It doesn’t matter how powerful or well-rounded your chosen CMS happens to be: there can still come a point at which you decide that its natural state isn’t enough and something more is needed. It could be a new Function, a fresh perspective, or improved performance, and you’re unwilling to settle for less. What should you do?
Your instinct might be to hire a web developer, ideally one with some expertise in that particular CMS, but is that the right way to go? Developers can be very costly, and whether you have some coding skill or you’re a total novice, you might be able to get somewhere without one — and the key could be using the API for your CMS.
In this post, we’re going to consider why you might want to hire a developer, why you should investigate APIs, and how you can choose between these options. Let’s get to it.
Why you should hire a developer
It’s fairly simple to make a case for hiring a web developer. For one thing, it’s easy. By sharing the load, you get to preserve your existing workload and collaborate with an expert, a second pair of eyes that can complete your vision and deftly deal with any issues that might arise. Additionally, it’s the best way to get quick results if you’re willing to allocate enough money to afford a top-notch developer and make your project a priority.
The ease of this option explains why it’s so popular. We so often outsource things that would be easy to do ourselves (getting store-bought sandwiches, using cleaning services, etc.) that outsourcing something as complex as a website development project seems like an obvious choice for anyone who isn’t themselves a programmer with plenty of free time.
And even if you are a programmer with enough free time to take on a personal project, you might not have the right skills for the job. Every system has its own nuances, whether it’s a powerful Platform with proprietary parts (like Shopify) or an open-source foundation built around ease of use (like Ghost), so getting a CMS expert can make for a smoother experience.
Why you should use the API for your CMS
So, with such a good argument to be made for immediately consulting a developer, why should you take the time to get involved directly? Well, one of the core goals of an API — as you may well be aware — is to make system functions readily accessible to outside systems, and you can take advantage of that to extend your system through integrations.
Becoming familiar with the workings of an API doesn’t require you to have an exhaustive knowledge of the CMS itself. You need only understand the available fields and functions and how you can call them (and interact with them) from elsewhere. From there, it’s more about finding — or creating — the external systems that can give you the results you need.
The best developer portals will have detailed API references along with getting started guides, Sample Code, SDKs and everything else a developer needs to successfully consume the API. The providers behind them want as many people as possible to gravitate towards their platforms, after all more compatible modules (along with services like Zapier) means a stronger ecosystem and more interest overall. This means that even people with relatively meager technical understanding can get somewhere.
Additionally, getting to know the API for your CMS will help you understand what the system can and can’t do natively. It’s possible that by consuming the API you will uncover existing functionality that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. Overall, then, taking this step first will help you understand your CMS and either source an existing Integration or build a more economical outline of a project that you can then pass to a developer.
How you can choose the right approach
In talking about building a project outline, I hinted at the natural conclusion here, which is that these options aren’t mutually exclusive. Having studied the API for your website’s CMS, you can develop something else or bring in a suitable module, but you can also continue to work with an external developer. It doesn’t subtract from your options. For that reason, then, I strongly recommend working with the API first and seeing what you can glean from it. That will allow you to make the smartest decision about how to proceed.