5 tips for a well-prepared API
In the context of web application development, we usually think of Web Services or Web API when we talk about RESTful API. It is one of the most popular methods of exposing parts of an application to third parties such as applications or websites. They can be used both for sharing information and for modifying data. The main advantage is the common data format, so that the database used and the programming language don’t matter. Growing business expectations and ever new requirements increase the number of API integrations in business, many internal technical departments face the need to implement Application Programming Interfaces in their systems. However, there are some rules that help to introduce good practices in its implementation. In this article, we present 5 good API preparation practices that will make API implementation easy like never before.
Trust is good, control is even better. This principle also applies to the API, as conducting an audit will help identify places that need optimization, repair and improvement. During the API audit, we look for programming errors, advise on API development, assess the technological debt, life cycle, adaptation of the API to demanding customers, like banking industry, ease of implementation, etc.
As part of the audit we set 3 goals:
- must have – what needs to be changed due to the high impact on performance and security,
- should have – what needs to be changed to ease employee training, improve management, and quality,
- nice to have – such elements as clean code, best practices.
API technical documentation
API documentation is the technical content provided, containing instructions for efficient use of the API and integration with it. This is a concise instruction manual that includes all the information required to work with the API, with details about functions, classes, return types, arguments, and more, supported by tutorials and examples. In fact, it is much easier to implement code than to write good documentation. The instructions should be clear and understandable to the user. We can have the best functional product, but no one will use it if they don’t know how to do it. Technical documentation should be written with an external user in mind who doesn’t know this specific API well yet, instead of API developer – full of mental shortcuts and assumptions that everyone knows how the basic function works. Good technical documentation saves a lot of time.
When planning the commercial use of the API (or other programming tools), we should remember: it’s about the end user we care about the most. Therefore, each action should be aimed at providing all the necessary elements that will convince them to use our product. There’s no doubt that the familiarization process with a new tool can be extremely frustrating. So how to make the user get to know the API effectively? It all depends on whether we will be able to provide a comprehensive environment for implementation and provide condensed materials that will introduce beginners to the world of our solution. A consistently organized entry process is extremely important as it determines whether the user decides to go a step further and stay with us longer. The API ecosystem, which will be characterized by a well-thought-out concept, will ensure high comfort of using our services and have a positive impact on the creativity of business users. The developer center has all of these features.
Testing the API is necessary to make sure it is working properly and to provide security and reliability. The purpose of API testing is to check the functionality, reliability, performance, and security of programming interfaces. API tests are very different from GUI tests and aren’t focused on the appearance and performance of the application. Their task is to check the business logic layer of the software architecture, e.g. testing the use of software to send API calls, receiving outputs and logging the system responses, depending on various parameters of the API calls. The test environment allows us to easily test the API, verify functionality, expose failures and test the real data provided by API, without charging any fees before integration.
API testing provides us with:
- early error detection which reduces the cost of bug fixing in the future,
- protection from vulnerabilities,
- time saving (in comparison to other testing processes),
- possibility of using any programming language, despite the application language.
Integrate RESTful APIs into CI/CD pipeline
Fully automation of applications building, testing and deployment isn’t possible without RESTful API calls. They are necessary for information transfer between services. Continuous integration (CI) is the process of continuously introducing code changes to a centralized source code repository during the approval, compilation and testing phases. Continuous Delivery (CD) takes CI to another level by automating the implementation of code changes in test or production environments. Those mentioned above, enriched with Continuous Deployment (CD) pipeline has become an important aspect of API development. The main benefits of automate deployment of API changes are:
- avoiding potential bugs during completing manual steps,
- early detection of issues,
- faster delivery to end users.
CI/CD tools automate compilation and validation processes, enabling developers to work faster, even when test cases become more complex due to the large number of integrations. Continuous Testing tools work at every stage of the CI/CD process, from version control to production, providing feedback to developers.
What you should know about REST API
Thanks to features such as resource orientation, unified interface, and statelessness of services, REST API is a very convenient tool for sharing and modifying data. More and more applications use the REST API. In order for the API to perform its function well, be comfortable to use and implement, we must remember to prepare it properly at the development stage, also taking care of reliable and complete documentation. If our API does not work as expected, it is a good idea to conduct an API audit.
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