6 Key Things About API Development Every Developer Must Know7 min read
APIs for web services are widely available. Most of them are quite complicated and frustrating to work with. Several reasons, including but not limited to those listed above, poor design, a shortage of documentation, extreme volatility, and unfixed bugs, have all contributed to the problem.
If you follow the advice in this piece, you should be able to create a web API that is tidy, well-documented, and simple to use. These APIs are pretty uncommon; as a result, they stand a considerably better chance of being widely used.
Web APIs are just as likely to produce a tangled web of code as any software engineer is to allow a project to turn into spaghetti code. However, things don't have to be that way. It is possible to create fantastic web APIs that you will enjoy developing and utilizing. Yet how? This article's focus is on the response to that query.
API (Application Programming Interface) – what is it?
It’s a software mediator that allows applications to interact with each other. External and internal developers are provided with a protected, documented interface through which they can access business apps' user experience and data.
Several business models that heavily rely on APIs have emerged in the last ten years. This has resulted in developing an ‘API economy,' which refers to businesses using APIs and microservices to create extra scalable, convenient, and ultimately profitable services and data.
As a result, many applications we use daily focus solely on APIs to work properly. APIs make it easier to create new tools and manage existing ones.
They also improve collaboration by allowing businesses to link the millions of otherwise disparate applications they use daily. Companies also use API integration for workflow automation, a reliable way to increase productivity.
But wait, there's more. In today's fast-paced market, businesses must constantly innovate in order to remain relevant and profitable. APIs make innovation easier by allowing organizations to improve their product lines with solutions developed by outside development teams.
This will enable them to provide new services to their customers while gaining access to new markets. Using APIs also offers extra security for server and business data. Additional protections at this level include digital signatures, tokens, and transport layer security (TLS) encryption. API gateways are another tool available to developers for managing and authenticating traffic..
Key things must know – APIs
Documentation is necessary if you want others to utilize your API. It would be best if you simply got this properly. It is the first thing users will notice, which might be compared to the gift wrap. People are more inclined to utilize your API and tolerate any quirks if it is presented correctly.
The change log is another essential element of documentation. It is crucial to record what has happened between API platform releases. If possible, don't just add a bullet point; instead, explain how these API calls are changed or how an API platform duty will now be executed.
However, adding usage cases and tutorials distinguishes exceptional documentation from good documentation. This assists the user in understanding the API and where they should begin. It orients users and helps them mentally load your API.
The way of getting started
You are aware of the adage regarding first impressions, right? It is true, though. The initial interaction that users get with your API platform has the ability to either make or break your ongoing business relationships. In the ideal scenario, your users should be able to transition from 0 to API in five minutes. A user ought to be capable of:
- Set up a profile.
- Log in
- Make a token of authentication, such as an API key.
- Link to your API
Aim for five minutes, but keep in mind that not every API or application is alike, and some will be significantly more difficult to understand. It only takes one small item for the developer to feel good about your platform and generate a level of trust in you and your offerings.
To lessen any friction the user may experience during getting started, check for bottlenecks if you spend significantly longer than five minutes. If you don't already know it, discover your user's duration to the first API right away.
This pertains to both your APIs and the API developer portal. Avoid overcomplicating matters. Concentrate on one subject and execute it exceptionally well. If the user can only perform one action on your API developer site given their current status, eliminate or hide the other alternatives. Instead of confusing them, guide them to ensure that they are effective and satisfied users.
Additionally, while focusing on a single element, ensure that it solves a real issue for the user. Users will become frustrated if you include a large number of superfluous actions in a work process.
Cross-platform application development enables developers to utilize a single source code base for multiple products. A correctly built cross-platform video game, for instance, can be sold on various systems without the need for additional coding.
The company invests in cross-platform capabilities to ensure that their apps can run on a variety of customer platforms while meeting demand. Web developers that comprehend API development can construct efficient API programs to assist businesses in achieving these objectives.
Most programmers have heard the expression “Garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO). When applied to the creation of online APIs, this rule of thumb typically dictates a strict method of request validation. The idea is appealing, right? There will be no chaos.
And yet, moderation is required in all things. Due to the impossibility of foreseeing every possible use case for your service and the fact that not every user platform is coherent (i.e., not every platform has very great JSON assistance, a decent OAuth library, etc.), it's preferable to have some wiggle room in your input and output constraints.
Many APIs, for instance, will allow you to choose between several different output formats (such as JSON, YAML, XML, etc.) but only allow you to select the style in the URL.
So long as you're willing to be adaptable, you can let users specify this in the URL (– for example, /api/v1/widgets.json), read & recognise an Accept: application/JSON HTTP flag, and so on. It's a tried-and-true method for making your API more user-friendly.
Another example is variable input with multiple possible formats. You should also accept various input formats if you support many output formats. Standard POST variables should be supported, and many newer applications also use JSON; these are both fine places to begin.
Don't assume everyone has the same level of comfort with technology as you have by researching how different APIs work and talking to other developers.
Undoubtedly, security is one of the most crucial features to incorporate into a web application, but so many programmers make it extremely difficult to use. As the API supplier, you should provide examples of how to identify and allow API access.
Common API features include CRUD (create, read, update, and delete) actions. However, you should not enable these activities for every entity; instead, you should ensure that each entity has a safelist of permitted operations.
You should restrict access to commands like /user/delete/id> so only approved users can use them. All relevant request headers should be similarly checked against a safelist. Whenever a user sends in a Content-type header, it is essential to ensure it fits a safelist of accepted file formats.
Send an error code like “406 Not Acceptable” if it doesn't. Numerous APIs are built automatically or employ a blocklist, requiring you to specify what you do not wish to utilize. But the number one protection rule is to allow for nothing unless you know what you want.
Take precautions to prevent CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery). The use of session and cookie authentication opens the door to CSRF attacks; take precautions to prevent them. A great resource for learning how to avoid these flaws is the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
Verify all inputs. If the user input is complex (for example, an XML or JSON string), it must be parsed safely using a well-known library. You're asking for trouble if you try to write your own parser.
There is a great deal more to the API developer experience than this. Many of these API developer experience pillars are likely ones you are already engaged in or have completed. You probably have more potential, though. Adhering to the advice in this piece will help guarantee that the web API is tidy, well-documented, and simple to use.
Since such APIs are so uncommon, they stand a better chance of being extensively used at the beginning of the app store. Groove Technology has always been responsible for the initial design and development of numerous successful apps. Connect with us for a no-cost consultation if you need help organizing your project's back end and APIs.