It can be pretty difficult to explain exactly what an API does to the average person. Some people think of APIs being associated with databases, where others think they are always attached to online applications like Facebook or Twitter. Then there are so many types of APIs, where do you start, when someone asks what is an API?
To help people understand APIs, it is best to move away from the technical explanation and get closer to the actual problem being solved by your API. Example, a new API I’m working with called the Cashtie API lets you generate barcodes that can be scanned from mobile phones at the point of sale (POS) systems at major retailers—a technical explanation
Let’s talk about a problem. Anyone selling a product or service (online or offline) would love to have their product in major retailers like Walmart, Target and CVS. The problem is how do you get your product into these stores? In this case, the solution is the Cashtie API, which allows mobile application developers to generate the barcodes that allow your customers to pay cash for products and services, or pay their bills at these retail locations.
It can be easy to think of your API in a technical sense, especially if you are the geek who developed it. What is really important, is that you think of it terms of providing solutions to actual problems businesses are facing. If you think of your API in these terms, and can easily articulate to any random person the value it delivers, there is a much greater chance your API will be put to use.