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Tips for Building an API

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  • Last Updated : 28 Dec, 2020
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Now more than ever, Businesses and Organizations are relying heavily on APIs to serve their clients. On the other hand, microservice architectures and serverless designs are becoming more and more common. This creates a need to build more API Integration points which will ensure more visibility for businesses and would allow them to gain an upper hand over other competitors.

In this article, we are going to discuss some tips that would help you to build a sound API that would cater to all the needs of the clients. These design tips would allow you to build error-free APIs quickly and efficiently. 

1. Versioning the APIs: It’s very important to identify and understand the notion of the product that you are trying to build. This helps you to define the requirements upfront and allows you to expose the behavior and functionalities of the application to the stakeholders. From the beginning of the API development process, it becomes very important to keep versioning your API in order to track the requirements and allow smooth changes in your APIs.

2. Use API specification frameworks: They help in standardizing the development process across organizations. They have tools that cover the entire development life cycle, right from the idea of the product to the final application. This provides better interoperability and allows you to perform automation. You can use tools such as OpenAPI, Swagger, etc. They also allow you to generate documentation, integrate with CI/CD tools all through a single unified platform.

3. Create a structure for Error Response: You should design your APIs in such a way that all your methods will return the error response in the same format and style. It looks odd if some errors return the raw form of an error without any information which becomes difficult for non-technical users to understand. Maintain a structure in such a way that the error response contains information that is easy to understand.

4. Create well-explained documentation: While writing documentation might be a boring and hefty task, it is equally important. They can be divided into two types. 

5. Internal Documentation: It includes technical details such as code style, conventions for naming methods, requests, parameters, responses, etc., and is mainly designed for other developers working on the same project.

6. Public Documentation: It is mainly designed for users who will use your API. Here, you need to describe how to use the API, how to make integrations, how to resolve errors, etc. in simple and understandable language.

7. Create a format for each endpoint: It’s always better if you use a standard format to specify each endpoint in your API. For example, for each endpoint, you can specify a sample request, a small description about what happens, a description of the input parameters such as name, type, required, etc., a sample response for the request, and a description of each field in the response. You can use tools such as Swagger or can write them manually. It is advised to keep the documentation up to date at all times.

8. Maintain a standard style for Paths and Parameters: You need to decide beforehand on how you will name your API methods, the parameters, and other details. It’s not mandatory to follow a generalized structure but it’s very important that you follow the same structure throughout.

Consider the example below:

  • GET – to get the list of all the products
  • GET – to get the product code for all the products.

The example above is not recommended as it uses different naming conventions for similar requests. For example, it uses a singular word product followed by a list to display all the products while in the second example, it uses a plural word to display all the product code.

9. Always use filtering and pagination: It is very important that you offer a way for the users to filter the results using pagination. For an API that returns lists of items, if you change the order of items or the items themselves, it becomes difficult to filter those products. Hence, it’s always recommended that you establish a pagination strategy to create a list of products.

For example,

  • GET
  • GET
  • GET

The example stated above is a good practice to maintain a list of products or any other object.

10. Always secure your endpoints: Follow the C.I.A security triad which stands for: Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability. You need to make sure that you adopt proper authentication controls so that you as an admin would know who is trying to access your API. You can use third-party authentication providers such as OAuth2 and JWT. One needs to ensure integrity is achieved by adding authorization and proper access controls so that no unauthorized users could tamper with your API. Finally, you should use rate limiters, caching, and other similar tools to ensure that your API is available for use at all times and does not get hindered by the large volume of traffic or infinite loops.

To conclude, in this article, we have discussed some important measures that you need to adopt while you develop APIs. It’s very important that you adopt all the important practices to create, document, debug, and share your API endpoints with your end-users.

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