An API is a set of functions that supports application to help it access the data of an operating system. APIs play major role in software development ecosystem that is used worldwide. From booking an online ticket to logging on your social media account, or even making an online payment, all are possible with API development. There are also fun APIs like fun translations that translate English into Dothraki, Minion, and Klingon. The vast world of APIs still needs to be explored a lot and that is what, the prime intention behind writing this blog. We will discuss what is the purpose of API along with several other crucial factors like its types, common terminologies, tools, and ideal workflow.
A Brief About APIs
You must know what is the purpose of API and after identifying your project requirements, you can get desired results. Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of instructions and standards that enable any app or software to access features and services of some other application, device, or a platform. To put it in technical terms, it is a set of programming code that allow data transmission between two different software.
How an API Works?
It has two basic components.First is technical specification that describes the data exchange options between solutions. These solutions have specifications in form of data delivery protocols along with request for processing. On the other hand, the second component delas with software interface that is written to the specification that represents it.
The software that requires access to information calls its API along with specifying the requirements that it needs. It also specifies the way how functionality or data should be provided to perform in a certain way. API working allows the other software to respond to these requirements as requested and the API defines the interface through which both the software will communicate with each other.
The function calls for each API are used to request software to perform in a particular way. These function calls include nouns and verbs and are described in the API documentation. APIs serve several purposes including simplification and swift software development. Developers use APIs to add various functionalities to a software from other third-party providers.
How to Create an API?
Step 1:The first step that is involved in API development is its designing. Determine the problems need to be solved and then the endpoints and data that is needed to resolve it. You need to create an open API document and then start writing code for it. Get the feedback and make sure that its working towards its goal. You need to decide what API needs to expose along with its descriptive names. Each resource for an endpoint includes actions performed on them via HTTP methods.
Step 2:Then you need to tweak some crucial aspects of feedback and start prototyping describing how the API will be consumed. You need to perform a mock test for API server that you use. The server is real but responds temporarily to respond to fake data. This can be done by using open-source command-line utility just like Prism API server. The server thoroughly analyzes your Open API document to determine endpoints, methods, and data.
Step 3: Once you create your Open API document with all feedback, it’s time to create the real API. You can choose your preferred language to code for API development and continue writing code for it. If you use choose Python as a programming language to code for API, Python REST API tutorial will offer much help for you to develop a clean and efficient API.
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Different Types of API
Generally, APIs are categorized based on their release policies. We have discussed some major types of API categories that will offer much valuable insights for you to implement the best one for your task.
The interface of this application software is designed in such a way that improves services and solutions within the organization. Both contractors and in-house developers can easily use these APIs to build new systems. The app’s interface remains available for those who work with API publisher even if the app is available publicly. The company using private API has full control of the API usage because of its private strategy.
These APIs are generally used for software integration between two parties. The API working is promoted openly and are shared with business partners that are part of an agreement with the publisher. It also paves way for extra revenue streams by granting partners access to data. Partners can also monitor how exposed digital assets are used and can also ensure user experience for the third-party solutions which use their APIs.
These are also called external or developer-facing APIs and are also available for third-party developers. A public API program helps you to increase your brand awareness and to receive extra income if executed properly. Public APIs can further be categorized into open and commercial. All the features of an Open API are public and can be used without any restrictions or set conditions. On the other hand, commercial API can be accessed either on a subscription basis or on pay-as-you-go basis. You get a free trial before opting for any subscription for this.
These APIs are well known for combining different services and data APIs. These APIs are generally made by combining existing API functions that has capability to perform multiple tasks in a single call. This enhances the productivity and speed of your software’s interface.
API Development Terminologies
For those looking for custom API development, getting acquainted with some common terminologies will offer great help.
API Key: It’s a unique code or a kind of password that is provided to computer programs for authenticating users, developers, or calling program.
Endpoint: It is the interaction touchpoint between the server and API.
GET: It’s a common method to request data from the server at a specified resource.
POST: A method of sending data to API server to update or to create a resource.
OAuth: A kind of authorization framework for APIs that offers secure and restricted access to end users’ data.
Latency: This is the time taken by an API to process a request and respond accordingly.
Rate-limiting: A process with which developers control the rate of incoming as well as outgoing traffic. It is also defined as total number of requests tat a user gives to an API.
API Throttling: A process where usage of APIs by end users is controlled for a specific timeline.
Best Tools for API Development
The level of success of your API development depends on the kind of tools that you use while developing them. We have mentioned some most prominent tools that will offer great help in API development.
This is an amazing API management tool by Google that comes in handy when a company wants to update its legacy apps or wants to facilitate data transfer between apps. It is also extremely useful when a developer is creating connected applications.
It is a HTTP API testing framework that is commonly used to validate the description of an API examplein backend. This effective tool thoroughly goes through API’s description to determine its validation.
It is a kind of developer experience platform for website APIs that is widely used to generate SDKs for APIs up to 10 platforms. The tool is also widely used to keep it in sync with API updates. The tool allows developers to convert API descriptions into multiple formats including WADL, Swager, RAML, OAI format, and IO Docs.
Using this tool, developers can easily create mock RESTful API from API definitions. The tool is widely known for its efficiency in removing all possible risks and costs associated with third-party AI calling during testing phase.
This tool enables app developers to gauge the performance of an API by documenting and testing it. This interactive tool also comes quite handy for automating the process.
It’s an open-source testing tool that operates on cross-platforms and can easily automate both functional and non-functional tests. Some of its common usages are regression, compliance, executing, security, and load tests for the web APIs.
It is another open-source framework that is widely used for API development. Most tech giants including GettyImages, Apigee, PayPal, and Microsoft use swagger for various software development projects.
This is also much commonly used open-source software that is used for performance testing of RESTful API.
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Must-have Features for API Design
Before you start creating API designs using some API design tool, it’s imperative for you to keep certain points in your mind. This will ensure effective API designing along with enhanced efficacy and that will help your team to stay on the same page.
Authorization & Authentication
Authentications refers to identifying the right identity while authorization refers to verification of user’s access to perform any action on a specific source. OAuth, OAuth2, and JWT are some most commonly used specifications for managing authorization and authentication.
Pagination is generally performed to ensure how much data should be displayed at what frequency. It’s a common scenario that with time, the database also grows and, in such case, the resources take longer time to retrieve than usual. Paging is an effective technique to ensure that the user receives the data as per requirements, conditions, and modifications.
Creating cache is an effective strategy to retrieve resources at a lightning speed. You can cut down the cost of your requests when your data is ready for consumption in an in-memory database. If you want to build effective cache strategy, Redis and Memcached are some good tools that you can consider.
API wrappers are a kind of language-specific packages that combine various sets of API calls into user-friendly functions. Using this tool, you can demand several API calls without even interacting with the user.
HATEOAS stands for Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State and is one of the crucial modules of REST application architecture. Any content that consists of a link to other forms of media such as texts, images, videos, are referred as Hypermedia. The tool enables clients to interact with REST API through responses that are provided by the server in a dynamic way.
It is quite imperative for a developer to handle errors efficiently. It helps them in making the debugging process much easier and allows them to identify whether the problem exists from server’s end or from client’s end in an API example. However, clients can change the requests for some errors while others are handled by the support team. Here are some effective ways to handle errors efficiently.
- Using error codes with recognized standards
- Providing authentic number of errors
- Identifying & describing the cause of errors
- Segregating domain and general errors
Top 5 Practices to Build APIs
For those who think how to create an API, following the right practice keeps immense importance in API development. Here are some common practices among which you can easily choose an apt one for your project.
- Use Throttling
- Consider your API gateway as Enforcer
- Allow Overriding HTTP method
- Evaluate the APIs and Infrastructure
- Ensure security
- Comprehensive Documentation
Cost to Develop an API
We have thoroughly evaluated the entire API development process and found that the cost to develop an API will be $20000. The figure includes building a secure, documented, full-fledged API by an expert API developer. The cost will also depend much on whether you get it developed by an in-house API developer or outsource it.
We hope you must have got an in-depth knowledge of API development. Now when you know what is an API and all crucial factors related to its development, you can ensure foolproof API development. If you are looking for an API development expert, we can help you further in getting the best in the industry.