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Drive Integrations with Config Variables

Prismatic allows you to build productized, reusable integrations that can be configured differently for each customer. Setting up your integrations with config variables also allows your customers to self-activate their integrations via the embedded marketplace. In addition, you can set specific config variables for your customers to use, and you can restrict other variables to your customer-facing teams.

What Are Config Variables?#

A config variable is a value that can be different for each of your customers who uses a given integration. The key here is that the value can be different for each customer but does not need to be different. You may have a variable that 95% of your customers don't change from the default, but 5% need it to be something else. You'll still want to set it up as a config variable instead of hardcoding it.

Items frequently defined as config variables include auth info, API endpoints, Slack channels, file paths, and data mappings. This is not an exhaustive list but should give you an idea of the breadth of possibilities for config variables.

What Types of Variables Should You Use?#

We support a variety of config types, ranging from a simple string to multi-field connection variables. A full list of the config types is found in our Building Integrations article.

What Should You Set as a Config Variable?#

There are a surprising number of things that should become config variables. We've categorized them as follows:

Anything That Might Change on a Customer Basis#

Before building an integration, try to think through absolutely everything that can change from one customer to another. Even if there is a value that is currently the same for each existing customer, but the value could change in the future, set that up as a config variable. You can always set the value your customers are currently using as the default value.

Anything Used as an Input in Multiple Places#

Suppose you have a file path that you use as an input for each of ten SFTP steps. You'll want to make that file path a variable, so when you inevitably need to change it, you can do so in one place instead of editing ten different steps. This is one of the scenarios where you'll want to set the value for the config variable but only show it to your customer-facing teams.

Anything that Changes between Environments#

Suppose you have an endpoint (https://prod.example.com/api) that all your customers use. However, your team needs to use another endpoint (https://qa.example.com/api) for testing. You'll want to define “endpoint” as a config variable, set the default to “prod,” and make it “not customer configurable.” Then, your customers don't see that it is a variable and can't inadvertently change it and break the integration. But your team can easily toggle the value as needed.

How Do You Make the Configuration Page Easy for Customers?#

When your customers activate an instance, they are taken to the configuration page. To ensure that your customers have the best possible activation experience, you want to make the page as straightforward to use as possible. The goal is for customers to click a few toggles and dropdowns, maybe type a string or two, and they are good to go.

Here are a few things you can do to help your customers with config variables:

Use Headings#

Let's say that you've built an integration that connects to Salesforce and Dropbox. Create a heading on the config page that says “Dropbox” and place the connection and file path variables under that heading. Then, create another heading for “Salesforce” and place the connection and other variables under that heading. Here's an example of using headings for config variables.

Use Descriptions#

Give each config variable a description. These show up in the instance activation page as helpful text located below each config variable. It is especially beneficial if the descriptions include examples (where the config variable is something other than a button, toggle, or dropdown). For example, if the instance needs a Slack webhook URL, you can make sure the description text says something like, “Your URL should look like this: https://hooks.slack.com/some/api/key.”

Use Default Values#

We've already touched on this a bit, but using default values can simplify the activation process greatly. If you know that customers will generally use a specific value (though not always, or perhaps not always in the future), set that as the default value for the config variable.

Use Dropdown Menus#

If it makes sense to use a dropdown menu for config variables, please do so. This allows users to select valid options but limits their ability to break the instance by entering invalid data.