The Sandbox: What it is and why it matters

Product

Posted on 15th November 2022

Grab your bucket and spade. We’re deep diving into one of the most important features in modern tech.

The Sandbox: What it is and why it matters

Ahh the sandbox. A safe space for you to sit and build whatever you fancy. Using your own tools, it was a place where your creativity could run wild. 

But what does a common feature in a play park have to do with tech? Well, quite a lot actually, as everything above still applies to the sandboxes offered by tech companies. And it’s one of the most useful ways of deciding between embedded finance providers. 

Confused? Don’t worry, by the end of this article you’ll be clued up and building castles. 

What is a sandbox environment?

A sandbox is a testing environment which enables the user to see how a business’s API and services work and what they can do with it. It’s designed to be as self service as possible. In an embedded finance environment, this enables the user to test and view features such as account creation, making a payment, blocking a customer - the vast majority of things that you will be able to do post-integration can be done here. 

It is built to be as accurate a representation as possible for how the system in question looks, feels and operates. What is particularly useful about sandboxes is that they give a company’s developers an indication on how long the integration will take and how much work will be involved. 

In a recent whitepaper we wrote on how embedded finance is being used today, one of our interviewees from global payroll company Lano said: “If PSPs have a good sandbox environment, then we can run API calls before we start proper integration work, which helps us to see if there are any surprises. And there will always be surprises, no matter how good your API implementation or PSP support - so the earlier you identify them, the better.” 

Having this knowledge up front enables developer teams to identify exactly what tools they need and generally familiarise themselves with the tech. It is different from a template or a demo as it is not showing examples of how it can be used, but instead gives the user the chance to interact with a platform themselves and see how their own technology would connect to it. 

But, if all this is new to you, how do you know what to look for in an embedded finance sandbox? 

Searching the sandbox: what you’re looking for

Given that we have an embedded finance sandbox of our own, we are probably biassed. But we think there are certain aspects that you should always keep an eye out for. 

Accessibility: Lano said it better than we ever could, so we’ll repeat their words: “If PSPs have a good sandbox environment, then we can run API calls before we start proper integration work, which helps us to see if there are any surprises.”

At OpenPayd, our approach is to give anyone access to our sandbox environment, with as few restrictions as possible. However, some businesses only grant access to the sandbox after signing up to a service or at least having a phone call with the sales team, which can slow you down. 

User experience: The sandbox offers you a window into how your relationship with this provider is going to operate. While it’s not uncommon for there to be questions thrown up from the sandbox, how intuitive is it to use? 

If your team is struggling to make sense of it, it’s not a good sign for both the onboarding and the working relationship moving forward. Ultimately, it’s got to be a good fit. 

Functionality: Finally, and most importantly, does the sandbox allow you to do what your business wants and needs to do? If there are a few features you can’t find, that’s not always a total red flag. Some providers will limit the functionality offered through their sandbox, compared to their full product. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to access it in the future.

However, if the sandbox seemingly has few of the features you need, you can assume it’s probably not going to be a great fit for you. At OpenPayd, we make all our core functionality available to you in our sandbox as standard - there are just a few advanced sandbox features that our team has to approve for regulatory reasons.

So there are some pointers, but as with any sandbox, it’s best to just get stuck in and have some fun.

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