When it comes to content management systems (CMS), you can't get any better than WordPress. There's an excellent reason why almost 76 million sites run on this platform. The ease, flexibility and customization options available on WordPress help you build any site in mind into reality. Whether it's a personal blog or an eCommerce site, you can build it on WordPress.
This is the main reason why the REST API opens the doors for developers to extend further their ability to customize a site based on their specifications.
To understand REST API, we first need to define API, also known as Application Program Interface. An API is a predefined set of rules on how particular software interacts with other applications. Currently, WordPress has a current set of APIs that developers need to keep in mind when collaborating different applications and tools with the CMS.
REST, which stands for Representational State Transfer, expands the set of APIs available to WordPress and opens new opportunities. For a comprehensive overview of REST API, take the time to read this IBM resource guide.
To provide a condensed version of how REST API works, what it ultimately does is define the set of rules compatible with various languages that both servers running the web app and client receiving or sending information. By imposing these rules, REST API makes it easier for server and client to communicate their message because the server is aware of the set of commands you as the client will send to it. All the client needs to do is send HTTP requests ("Post," "Get," "Put," "Delete") and the server will interpret the request as intended by the client.
From a WordPress developer's standpoint, the REST API brings into perspective opportunities that were not possible back then but are likely to happen through this API, and all for the better. Below are some of the crucial changes REST API offers to the table.
As it stands, WordPress uses the PHP script, which also runs 80% of websites to date. However, criticisms directed towards PHP has been raised before, Much of the negativity about PHP is fueled by the rise of more progressive and advanced languages such as Ruby, Go, and Python. Even if you wanted to shift from a different script or framework, it is ultimately not possible to decouple from PHP.
However, REST API allows you to move away from PHP to a different language and enjoy the benefits offered by the other scripts available. It simply makes the WordPress ecosystem richer by opening up its native functionality to more languages.
An example of the change that REST API can do for WordPress is to create a custom admin panel. For the uninitiated, the WordPress dashboard is not very user-friendly due to the multiple options that a user can choose from. Using REST API, developers can build a much friendlier dashboard that non-WordPress can easily browse without any usability issues.
For developers building client sites, building a custom admin panel is a crucial opportunity that you can leverage on to provide businesses with a more useful front-end that fits their needs. A prime example of this is the “Pickle” Project by Jason Schuller.
Currently, viewing your WordPress site on mobile is enough as long as you are using a responsive theme and optimizing your content for mobile viewing.
With REST API, you can deliver your WordPress site to your target audience and provide a more immersive experience through the creation of a mobile app. Also, considering that mobile usage to connect online is becoming a norm, it is only logical to consider serving your WordPress site through mobile integration as a logical step to web development.
By manipulating the WP-API to pull data from your site and deliver it through an application, you can showcase your content in a different manner from a mobile device as compared to a desktop version of your site.
For an actual example of how true mobile integration is possible with WordPress through REST API, refer to this AppPressor post in which they created HTTP requests using the Ionic 2 framework to WP-API.
Once REST API can connect with the WP-API of any site, developers no longer need to log into the dashboard. All they need is the API, and they can develop applications through REST API. It gives developers the ability to forego the dashboard to gain access and interact with the site's content.
A possible implication of making the front-end optional is for WordPress themes and plugins to adapt along with the changes brought about by REST API. This should break the WordPress ecosystem-wide open for developers to tweak and tinker with WordPress and its hundreds and thousands of themes available.
The REST API is something that all developers should try and take advantage of if they want to unleash the full potential of WordPress in a more collaborative ecosystem. The ability to use REST API to communicate with other frameworks and applications can only strengthen your grasp of how to use WordPress moving forward, much to the benefit of your client sites and your own.
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