Here’s a simple concept to understand APIs.
You build an app. That app will store, view, edit, and delete data. Like in a simple Customer Resource Manager (CRM). The data needs to be IN the app. So you add it manually, or you migrate it from the old CRM.
Same scenario, except the data can stay in the old system, or be in a different system, or more often some of it will be in a different system and some of it is in the new app you built. You use APIs to pull the data from the outside systems and send data back if you need to. APIs are bridges, which I talk about here.
At their core, APIs are a set of rules that enable different software entities to communicate with each other. APIs have endpoints, and this communication between software entities occurs through these endpoints. Endpoints are represented by URLs.
You can make a request from one software entity using a URL endpoint, like clicking a submit button in an interface, and then get a response from a different entity, like from a database, which might respond by saying “sure, I’ll receive the data you are sending in this form.”
Well guess what. None of that happens automatically (well yes it does, but one second). Those rules have to be written—in code.
And depending on the kind of data you are dealing with, the rules might be different. Depending on how large your app is, this can be a lot of work.
When you make a form with Form.io’s drag and drop form builder, it doesn’t just make the UI elements, it also writes the API for you, generating the necessary backend API endpoints (URLs), and it keeps in mind the UI elements you’ve selected.
So as soon as you click Save form, the form is ready to receive, process, and store data without additional backend coding. So by default, APIs aren’t written automatically, but with Form.io they are.
Here’s another thing. Maybe your app really isn’t about forms in the traditional sense. Can Form.io still help you? Yes.
Take for example a simple note taking app. Your brain doesn’t necessarily think “this is a form-based app.” In the traditional sense, that’s true, but in reality, you still need a field for the title of a note, you still need a field to enter text for the note contents, and maybe you’re date-stamping that note automatically.
When it comes to entering data, the title and text will be entered through a form field (or a contenteditable HTML element that acts like one), so form functionality presents itself in this scenario.
But the data needs to be stored too. And using a form as the framework (model) for how data is stored is easy to understand, which I talk about here. Data goes into a form. Data comes out of a form—easy.
The bottom line is that you can some customers approach the Form.io platform as a database, data management, and backend API solution more than they do a form solution.
They’re also REST APIs, which are favored for simplicity and scalability in modern web apps.
Form.io also has built-in mechanisms for user authentication and authorization. This dual-layer approach ensures your data remains secure and accessible only to those you allow.
As mentioned before, form creation and backend API generation are one function. That alone is going to reduce development hours, especially across a large project.
Real-time data exchange is a necessity. Form.io’s architecture supports realtime data integrations with webhooks across platforms including NoSQL and JSON based storage—user profiles, order processing, feedback collection, etc. etc., it all flows smoothly and can be displayed instantly.
Scaling is a big piece. You can have unlimited forms, unlimited developer users, unlimited resources, unlimited submissions, unlimited API calls, no additional charges for load balancing, etc. etc. when you are self-hosting. You only pay for the license based on a configuration. So you’re not going to get dinged if you use it more.
It’s also performant even with lots of complex forms, data loads, or advanced integrations and users these days expect no less.
Form.io gives you a central tool to manage and analyze data. This is especially helpful if you’re integrating with legacy systems and you don’t want to mess with those databases, but you need to pull the data out of it to manipulate it or report on it.
The Backend APIs driven by form definitions help ensure data consistency, especially in a horizontally scaling, MongoDB environment that favors availability over consistency.
One of the best parts about Form.io is that you don’t have to maintain it. With major releases every quarter and minor releases every month, the platform evolves and remains stable for thousands of enterprises worldwide.