What is API and Things to consider when developing an API?

API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of instructions, standards, or requirements that enables a software or app to employ features or services of another app, platform, or device for better services. In short, it’s something that lets apps communicate with each other.


An API is the base of all the apps that deal with data or enable communication between two products or services. It empowers a Mobile application or platform to share its data with other apps/platforms and ease the user experience without involving the developers. 

Additionally, APIs do away with the necessity to create a comparable platform or software from scratch. You can utilise the current one or another platform or app. Due to these reasons, the API development process is a focus for both app developers and company executives.


Working of API

Suppose you opened some XYZ app or website to book a flight. You filled out the form, included the departure and arrival times, city, flight information, and other necessary information, then submitted it. Within a fraction of seconds, a list of flights appears on the screen along with the price, timings, seat availability, and other details. How does this actually happen?


To provide such stringent data, the platform sent a request to the airline’s website to access their database and get relevant data via the application program interface. The website responded with the data which API Integration delivered to the platform and the platform displayed it on the screen.


Here, the flight booking app/platform and airline’s website act as endpoints while API is the intermediate streamlining the data sharing process. When talking about communicating the endpoints, the API works in two ways, namely, REST(Representational State Transfer) and SOAP(Simple Object Access Protocol).


Though both the methods bring effective results, a mobile app development company prefers REST over SOAP since SOAP APIs are heavy and platform-dependent.


To understand the API lifecycle and know-how does API work in detail, contact our experts today!


Tools for Developing an API

While there are a plethora of API design tools and technologies equipped into the process of creating an API, the popular API development technologies and tools for developing APIs for developers are:


  • Apigee

It is Google’s API management provider that assists the developers and entrepreneurs to triumph at digital transformation by re-establishing an API Integration approach.


  • APIMatic and API Transformer

These are other popular tools for API development. They offer sophisticated automatic generation tools to build top-quality SDKs and code snippets from API-specific formats and transform them into other specification formations, such as RAML, API Blueprint, etc.


  • API Science 

This tool is primarily used for evaluating the performance of both internal APIs and external APIs.


  • API Serverless Architecture 

These products assist mobile app developers in designing, building, publishing, and hosting APIs with the help of cloud-based server infrastructure.


  • API-Platform

This is one of the open-source PHP frameworks that is apt for web API development.


  • Auth0

It is an identity management solution used to authenticate and authorize APIs.


  • ClearBlade

It is an API management provider for embracing IoT technology into your process.


  • GitHub

This open-source git repository hosting service lets the developers manage code files, pull requests, version control, and comments that are distributed across the group. It also let them save their code in private repositories.


  • Postman

It is basically an API toolchain that empowers the developers to run, test, document, and evaluate the performance of their API.


  • Swagger

It is an open-source framework that is used for API development software. Big technology giants such as GettyImages and Microsoft use Swagger. Although the world is full of APIs, there is still a major gap in utilizing the perks of API technology. While some APIs make integration to the app a breeze, others turns it into a nightmare.


Must-Have Features of an Efficient API

  • Modification timestamps or Search by criteria

The foremost API feature that an app should have is Modification timestamps/Search by criteria. An API should let the users search data based on different criteria, like a date. This is because it’s the changes (update, edit and delete) that we consider just after the first initial data synchronization.


  • Paging 

Many times, it happens that we do not want to see the complete data changed, but just a glimpse of it. In such a scenario, the API should be capable of determining how much data to display in one go and at what frequency. It should also inform the end-user about the no. of pages of data remaining.


  • Sorting

To ensure that the end-user receives all the pages of data one by one, the API should empower the users to sort data as per the time of modification or some other condition.


  • JSON Support or REST

Though not compulsory, it is good to consider your API to be RESTful (or providing JSON support(REST)) for effective API development. The REST APIs are stateless, light-weighted, and let you retry the upload mobile app process if it fails. This is quite tough in the case of SOAP. Besides, JSON’s syntax resembles that of most programming languages, which makes it easy for a mobile app developer to parse it into any other language.


  • Authorization via OAuth

It is again necessary that your application program interface authorizes via OAuth since it is faster than other methods you just need to click on a button and it’s done.


In short, the processing time should be minimum, response time good, and security level high. It is of paramount importance to put efforts into the API development best practices for securing your application, after all, it deals with a heap of data.


Terminologies of API


  1. API Key – When an API check request through a parameter and understand the requester. And the authorized code passed into the request key and is said to be an API KEY.
  2. Endpoint – When API from one system interacts with another system, the one end of the communication channel is known as an endpoint.
  3. JSON – JSON or Javascript objects are used to be a data format used for APIs request parameters and response body. 
  4. GET – Using API’s HTTP method for getting resources
  5. POST –  It is the RESTful API’s HTTP method for building resources. 
  6. OAuth – It is a standard authorization framework that renders access from the user’s side without sharing any credentials. 
  7. REST – The programming which enhances the efficiency of communication between the two devices/systems. REST shares the only data which is required not the complete data. The systems enforced on this architecture are said to be ‘RESTful’ systems, and the most overwhelming example of RESTful systems is the World Wide Web.
  8. SOAP –  SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol is a messaging protocol for sharing structured information in the execution of web services in computer networks.
  9. Latency – It is defined as the total time taken by an API development process from the request to the response.
  10. Rate Limiting – it means restricting the number of requests a user can hit to an API per time.


Best Practices for Building the Right API

  • Use Throttling

App Throttling is a great practice to consider for redirecting overflow of traffic, backup APIs, and safeguarding it from DoS (Denial of Service) attacks.


  • Consider your API gateway as Enforcer

While setting up throttling rules, application of API keys, or OAuth, the API gateway must be considered as the enforcement point. It should be taken as a cop that lets only the right users get access to the data. It should empower you to encrypt the message or edit confidential information, and thereby, analyze and manage how your API is being used.


  • Allow overriding HTTP method

Since some proxies only support GET and POST methods, you need to let your RESTful API override the HTTP method. For doing so, employ the custom HTTP Header X-HTTP-Method-Override.


  • Evaluate the APIs and infrastructure

In the current time, real-time analysis is possible to get, but what if the API server is suspected to have memory leaks, draining CPU, or other such issues? To consider such situations, you can’t keep a developer at duty. However, you can perform this easily via using numerous tools available in the market, like AWS cloud watch.


  • Ensure security

You must ensure that your API technology is secure but not at the cost of user-friendliness. If any user spends more than 5 minutes on authentication then it means that your API is far from being user-friendly. You can use token-based authentication to make your API secure.


  • Documentation

Last but not the least, it is profitable to create extensive documentation for an API for mobile apps that lets other mobile app developers easily understand the whole process and utilize the information for offering a better user experience. In other words, good API documentation in the process of effective API development will lessen the project implementation time, project cost and boost the API technology efficiency.