Webhooks, Explained: Why Businesses are using it (and why you should too)
Acing the Basics of Webhooks for your Membership Business
For many non-profits and unions globally, the introduction of web-based processes breathed a new lease of life into operations. With the tedious paper-pushing of the past giving way to a more straightforward, seamless hosting of processes online, tasks like admitting new members, soliciting and receiving donations are performed with greater convenience.
Tech-based systems usually involve a network of member-facing processes, interfaces, webpages, and events. Maintaining information and operational uniformity across your system requires a tool that connects everything, effectively creating an ‘information superhighway’ between all the components of your system—Webhooks are that tool!
This piece distils all that there is to know about webhooks and how they can gainfully increase the efficiency and output of your membership-based business. We’ll also let you in on a couple of industry secrets about this tool and the best ways to put it to use for all events, from simple member onboarding processes to infinitely upscale your fund-raising potential!
What are webhooks?
Put broadly. Webhooks are a resourceful way to implement specific reactions to ongoing events in your processes in real-time. They provide a self-governed means for your IT system’s apps or components to transmit data to one another effectively. An easily learnable way to put this will be subscribing to a particular event, or a series of events using an end-point URL to automatically transmit information when triggered by YOUR set action/command.
A helpful illustration: If you’ve ever made a donation or some other form of payment online, or even a simple ATM withdrawal, you will find that upon completion, you automatically receive a receipt acknowledging the transaction. In the case of a withdrawal from your bank account, you get to receive alerts/information about your post-transaction account balance.
All of these are made possible by webhooks. How so? They provide the servers with a URL that automates the issuance of alerts/SMS/Email Notifications/a receipt immediately after you make the transaction (all in real-time!) The donation/payment/ withdrawal that you carried out has been set by the guys over at IT in your bank to trigger the transmission of the information concerning that transaction among separate nodes in the system, eventually producing the receipt.
Is a Webhook an API?
It’s not uncommon to see people use Webhooks and APIs interchangeably. Considering the similarity in the function of both tools, it hardly beggars belief. Now, although they are both indeed similar, they both work quite differently.
They’re both methods by which system applications can communicate with one another. However, while events immediately trigger information transmission with webhooks, APIs will have your system periodically making requests (calling) for any updated data.
It’s often simply described using a push vs pull analogy. APIs routinely attempt to pull data from the server periodically through a process called ‘Polling’, whereas webhooks cause data to be pushed to your system immediately it’s updated on the server, thus removing the need to Poll the API. This is precisely why webhooks are so commonly dubbed ‘Reverse APIs.’
If you were to rely on APIs, for instance, every time you make withdrawals from your bank account, you would have to make a separate request to find out your account balance. With webhooks, however, you automatically receive a receipt describing your last transaction.
Why should your organisation implement Webhooks?
Many organisations continue to run their operations missing out on the transformative power of webhooks. They end up having to do a few mundane tasks manually.
When a member donates to your non-profit, wouldn’t you fancy having a webhook in place to immediately alert you about donations and update you in real-time on the status of your books without even having to lift a finger?
Hereunder, we chalk out a few too-good-to-miss-out-on perks that using Webhooks helps contribute to the smooth, hassle-free running of your organisation:
Real-time information feedback
Webhooks enable the instant flow of information in real-time. So, while APIs have to continuously make multiple calls to the servers out of which only a tiny minority return as actionable data, webhooks automatically send the information immediately it is entered into the server.
Webhooks consume fewer resources and are simple to use
Considering that webhooks trigger automated feedback, one might be forgiven for thinking that they are more code-heavy and difficult to set up than APIs. When, in reality, the reverse is the case.
Webhooks are much easier to design, consume fewer resources and are many times simpler to use. This is because, while APIs are 2-way ‘request-response’ tools that need both systems to actively participate in communicating, Webhooks are unidirectional and one-way in their use. All you have to do is simply to set up a “Post” command at the data source to send data to a specific URL.
APIs have to make multiple routine requests, which most often come back empty (leading to empty cycles, and that’s not even touching base on the needless waste of precious resources). APIs outlive their relevance, considering that you could simply use a webhook that only initiates action when information needs to be passed.
Further, to use APIs, you need to set up the ‘Request’ with a pretty specific function to receive the correct information. Meanwhile, all you often need to do with webhooks is copy and paste the URL (Hook) where you prefer the information to be delivered.
They’re becoming mainstream
If you’re yet to hop on the Webhook bandwagon, you may as well find yourself thereabouts in the not-so-distant future. The speed at which the technology is being adopted across all tech companies is well-documented. Also, given how simple they are to use and how much fewer resources they consume, it's expected that many companies have quickly begun using them for unidirectional information prompts over the more cumbersome APIs.
Configuring your system to support Webhooks will help automate information sharing and make registering, donating (and any other online events that your members have to participate in) much more straightforward.
How to set it up
Across all applications, the process of setting up webhooks is pretty much uniform. First, you have to navigate the control panel to find the function that creates a webhook, select the format of the information you want the tool to send to you, and then enter the URL address that you’d prefer the information to be sent to.
As long as your I’s are dotted and your T’s crossed, you can rest easy knowing that notifications will pop whenever something of interest occurs. Here’s an actionable outline on how to set up webhooks using APSIS One.
- Click ‘Edit’
From here, you’ll gain access to the webhook editing interface.
- From the HTTP dropdown menu that presents, choose your preferred HTTP method
The next thing is to select an HTTP method. You can either retrieve, create, update, delete or partially update data using either the GET, POST, PUT, DELETE or PATCH functions, respectively.
- Enter the URL
Then, type in the URL address where you want the Webhook to post the data in the window provided.
- Click to expand the profile data dropdown to select the parameters for the data that you want the tool to send
This is where you highlight the specific data items that you want the tool to send to you. Click on any of them to select your preferred data combination.
- From the response dropdown menu, choose your preferred format for the responses. Whether string value or status code.
If you’re not familiar with some of these terms, you may enlist an experienced professional to help you complete the process.
- In ‘Expected Response’, add an expected response as a string value or status code.
- In ‘Error Handling’, determine what happens when the response doesn’t match your preset parameters or any errors.
Not all information fed into the server will meet the criteria you set in the previous steps. Sometimes, there might just be a simple error in the URL. Here, you tell the tool what to do in these instances.
- By clicking on “Add profile data”, you can add even more settings, depending on your preferences.
If you’d like to customise the webhook even further, click here.
Webhooks help you do the heavy lifting.
Webhooks herald a whole new horizon in systems operation for non-profits and unions, considering the large amount of data they deal with and the lean resources they have to rely on to process this data. A tool that automates single-flow data will prove undoubtedly a game-changer.
Considering how fastly integrated webhooks are in an increasingly digitised economy, it remains an absolute no-brainer to leverage this transformative power of real-time insight and automation into your processes.
Besides its flagship Webhook node, APSIS One offers a whole suite of marketing tools that help you seamlessly streamline your marketing efforts, using automation and other advanced tools to give your business the X-Factor.
Take your first of many steps that’ll unleash a more robust, operational unit for your membership-based business by booking a demo right here!