can’t talk about an API without talking about integration, and our API is no different. The Znode API 2.0 allows for integration with any kind of system in your infrastructure.
  3. Extensibility – The API serves as the outer boundary of Multifront, and can be used to extend our ecommerce platform any way you see fit.

Technical Highlights

For the developers out there, here are a few technical highlights of the API 2.0:

  • Built Using ASP.NET Web API – This provided a lot of the heavy lifting for us, allowing us to focus on our endpoint design instead of lower-level concerns.
  • 100% RESTful Endpoints – When we say 100% RESTful, we mean it. We spent more time going through the actual HTTP specification than we care to admit.
  • Supports JSON Format Only – You won’t find any angle brackets in our API as XML is not supported. It’s all JSON all the time.
  • Built-in Caching System – The API has its own caching layer that you can tune to meet your exact requirements.
  • Built-in Help and Documentation – Part of the ASP.NET Web API, we customized and extended it to make it easy for developers to get up to speed quickly.

See It In Action

All this talk about our awesome new API sounds great, but how about we show you instead? Head on over to api.znode.com and start clicking around. In particular, click on the “API” link in the top-right corner of the page so you can see all of the endpoints which are currently exposed.

More to Come

We’re thrilled with how the API 2.0 turned out, and we’ve got plenty more to say about it. In fact, this post was just the introduction in a series of upcoming posts about what’s in the API and how it was made. Some upcoming topics include:

  • HTTP Verbs and Status Codes
  • Expands and Filters
  • Sorting and Paging
  • Help and Documentation
  • Models and Responses
  • Caching
  • And more…

Stay tuned.

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Announcing Multifront 7.1 with Znode Commerce Engine

The newest version of Multifront™ includes some very exciting updates to the ecommerce platform. A major focus has been placed on creating a new and improved open REST API, allowing for ultimate flexibility and scalability. Highlights of the latest Multifront release are:

Znode Commerce Engine for Sitecore

The Znode integration with Sitecore leverages the power of Multifront to act as an ecommerce engine behind Sitecore’s content management system. This engine serves up product catalogs, payment services, promotions, account information, price, inventory, and shopping cart functionality through API web services. The Znode integration allows Sitecore to consume these web services and present powerful content management, personalization, email campaigns and user analytics. Multifront also gives implementation partners and customers access to the ecommerce framework to make any adjustments or extensions needed.

  • Fully functional ecommerce capabilities for native Sitecore application.
  • A high performance data connector which is highly extensible, configurable, and scalable for synchronizing ecommerce data with Sitecore.
  • Extensive use of Providers and Pipelines gives customers the ability to extend the application beyond the out of the box integration.
  • Feel “at home” architecture for Sitecore developers.
  • Supports ecommerce Faceted Search.
  • Seamless integration with Sitecore Digital Management System via ecommerce Pipelines.
  • A strong platform independent RESTful API layer enables a highly scalable architecture. Znode and Sitecore can be load balanced separately.

New API 2.0

The new API is a completely open set of REST endpoints on which anything can be built. It includes rich querying and filtering capabilities that allow you to request as much or as little data as you need. The API is what makes Multifront a “headless engine” and plays a critical role for integrating with any back office system. Along with the improved provider engine, the API is the main point of extensibility for anything that needs built on top of the Multifront ecommerce platform.

  • 100% RESTful endpoints
  • Supports JSON format only
  • Built-in caching system
  • Built-in help documentation

Improved Provider Engine

The provider engine in Multifront has been vastly improved with a more consistent design across all provider types (promotions, shipping, suppliers, and taxes). You can now implement your own custom provider types outside of the platform itself, allowing you to extend functionality without having to modify core libraries, thus giving you a much cleaner upgrade path than ever before. Along with the shopping cart, the provider engine forms the heart of the Multifront platform and is the primary internal extensibility point.

  • Drop-in extensibility
  • Low barrier to entry
  • Easier upgrade path

Click to view the complete overview of enhancements and capabilities of our latest release… 

The Importance of eCommerce Loyalty Programs for Retailers

In today’s extremely competitive eCommerce industry, companies (retailers in particular) find it essential to remain connected to their customers. Currently, brand loyal customers spend 67% more on company websites than first time visitors.

So the question is how do major retailers strive to retain current customers?

Implementation of on-site ecommerce social loyalty programs. Companies typically offer incentives and rewards in return for interaction on their social media channels. For example, “Liking” a company Facebook page, referring a friend to the page, or signing up for a blog subscription could result in discounts or gift cards.

In order to make your social loyalty program successful, meeting customer preferences and constant engagement are key factors. Social interaction and longer browsing times can lead to higher conversion rates. In fact, online shoppers spend 50% more time on eCommerce websites and visit twice as many store pages when they are connected to a company’s social media channel. Facebook is the current leader, as it’s where 80% of social media users prefer to follow ecommerce businesses and brands. Read more about the benefits of social loyalty programs in the article “Why Social Loyalty Programs are Valuable for Retailers” by Al Lalani.

 

Interested in seeing how the Multifront ecommerce platform integrates social reviews and social media channels into your ecommerce website? Schedule a personalized demo now.

Photo by hnnbz