More and more, I find my web browser’s tab bar taken up with applications. I have my Gmail, Google Calendar, Asana task sheet, Twitter, WordPress website(s), Dropbox, and Facebook page open so that I can easily move between each of those applications, syncing, posting, checking, and being notified.
This method, if you can call it that, has plenty of drawbacks: having all these tabs open creates a heap of distracting clutter in my tab bar; I waste time moving between applications and dealing with each one individually; and things have a way of falling through the cracks. If only they could all talk to each other, so that doing one thing would cause the other actions to happen in perfect synchronicity, then my work could be made simpler and more efficient.
Zap, Zapier, Zapiest?
An exciting new service that is being billed as “IFTTT for businesses”, Zapier helps you to connect your web applications so that an action in one causes something to happen in another. Or, in their parlance, you create a Zap (the syncing application) which is composed of a trigger that causes an action.
You can create a zap using a pretty broad selection of applications (take a look at their library here) in a variety of different combinations. To find zaps that can be created using WordPress as either the trigger or the action, take a look at their Zapbook for WordPress. To get a better idea of how their service really works, take a minute and watch their demo video below:
People are often reluctant to sync applications because they have in the past been told that they could automate a time-gobbling website function only to discover that making and maintaining the sync became another massive time drain in and of itself. Zapier has kept that in mind and made sure that their process is actually surprisingly easy and features a very user-intuitive interface.
Normally, I would recommend their How-To videos (find’em here), but they are performed at a ludicrously rapid speed and recorded at a surprisingly low resolution. Instead, I’ll walk you through the seven steps in the process of creating a Zap by putting together a sample one that connects a WordPress website to Twilio.
Step1 - Pick a Trigger. Let’s say that we have a website which tackles controversial topics and whose commenters are often likely to start flame wars. We would want to keep a close eye on what is happening in the comments section of our website at all times. So, in this scenario, it would make sense to have our trigger be when a new comment is posted on our WordPress blog:
Step2 - Pick an Action. Since we are monitoring the comments closely, we want our action to notify us whenever a comment is published so we can respond immediately. To do that, we are going to have Twilio send us a text message every time a comment is posted:
Step3 - Select your accounts. Once you have the trigger and action that you want, press the Create This Zap button. Zapier will then request that you enter the account information they need from the relevant web applications. In this case, it is your (1) WordPress comment feed URL, (2) Twilio API info, and (3) the phone number(s) you would like to send the text message to.
Step4 - Build your Zap. This is the fun part. Using their drag and drop interface, you can decide what information should be sent in the body of the text message. Here I have added the Title, Publication Date, and the Body of the comment to my text message:
Step5 - Apply any filters. The filters are there because you might not want to have the Zap applied in each and every situation. For example, we don’t want to have SMS messages triggered whenever we receive an annoying spam comment. We will set our filter then to never trigger on any comment which contains the word “Viagra”:
Step6 - Test your Zap. Try it out with a sample trigger, using your existing content, to make sure that the Zap is configured the way you would like:
Step7 - Enable your Zap. Your Zap is now ready to launch! They present two options when finalizing your Zap, Enable And Sync New Data or Migrate Existing Data, however, only the first option works at this time. In other words, we can have the Zap trigger on future comments, but it does not allow us to make it backwards compatible and perform that Zap on previous instances of the trigger. In this case, that would not be particularly helpful, but in other situations where you are performing a data migration, that feature could be incredibly useful.
Sign Up & Plans
In order to start creating zaps (pricing here), you have to first sign up for their service. They offer four different plans: Free, Basic, Business, and Business Plus. The three premium plans (Basic, Business, and Business Plus) each offer more tasks per month, more zaps, and more frequent syncing, as well as access to their premium services (more on that below).
When you sign up for the service, they actually start you off with a 14-day trial plan that is restriction-free, so you can get an idea of how the service works. After the trial is over, you are automatically shifted to the Free plan and must opt into the premium plans (a nice touch, in my opinion).
The Free plan is designed for personal use and would probably be enough for any small website, while the premium plans are intended for an enterprise level of use. Outside of the increasing allowances for tasks, zaps, and syncing there is another major difference between the premium levels and the free one: the premium services.
At the paid levels you are able to sync up your WordPress site with a number of applications that are restricted to free users like Basecamp, MySQL, QuickBooks Online, Salesforce, Shopify, Zendesk and a bunch more.
If there is one reservation that I have about Zapier, it is that there are quite a few limitations on the Zaps that you can make. Not every application necessarily has a possible zap with another application and sometimes a zap may not offer the same functions as another zap (i.e. one zap may let you send comments as text messages while another may only allow posts). When combined with the restriction on premium applications, free-level users could find it difficult to put together as many useful zaps as they might have hoped.