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What is JSON and how to use it with no-code tools

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Discover what JSON data exchange format is and the best tool to make use of it. Turns out it’s even easier than seems, so long as you know what you need. A deep dive into JSON, waiting for you hidden behind the cover picture.

JSON, much like Mr. Statham, is simple, but brutally efficient when it comes to getting the job done. This data exchange format connects web servers, browsers, and applications. It’s easy to understand and control in the programming language of your choice.

Now the question is, how do you handle JSON in a no-code tool? If there’s little to no programming knowledge involved, will it be a challenge? TL;DR: No, but it’s helpful to know what you’re cooking with. 

In this short article, we’ll have a look over what JSON is and how no-code tools (like Directual!) use it

What is JSON, exactly

JSON is a direct descendant of JavaScript and its fantastic data interchange format between pairs of languages. It’s mostly used for APIs and configurations. While there are other options for data exchange, like XML, JSON is simply more balanced between readability and scalability.

The popularity of JSON speaks volumes for its own merits. If there are two apps out there communicating over the internet, it’s likely JSON is the medium. Out of the most popular companies out there, Google, Facebook, and Twitter all use JSON for web API purposes. On top of that, on Stack Overflow, JSON is the most popular data interchange format topic. 

Here’s a nifty graph supporting that (sorry the data’s a bit stale, it’s even crazier these days)

You might ask: why the quotes? “Do” used to be a key but is now reserved. JavaScript has a lot of reserved words, and the JSON creator decided to avoid using reserved words and instead made all JSON keys quoted so that JavaScript can safely utilize reserved keys. That’s the reason why JSON keys are still quoted today. 

Example of a piece of data in JSON format:

Why JSON became a standard for data interchange

It took more for JSON to become a standard than just XML being clunky. JSON files are also fairly small, and it’s helpful on a whole variety of levels, not to mention that it’s cleaner overall. Naturally, being a subset of JavaScript, it is designed to integrate well with it. Most programming languages have libraries with functionality designed to parse JSON strings. 

Of course, it doesn’t mean that XML is like Latin: dead unless you study it at a university. It has its uses, but they are dropping in numbers as the years' pass. For instance, when Android devs need to declare that their app requires user permission, it’s handled in the app manifest that is written in XML. Situations like these are rare, and JSON still handles most of the data communication on the net. 

The reason is quite simple: the more data you have, the faster XML gets messy. If you’ve got knowledge of both, try comparing at least medium-sized projects with both XML and JSON and see which one is giving you more headache.

Long story short:

  • JSON is more readable
  • JSON is more parsable
  • JSON requires fewer characters for the same amount of data

Whereas…

  • XML’s syntax is redundant
  • XML doesn’t support any data types
  • XML is plain nasty to look at (depending on your taste)

5 No-code/low-code tools for handling JSON data

Now let’s take a look at No-code tools that can handle JSON data.

Directual

Naturally, Directual kicks ass when it comes to parsing JSON data, and there is a separate step used to do that. On top of that, you can build APIs yourself and hook them up to your app.

JSON step

The topic of the day, as explained above. This step will help you communicate JSON data to and from your app. 

We’ve made sure JSON is an active component of a complex application with the help of two modes: Parse and Compose. JSON data can be both parsed into the database objects (including nested objects!) directly and composed from objects to be sent to another third party destination.

All it takes is setting up the schema and attaching the correct fields to the right objects, and vice versa. Basically, you can communicate data via JSON both ways, and engage this data into other functions automatically.

API-builder

This handy tool is pretty much a complete REST API constructor for your app. With its help, you can connect your database to an app to get requests and provide data responses through webhooks and API endpoints. On top of that, the data endpoints are completely secured from unauthorized access.

HTTP-request step

Parse any third-party service data via API. The mechanics of this step are very similar to Postman, where you can build an API to parse data from another service. What’s more, couple it with the JSON step to categorize the data and engage it in other objects of your app.

Synchronic API-response

With this step, you can make a synchronized data exchange that provides modified data in the same flow, which is great for front-end purposes, authorization, and much more. Once you receive a request to your REST interface (which you’ve built with the help of our API builder!), you can customize the response logic to suit any of your needs.

Airtable

This tool is quite handy when it comes to database and API management, although it’s difficult to build anything on it without relying on third-party apps. The databases can be accessed via RESTful API. There’s much to be desired in terms of API endpoint security, and synch response is yet to live up to its full potential. 

The main drawback: a mere 5 requests a second. If your app has any kind of load, it will not be enough. Just to mention, Directual handles that easily.

There is a JSON editor extension available on the marketplace that will allow you to modify JSON files to suit your needs.

You can also import data from JSON format there.

UI Bakery

UI Bakery is used primarily for internal apps and dashboards. Since all of these needs require data exchange, naturally JSON is also a communication format supported by this app. 

UI Bakery’s API framework is quite standard for a low-code tool, and mostly handles the use of ready-made JSON files with the system.

Make

Maker (ex. Integromat) is an app communication octopus that specializes in hooking third-party apps together. 

There is an integration available that can help you build custom JSON scenarios and use them to establish communication between various tools and your app. Be wary, though: it’s quite a number of steps to hook up. 

In case you’d like to see a full comparison between Directual vs Make, we’ve made a nice and detailed blog post about it. Do check it out!

Smartsheet 

This is also a database tool that can be used to build databases for apps and connect them together with other services or your website. Pretty much all of Smartsheet’s API framework is based on JSON, so they covered a lot of the process in their docs

Afterword

There are tons of no code/low code tools out there that can be instrumental in helping you achieve your goals. You have to be mindful of your needs, however, because not all of them can meet your requirements.

Directual (self-brag but what can we do) is fantastic when it comes to flexibility and speed of processing JSON requests. With our platform, you can both parse and compose JSON data. High load is not an issue as well: whatever your volumes, Directual can handle them without skipping a beat.

All of this will help your product grow from the MVP stage up to a full product. That’s How Karma.red, a global p2p loan platform, did it with Directual’s help. Dozens of data sources, boatloads of requests every second, all on JSON, hassle-free. Be sure to check out the case study, it’s juicy!

Try it yourself (it’s free!), and see what you can do with JSON in Directual. Spoiler alert: anything.

Nikita Navalikhin
August 9, 2022
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