The code vs. no code debate is pretty present these days, and we have tackled it in previous blog posts as well. Building your own projects with or without coding is an important initial question, and it reaches APIs as well. In today’s blog post I analyze the pros and cons of each option: APIs with code or no-code APIs, and I share some of my favorite tools to do so.
Building an API for your projects
APIs are a fundamental tool nowadays. Every online tool we use has an API available with documentation for users to extract or input data, without having to do it manually. It is nice to have a user interface to add or modify information, but when you want to automate certain changes or make bulk modifications, an API is needed. It will fasten the process and it will reduce the chances of human errors.
If you decide to build a web tool, you will probably need to build an API for two reasons:
1. For your own use. If you consider it from your own perspective, it is always better to use an API in order to get, update or delete data, so in case changes happen in the backend, you just need to modify the API endpoint, but you won’t have to make modifications in every particular place where you call that API endpoint.
2. For your users. If the tool grows and the userbase does as well, users will request access to an API in order to automate their use of the tool or to make bulk changes.
In any case, building an API is definitely useful. But, how to build an API? Should you code it or should you use a no-code tool? Let’s explore the different options available!
No-code APIs: Integromat and Xano
Even though there are different no-code APIs tools available, I will focus on analyzing Integromat and Xano. The first one is great to build APIs, even if it is not oriented specifically to do so. Still, it is a great option if you want to have cron jobs or other automations without having to use different tools. The second one is totally focused on API building, but it still offers great connections to no-code tools to make everything as smooth as possible. Let’s have a deeper look:
Building a no-code API with Integromat
Integromat does not officially advertise itself as a tool to build APIs, but it is possible to do so by using the webhook module it offers.
The best advantage is that it offers connections to many other tools through their APIs, so in case it is necessary to connect several tools to make your API work, this is a great option. You will be able to connect different tools like Google Sheets, Sendinblue and a MySQL database just by dragging and dropping the elements.
Another interesting point in its favor is that it offers the option of programming the execution of scenarios, similar to cron jobs.
Building a no-code API with Xano
Xano is more API-oriented than Integromat. This tool is built for APIs, it offers the whole test, deploy and monitor environment, which is key when your API is used by hundreds of different clients.
On top of that, it offers connections directly with no code tools, like Webflow, memberstack, Airtable, etc. An interesting feature Xano offers is the option to host your databases on PostgreSQL, which allows your project to scale without issues.
Last, but not least, it features automatic documentation, which becomes an important characteristic when many endpoints are available.
Coding an API: ExpressJs and Flask
Regarding coded APIs, there are almost infinite options to build one. In this case, I will analyze two frameworks used to build APIs: ExpressJS and Flask. The first one is built in NodeJS while the second one is based in Python. Both of them can use Swagger for documentation and Heroku for deployment. They are both great options, but Express is perfect for big projects while Flask is perfect for smaller and simpler projects.
One of its main disadvantages is that it offers too much flexibility, so it is hard to find a standard about how to create an API with this framework.
Flask is the most used Python library to create APIs. One of its biggest advantages is its simplicity and minimalistic way of functioning, so building an API with it is relatively easy. Also, it has a large documentation to back you up. Its main disadvantage is that it is not async-friendly and that it may be hard to build a large project using it.
In a nutshell
If you are starting a project and you will be the only user of your API, you could either build it with Flask or Integromat, that is: with or without code. Flask is simple and easy to use if you know how to code in Python. On the other hand, Integromat will allow you to use it as an API but also to have other automations (i.e. cron jobs).
If you want to build a more complex API for a larger audience and with a complex structure, Xano or ExpressJS will probably be the best options, so you can also choose either a coding or no-code option. Xano offers different scalability options and they are perfect if you want to avoid coding. Its price is higher than Integromat’s, but as an API builder, it is much more powerful.
If you know how to code and you don’t want to spend too much money on the API, ExpressJS or Flask are much cheaper than Integromat or Xano. In the case of ExpressJS or Flask you only pay for deploying them, the plans in Heroku start at 7$/month. Integromat and Xano are more expensive, the most useful plans start at 49$/month and 59$/month.
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