non coder resting in a hammock learning about the wordpress api

Non-Coders’ Guide: How to use an API in WordPress

WordPress dominates the market for content management systems by a massive margin. The team of developers behind the WordPress core don’t rest on their laurels but continuously try to improve it. In spite of WordPress’s success, there is room for improvement. For instance, making WordPress a fully-fledged framework is still a dream, but it will become a reality soon.

One of the significant steps was the direct integration of the REST API starting with WordPress 4.7.

API, REST API, or HTTP requests sound pretty daunting to the average WordPress user. The truth is that you can manage your blog, portfolio, or small-business site without any knowledge of the WordPress API. But it’s better to be prepared for the future, and it’s time to come to grips with the WordPress API.

Fear not if you are a non-coder because this post is specially crafted for you. However, it only scratches the surface because using the WordPress API is a vast topic.

What Is the WP REST API?

wordpress api code

WP REST API stands for WordPress Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface. Let’s dissect each term, starting with the last one.

An API (Application Programming Interface) makes it possible to interact with an application’s data. Usually, each API comes with documentation specifying how to use it. To get an idea about APIs and their documentation, check out Bitly’s and MailChimp’s APIs.

REST (Representational State Transfer) refers to the set of norms and protocols that an API should respect. It ensures a standard architecture for APIs and secures the HTTP requests. A client interacts with a RESTful API via HTTP requests.

Four major actions can be performed by an HTTP request:

  1. GET: retrieve data from the server
  2. POST: send data to the server
  3. PUT: update data on the server
  4. DELETE: delete data from the server

Anytime you write an address in the browser tab, you perform a GET request. By filling in your username and password, you make a POST request. Did you change your username? That’s a PUT request. If you deleted an account on your blog, you make a DELETE request. It’s not so complicated, is it?

Key Concepts of the WP REST API

Before effectively manipulating data, let me introduce some key concepts of the WordPress API.

Routes and Endpoints

A route is a way of getting to a destination (an endpoint in this case). When you type a WordPress API operation into a browser bar address, you create a route to reach an endpoint.

Requests

WP_REST_Request is a class that stores and retrieves WordPress REST API requests. The information stored in the requests determines the API’s response. For instance, when you hit the ‘Continue Reading’ button to visit this post, you made a request to the server to access the files on this webpage.

Responses

A response designates the data you get back from the API when you made your request. It can provide the required data or an error message when the request is invalid. You are reading these lines because the server provided a response to your request.

I strongly recommend checking out the REST API Handbook to learn more about these key concepts.

Operations with REST API

Routes and Endpoints

All you have to do to see all the routes and endpoints of your site is to add ‘/wp-json/’ if you have enabled pretty permalinks or ‘?rest_route=‘ if you haven’t enabled them to the end of the URL.

HINT: Depending on your browser of choice, this operation might display a big mess of text. Install an extension that allows for the formatting of JSON.

Show Posts, Pages, and Categories

The WP REST API lets you see the posts, pages, and categories of a site. To see them, write the following in the address bar:

  • To show posts: com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts

wordpress api show posts output

  • To show pages: com/wp-json/wp/v2/pages
  • To show categories: com/wp-json/wp/v2/categories

Show Users and Settings

Accessing users and settings is pretty intuitive:

  • To show users: com/wp-json/wp/v2/users

wordpress api show users output

  • To show settings: com/wp-json/wp/v2/settings

These are only basic operations that don’t need coding skills. Check out the Reference chapter in the REST API handbook to learn more operations similar to the above ones.

After reading the lines above, you are probably interested in the WP API’s potential. Developers work hard to create ways to not only improve WordPress based on the WP API but also extend WordPress’s functionality. The WP API can significantly extend what we can achieve with WordPress. Here are only two major areas where WP API will impact WordPress users.

1. Integrate Your Content with Other Apps

wordpress content behind illustration of man on laptop

One of the most significant advantages of the WP API is that it decouples content from the platform itself. Your content has a unique identity, and you can integrate it with other apps. For instance, an app can pull up all the posts under the tag ‘content marketing’ from a huge database of blogs. In this way, you have instant access to all the posts related to content marketing published on a specific day.

The reverse process is also exciting. A developer can create a Ghost-based app that, via the WP REST API, manipulates the content and integrates it into the app. In plain English, users can enjoy WordPress content in a Ghost environment.

2. Simpler Apps to Create Content

The WordPress dashboard intimidates many users; they want an interface that is similar to Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Others want a feature-rich dashboard that gives them extended powers. The WordPress dashboard is well-designed, but it can’t satisfy all the needs and requirements. The WP REST API is the starting point of a revolutionary shift in this respect. Soon, clients will manage their sites from dedicated apps. That means fewer headaches and more quality content!

The future looks promising for the WordPress community, but the WP REST API still has a lot of room for improvement. The future uses of WordPress will be the payoff for the current endeavours of developers. Clearly, WordPress is here to stay until the crash of the Internet (aka, the end of the world). So start by learning WordPress and coming to grips with the WP API.

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About Daniel Pintilie

Daniel PintilieDaniel is an Internet geek focused on writing actionable content. He loves showcasing WordPress tricks and tips and online marketing strategies. In his spare time, Daniel reads history books and plays football.

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