An Application Programming Interface (API) can be defined as a set of rules that standardize data exchange between applications. It facilitates various applications in directly communicating with each other through a set of functions and procedures.
Regarding following different protocols and standards, the backend developers deal with the two most commonly used APIs: REST and SOAP. While a SOAP API enables stateful requests and offers more reliability, REST APIs allow applications, most commonly client-server applications, to connect faster since the payload size is limited.
Before discussing the best practices to follow while developing REST APIs, let’s define REST in detail.
What Is A REST API?
REST stands for Representational State Transfer. It is a software architectural pattern that works as a guide for web design architecture. An API that follows the design principles of REST is known as RESTful.
By developing a smooth and easy-to-use REST API, the job of front-end developers can be made straightforward, as they can retrieve data without understanding the complexities of an API. On the other hand, a complicated API structure can result in a big hassle in maintaining that API and for the developers in trying to connect with the database.
In this article, you will learn the ideal practices you should follow while creating a REST API.
While many developers ignore it, documentation is a key component of the API structure. Precise and well-compiled documentation enables API users to comprehend the API functionality and utilize it accordingly. It is a well-known fact that the faster API users are able to understand it, the quicker that API will be used to establish a connection between the client and server. Therefore, the importance of well-compiled API documentation cannot be overstated.
Proper Error Handling
A backend developer should not automatically assume that all API users can fulfill the requirements and that the API call be successfully returned. There are always some cases, either because of user negligence or client-side error, when the API call is unsuccessful and yields errors. Therefore, as an API developer, it is important to display error codes or messages in the response body in case of an error-based response to an API call. In this way, the API user will instantly realize whether his API request was successful or not.
Utilize JSON As The Data Format
While XML and HTML were preferred for accepting and responding to API requests in the past, it is no longer the norm. It is an unwritten rule nowadays that JSON has to be the format for sending and receiving API data.
Enhance API Security
With cyberattacks becoming increasingly common, it’s important to create APIs that can create a secure connection between two applications. Denial of Service (DoS) attack is a common threat to API developers, and therefore it’s important to restrict the number of API requests. Also, SSL should be used for creating a connection, as it uses private and public keys to ensure a secure connection.
Use Nouns In Endpoints
Some API developers use verbs in the endpoint paths, which should not be a common practice. The endpoints should be nouns, focusing on their role. Since HTTP methods are already in verb form for performing CRUD operations, it also doesn’t make sense to use verbs in the endpoints paths.
REST API is a widely used software architectural pattern that enables communications between the client and server. This blog covered some of the fundamental principles that should be followed while creating REST APIs.
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