Take Your Zaps for a Walk in Zapier’s New ‘Paths’ Feature

Wednesday, November 7, 2018
Christopher Sirk
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I wonder, have you ever truly lived until you’ve experienced a Zap?

A Zap is, in fact, an app which offers a simple means of automating workflows with zero code. Zaps are the backbone of Zapier, a web-based service that integrates apps nobody thought had any business being integrated.

Zapier is probably one of the absolute best examples of a lean startup that spotted a niche and made hay with it. From humble roots in the Midwest, they’ve zapped their way straight to the heart of the global startup community.

Zapier, a Y Combinator alumnus with a tale to tell

In 2012, three plucky boys working after-hours in Missouri birthed Zapier. To build their product, they did some deep lurking on support forums, seeking out integration requests. They emailed users and told them they’d build the integration they were looking for if they became a customer, and so built up one paying customer and one new feature at a time.

That same year, they traveled to the Bay Area wearing matching blazing orange Zapier t-shirts and secured a much-coveted $150K boost from Y Combinator. Then they used YC’s Silicon Valley clout to secure $1.3 Million in first round funding.

They haven’t had to do another funding round since. Only Trello and a handful of other startups have accomplished such a feat, which cuts against the ‘more is more’ investment playbook favored by most Silicon Valley startups.

Speaking of non-playbook moves, founder Wade Foster is still based out of Columbia, Missouri - not exactly the sexiest area code in the lower 48. On top of that, Zapier’s lean team numbers just 170 and is 100% remote.

Spread out across the USA and greater earth, the Zapier team meets throughout the year for retreats, social events where you drink many IPAs, and conferences. But most of the time they do their own thing, and it works with a low overhead that is the envy of all the six-figures-but-still-broke startup folks in the Bay Area.

Zapier currently has the 27th highest valuation among the 1,900+ companies who have received aid from Y Combinator. In 2018, Zapier earned the 57th spot on Forbes’ Cloud 100 list.

Zap me tender, Zap me true: Zapier revels in the beauty of quick integrations

Zapier’s list of integrations is immense, comprising 1,300+ wildly different apps, from Gmail and Instagram to MapMyFitness and something called FogBugz.

Spotify, Adobe, Buzzfeed, and tons of other companies use it because it basically connects everything.

Gmail, Dropbox, Instagram, and everything under the sun can be linked together. It has a self-perpetuating effect, as developers keep releasing integrations, plumping up Zapier’s usefulness. These new integrations feed awareness of Zapier, as users of the integrated apps land on their page out of curiosity and, in many cases, find it pretty useful.

The essential feature of Zapier is integrating different apps into a ‘Zap’ (that’s an amalgam of Zapier + apps, in case you were wondering). Zaps are the bread and butter of Zapier’s value, automated workflows for stuff you do over and over every day.

A Zap consists of two elements: a trigger and resulting action(s). A Zap is allowed to have only one trigger, but it can have very few or many actions.

You pick an app to be the trigger, then move on to the nitty-gritty, selecting a specific account associated with that app and going through your relevant setup options. After that, you test the trigger. If it works, you move on to figuring out the actions.

First, you set up an action template and fill out the relevant fields. Then you can figure out search actions and test to see if the Zap runs the way it’s supposed to.

For example, Zapier can connect popular work management and note-taking apps, Asana and Evernote, to complete a whopping 210+ integrations.

One of many popular iterations to connect the two apps is setting up Evernote’s, “Add Reminder” function so that the task at hand is automatically created in Asana. This is obviously handy if you are working between the two apps and don’t want to risk the chance of forgetting an important task. It also means no more excuses if you forget.

The basic idea behind Zaps is automating the most tedious tasks, as Zapier provides workflow automation between web and mobile apps. The company is sometimes described as a translator that lets different apps talk to each other in a common language. APIs of various apps work in unison, without any fiddling with coding required.

Zapier’s new Paths feature adds complexity

Zapier just unrolled a new feature called Paths, which runs on conditional logic. What this means is that multiple outcomes are provided for within one Zap, and duly automated. Paths is designed to help you build smart workflows, ones that make the right decisions for you while you do other stuff.

Select your trigger app, and the condition you want to apply to this data. Test it out and continue. You can tell Zapier to perform actions based on the conditions you decide on. Each ‘Path’ can contain further steps. If ‘A’ happens, it triggers a specific flow, while ‘B’ does something different, etc., etc. You can also add nested paths within paths and create really complex chains of event triggers.

Paths prevents workflow duplication and, it bears repeating, requires no knowledge of code whatsoever. In other words, you can do everything at home with a bit of trial and error. That’s super helpful in terms of not needing to spend money on developers in order to get your workflow humming.

For example, you could automate email housekeeping by setting up a Path to delete auto-responder emails, and tag which human-generated tickets need replying to make your sales team more effective.

Zaps, paths, and a less humdrum workday

Zapier has really honed in on the value of wholesale automation across apps, taking the annoyances out of tedious and time-consuming tasks in a general sense. The ability to finish routine duties without expending conscious energy, and the simple fill-in-the-blank setup, gets everything done neatly and efficiently, with nary a care in the world.

Computers go off and do their computer stuff, you humans do your human stuff, and everything will just sort of work out. That’s the basic idea of Zapier, and one that’s caught on with many individual users and SMEs, not to mention the big corps.

There’s probably a pretty punny, parting Zappa reference to be made here, but let’s not subject ourselves to such things.

Zappa pun or not, in conclusion, Zapier is super useful. It’s also free until you decide to scale up, at which point you’ll find monthly bill options of $20 individual and $250 team options.

So why not fire up a Zap or two and see what happens? You might just like it.

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