Over the last few years, more businesses than ever before have adopted data-driven decision-making and digital experiences, and part of this is GraphQL. But what exactly is GraphQL? We talk to our Director of Development, Seb Llabres, to find out more about this cutting-edge data-sharing approach transforming how users access information.
In this article, Seb offers insights into GraphQL's impact. We explore its role in Red Flag Alert’s data services, and end-user benefits, and compare it to traditional methods – addressing challenges to give you a comprehensive overview.
In a nutshell, GraphQL empowers users to specify their data needs with precision, transforming data retrieval efficiency. As explained by Seb, it contrasts with traditional methods like REST, the prevalent approach.
While GraphQL works over HTTP like REST and still uses REST-like principles by allowing clients to request specific data (avoiding the need for multiple endpoints), it fundamentally differs in its approach as GraphQL doesn’t rely on/incorporate hypermedia for guiding interactions. Hypermedia is the practice of including links and actions within an API that guide how clients can interact with resources and discover related information.
“With REST, interactions typically lead to interconnected pages, resulting in slow data retrieval. GraphQL addresses this challenge by putting users in control. Unlike REST, where you receive predefined data, GraphQL lets you define your data requests. It's schema-driven, mapping out available data structures. This approach allows you to traverse entire data landscapes, requesting multiple data points in a single query, enhancing efficiency,” said Seb.
GraphQL's core principle is to grant you the power to tailor your data requests, improving efficiency and allowing you to access precisely what you need.
Why GraphQL is crucial for Red Flag Alert
Red Flag Alert's data services offer large amounts of company data but would face performance challenges in traditional data retrieval, particularly with REST and hypermedia. This approach often results in slower responses and unnecessary data transfers.
Enter GraphQL, a hidden gem in Red Flag Alert's data services. GraphQL addresses these challenges by giving users control over data selection, significantly improving performance by minimising unnecessary data transfer. Customisation is another crucial aspect where GraphQL shines. It allows tailored data retrieval, enhancing service flexibility.
In Red Flag Alert's operations, GraphQL isn't just a technological solution; it's the linchpin of our service delivery. It streamlines performance, enhances customisation, and ensures more efficient operations. This transformation has far-reaching implications, benefiting both our company and our customers.
Benefits of GraphQL for customers
Imagine needing specific information from a vast database without drowning in irrelevant data. As Seb explains, "GraphQL puts you in control of the information you ask for." In simple terms, it empowers customers to request and receive data with surgical precision. It's like walking into a library and choosing the exact books you need, streamlined and efficient.
Take Red Flag Alert's data services, for instance. With GraphQL, you can make a single query specifying your data requirements, such as a company's name, number, and directors. The result? A streamlined and efficient process that caters to your needs precisely.
But GraphQL goes beyond efficient data retrieval; it elevates user experience. By allowing customers to specify their data requirements, it tailors the experience to individual needs, making your interaction with our data services smoother, faster, and more enjoyable.
In essence, GraphQL's benefits for customers can be distilled into one concept: empowerment. It transforms the digital experience into a user-centric journey, where users dictate their data interaction.
Practical examples of GraphQL in action
The true power of GraphQL lies not only in its brilliance but in its real-world application. One common problem often faced by those not using this technology is over-fetching/under-fetching.
Over-fetching happens when you get more data from a server than you need, which can waste bandwidth and slow things down. Under-fetching is the opposite, where you don't get enough data and must make extra requests to get what you want, which can also be slow and inefficient.
Both lead to performance issues by either using excessive bandwidth or making extra HTTP requests, which often occur when scaling and iterating on products due to changing data needs, making it challenging to maintain specialised endpoints for each component. GraphQL addresses these issues by enabling precise data requests, ensuring you receive only the data you need in a single server request.
Let's illustrate how this technology simplifies data retrieval, using insights from our interview with Seb Llabres.
Imagine you're a Red Flag Alert user seeking a company's profile. In traditional data-sharing, this could involve multiple queries. You'd ask for the company's name, then its number, and finally the directors, creating a chain of inquiries.
Now, enter GraphQL, the game-changer. With one query, you request all the data you need by saying, "Give me a company's name, number, and directors." The query engine understands and delivers exactly what you asked for—no more, no less.
Advantages over traditional methods
One key distinction is its schema-driven nature. Unlike REST, GraphQL offers transparency. As our Director of Development explains, "GraphQL is schema-driven, meaning data points are defined upfront." This serves as living documentation, eliminating the need for complex manual documentation, and ensuring alignment between developers and users.
Performance is another striking advantage. In traditional REST, requests often fetch extensive data, even unnecessary elements, leading to resource waste and slow performance. GraphQL empowers users to request only what's needed, akin to bespoke data tailoring. This results in faster responses and enhanced user experiences.
Flexibility is a standout feature. GraphQL allows users to create complex queries effortlessly, including conditions like equals, not equal, greater than, or less than, all out-of-the-box. No extensive technical effort is required, making it a powerful asset for customers.
Challenges with GraphQL
While GraphQL offers many advantages, our conversation with the Director of Development at Red Flag Alert revealed a potential hurdle in its adoption.
One such challenge is the need for improved documentation, especially for non-sequential requests. Unlike REST, which follows a logical flow, GraphQL's open-ended approach can be less intuitive initially. Users may need to grasp the sequence of queries and mutations to achieve their desired outcome fully.
The good news is that this challenge is surmountable. Clear documentation can guide users in executing queries and mutations logically, ensuring a smoother transition to GraphQL. Additionally, as GraphQL continues to evolve and gain prominence, the ecosystem around it is improving. Tools, tutorials, and best practices are emerging to make the adoption of GraphQL more straightforward.
Why everyone should care about GraphQL
Think about your online experiences, whether you're searching for information, shopping, or accessing services. GraphQL simplifies it, making things faster and more personalised. You don't need to be a tech expert to appreciate efficiency and personalisation. Whether you're booking a restaurant, tracking a parcel, or researching a company, GraphQL ensures you quickly get what you need.
It's a tech that empowers individuals, making the digital journey intuitive and enjoyable. From the curious searcher to the seasoned web user, GraphQL improves how we interact with online services. It streamlines the process, removes unnecessary data, and ensures our digital experiences match our unique preferences.
Red Flag Alert users benefit from:
- Unique and easy-to-understand company financial health rating
- Easy to understand in-depth reports with instant retro analysis
- In report analysis tools
- Fully user bespoke portfolio monitoring
- Database of every UK company and 350+ million international companies
- International credit reports
- Easy-to-use granular search tool
- Full AML compliance suite including EIDV
- Single sign-on
- Proprietary Growth Score
Red Flag Alert has over twenty years of experience in saving companies from bad debt, remaining compliant and achieving growth. Start your seven-day free trial today.