With your website up and running, you can welcome visitors from all over the web. And with several websites – or web applications – you can multiply that number of visitors further. But what if you wanted to give each visitor a seamless experience so that whichever website he or she accessed, it would be possible to transparently get services from the other websites, too? Sure, you can always provide handy links to open up new browser windows or embed information in pop-ups, but web hosting also allows you to make things much more seamless and slick. You can give your visitors the perception that they are getting everything they need from just one site.
How your visitors see your site can affect visitor loyalty, traffic and (if that’s your goal) website revenues. Suppose you run a travel information service on one web hosting platform, a hotel reservation service on another, and you’d also like to make up to date currency exchange information (which you don’t host) available to your visitors too. In fact, by using a standard networking protocol that other providers offer, you can also make your web site the center of the universe for your visitors and invisibly pull in all sorts of information that could be of interest to them. ‘One-stop shops’ like this are more convenient and encourage more visitors to return. So what sort of mechanism lets you do that?
SOAP: Simple But Effective
SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol to give its full, former name) is a standard protocol that lets web sites access information from external sources for their visitors without interrupting the ‘one site does it all’ experience. It’s not the only way to accomplish this, but it is one of the most simple. What’s more, it doesn’t depend on any particular web programming language or web hosting operating system, so it can hook up just about anything. SOAP just uses two universal resources to work: HTTP (which is how your website works anyway) and XML (eXtensible Markup Language), which is also available as a standard part of any mainstream web platform.
What SOAP Does
SOAP specifies how to set up communications with an HTTP header and an XML file so that an application in one server can call an application in another and ask for information. It also specifies how the other application then responds to the first with the requested information. Essentially the provider of the information makes instructions available about what information can be requested and how. These instructions are expressed in WSDL or Web Services Description Language (which is based on XML). The consumer of the information uses the instructions to create a calling application and sends it using SOAP to manage the interaction.
Back To Our Example
If you’re running the website with the travel info and the webserver with the hotel reservation system, then you can choose to have a SOAP provider application on your reservation system and a SOAP consumer application on the travel info website. A visitor reading your travel info could then click to get immediate hotel availability information and even a hotel reservation form without leaving the travel info site. To get auxiliary information on currency exchange rates for foreign destinations, you could use the WSDL instructions from a third-party site and create a second SOAP consumer application to get up to the minute currency conversion for your own visitors – again, without them leaving your travel info site.
Is It Complicated to Implement?
In absolute terms, no. Somebody who knows HTTP and who understands XML will likely find that SOAP and WSDL are simple enough to work with. Of course, you’ll want to design and test your web services applications properly to make quite sure they work consistently and reliably for all your visitors. But once they are in place, you can then also offer your slick hotel reservation web service to other webmasters so that you can boost your business even more!
Author bio: Natalie Lehrer is a senior contributor for CloudWedge. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys exploring all things cloud and is a music enthusiast. Follow Natalie’s daily posts on Google Plus, Twitter @Cloudwedge, or on Facebook.
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