Designing an API regardless of the How to Design a Good API can be challenging. The idea is to design an API that is both useful as well as comes across as being easy to use. The challenge that many developers struggle with is ease of use.
As the API continues to gain popularity, it becomes important to build upon that popularity by adding more features and improving the speed. We will examine a couple of pointers that we’ve used to build highly effective APIs.
Manage Version Numbers and Updates
One of the keys to ensuring that you successfully build upon an already good API is to manage its versioning efficiently. The versioning of your API needs to be planned for in the very beginning even if you are not sure if there will be another version.
It goes without saying that there is no cost to versioning your API but when you do it correctly from the very beginning it improves your chances of succeeding with the development of your API with API first design approach. So, each time there is a better version you can let all the users know without running into traditional issues you would run into before.
If you decide to change an existing API interface, the results are disastrous. It goes without saying that many of the customers already rely on the interface. Plus, there could be essential business processes that are associated with that particular interface and so changing that means the clients’ endpoints fail. Businesses may suffer from some severe consequences by your decision and consequently will shake the confidence of users as a whole.
The best way to set versioning is so that it is part of the URL since that way it will be transparent to users.
The Use of JSON
Many developers who were around back in the late 90s and early 2000s would remember the struggle associated with passing POST data as a URL. That approach is no longer needed thanks to JSON. The use of JSON does away with using XML or SOAP since it is a lot better to use when it comes to sending data to all the endpoints. JSON makes requests readable as well as easy to put together by consumers.
The use of rails helps to simplify the process of parameter handling in JSON. The Rails ActionController will wrap data automatically making them accessible through the use of Params hash.
API Error Management
Now, this may sound like an easy task, but it does require a little foresight and planning. The first thing to remember is that error messages should be returned in the same format, so users don’t need to figure out what is going on. Then there is also the fact that arbitrary nesting may not be supported by some programming languages and so parsing will be tricky.
Furthermore, the user of the HTTP status code to for error message handling will be worth considering. That said you can further make things easier by adding a link to a resource or article which explains each error. Because most developers will give up on an API if the errors are too cryptic without an explanation.
Designing a REST-API
Any enterprise that hopes to become genuinely digital or connected will need to have valid HTTP
servers. The REST-API happens to be the primary channel through with all the information will travel.
Thankfully, designing a good RESTful API is comparatively easy if you just follow the steps below.
– The REST-API should expose the server’s resources which are then able to be manipulated via
the clients API. The data model will work as a sort of metaphor through with the clients can
easily connect to the API. The API will also have both physical and logical resources along with
– Steps should be taken to ensure that the resources are exposed which is done by URL mapping.
The URL needs to reflect all the relationships with other resources.
– Manipulations then need to be assigned to every HTTP command like POST, DELETE, PUT, GET,
Valid request formats should be created for the required entries into the model.
– URLs need to be protected by authorization procedures and validations.
All communication on the internet is via HTTP. Take, for instance, a browser which sends a series of
HTTP requests to a web server which then in return sends a response back. HTTP along with HTTPS
which is the secure version of the protocol are the predominant client-server communication protocols
used. Using the protocol allows clients to not only query but at the same time send requests to
manipulate server-based information. REST is primarily based on using a couple of resources which need to follow a
specific type of data model.
If you are designing an API which is not meant for public use or it is not going to be used by the public, then an authentication method should be defined. HTTP provides good enough security with its basic authentication which you can further ramp up if required. Generally, a username and password type authentication are all you need.
When you use a good API design, it means wider acceptance and better implementation. Working on something that’s useful to everyone is your key to success.