Integrating Craft CMS with third party apps and services
With the extent of cloud based software as a service (Saas) marketing platforms now available for business of all sizes, there aren't many instances where a website doesn't need to connect to at least one third-party service or application. At a basic level, this could be simply a subscription form to your email marketing list, but as technology and automation grows, the possibilities from integrating with other services really are endless.
As the majority of our websites are built using Craft CMS, this post offers a quick overview of some of the recent integrations we've worked on that show just how versatile Craft can be for a wide variety of website types.
Integrating Craft CMS with Business Management Software
An Enterprise Resource Planning platform, or ERP system can integrate a broad array of business functions in a large organisation. From managing job applications, customer accounts, sales records and inventory, there's a vast range of process efficiency or automation that can be introduced by connecting to a public facing website.
Craft beer importer James Clay is spread over 3 locations across the UK, with stock control and orders managed across the business by an integrated application called Merlin. Our recently launched website for James Clay is built on Craft CMS, and while much of the website content is managed within the content management system, specific product information is all held and managed centrally in Merlin. Storing product data in Merlin means there's a single authoritative source of data which avoids duplication of effort when entering data, but also removes the risk of having incorrect data on display.
The website integration with Merlin Business Software has been built as a custom plugin within Craft CMS. This stores all the information needed to connect to the Merlin database, from where we can then extract specific data fields to display the relevant content on the website.
Events Listings in Craft CMS from Eventbrite
Like many professional services firms, Burnetts Solicitors host regular events as part of their business development activities. Using a platform like Eventbrite was the ideal choice to publish details of their events which were mostly free, but for the few paid for events, it also offered options for payment without requiring an additional payment service provider.
With the event listings in an external data source, Burnetts were faced with a similar scenario to James Clay above; how could they avoid duplicating data entry or inaccurate listings on the website.
Many Saas apps provide something called an API (Application Programming Interface) which is a set of standard methods by which different systems can talk to each other. The Eventbrite API gave us options to read event data directly from Eventbrite and display it on the website using a plugin that is now available for others to use through the Craft Plugin Store.
These types of integrations can be flexible, utilise the power of the chosen platform holding the data, but equally take advantage of the flexibility provided by Craft CMS to then display the content exactly as required to fit in with the look and feel of your website. From a visitors point of view, they'd never even know that this content could be being drawn from multiple locations across the web.
Importing Data Feeds in Craft CMS
Data feeds are a common way to import information published elsewhere into your content management system. Typically set up as an RSS or XML feed, its more common for this type of data to be imported to Craft, rather than read directly from its source as in the 2 previous examples.
Displaying RightMove Property Listings in Craft CMS
The real estate market has seen huge change by what were once 'disruptors' in the market place. The likes of Right Move and Zoopla have now become de-facto places to list property, but estate agencies also want to ensure traffic to their own websites. Working with online letting agent Mint Homes, their website uses data provided by Jupix to automatically add their property listings to the website. By carefully matching up data fields from the source with fields in their website, we can import the data into Craft and then provide a fully functioning search tool on the website with advanced filtering options.
Displaying Movie Schedules in Craft CMS
While there are dozens of generic Saas products on the market, some sectors will have their own specific off-the-shelf applications that are crucial to the way their business operates. Independent cinema Zeffirellis uses a platform called Veezi that provides full programme management, as well as a variety of functionality to enable reporting and feedback into the movie box office stats.
Managing the back office is obviously a crucial part of the puzzle, but for selling tickets online, so is having a cohesive and joined up booking process. Again, using an API provided by the platform vendor, we can read data directly into the website built on Craft CMS. There are sometimes limitations with APIs, such as limits on the number of times we can access the source data. Displaying the source data directly on the page also means there can be a performance hit while it's looked up and returned into the web page. Avoiding this latency can be achieved by importing the data into the website but this brings some obvious downsides, notably having 2 copies of the data in circulation. Sometimes the approach will be determined by the API itself, in other cases, there may be functional reasons why one approach is favoured over another - the ability to search the data is a good example here.
Bespoke Development for Craft CMS
Adding specific functionality to a website may not strictly speaking count as an integration; there may not be an external service to hook up with, but bespoke development with custom plugins for Craft CMS can open lots of opportunities to get more interactivity from your website, whether thats ecommerce, data presentation or new efficiencies.
Integration with a Command Line Interface
The website for renowned typographer Jeremy Tankard performs a variety of custom functions, all delivered by plugins written by our own developers. The beauty with developing plugins in this way is that you can take advantage of all the power and flexibility of the parent application (ie. Craft), but build whatever is necessary while everything shares the look and feel of Craft. For many users, they won't even realise that custom plugins aren't a core part of Craft which makes training much easier, as users feel more at home with the features they're used to from simply managing content.
Jeremy Tankard's website passes font files into a command line font builder on completion of a sale, building the package of files and assigning them a licence before making them available as a digital download. Combined with Craft Commerce, all the native order management functions are then available to show and report on orders from each customer.
Building a Calculator in Craft CMS
Finally, returning to our friends at Burnetts, their recent website built on Craft CMS includes a bespoke conveyancing calculator. Starting with a simple form, based on the criteria entered, a series of calculations are performed that will take into consideration the price of a property, whether the transaction is to buy/sell or both, along with legal fees, local authority fees and any other costs that may be relevant during a house sale or purchase. This then allows a visitor to instruct the firm based on the quote provided, or have their quote emailed directly to them for reference.
This type of bespoke development in Craft CMS offers several benefits. It's a tool that can be used by visitors to the site or even staff preparing a quote for a client. All the costs are fully editable within Craft and over time, this has become a reliable source of new leads for the business.
Integrate Craft CMS with Anything
While its true that Craft CMS won't necessarily be the most suitable platform for every type of website, it's fair to say that with custom integrations like the ones described above, it makes it a pretty flexible and scalable platform on which to build your website. Whether the integration is central to the application, or forms just a small part of how the website works or what it does, the A Digital development team have many combined years of experience in working with Craft CMS and integrating it with other online tools or platforms.
If you're looking to introduce new automation, perhaps to reduce duplicate tasks or wasted effort from having to maintain more that one source of data, then contact our team today to learn more about Craft CMS and how integrations like those described above, can add value to your business.
Andrew is the founder of A Digital and wants and believes that technology needs to be an enabler, making a positive impact on the way people live and work.