8 most important advice for those who build REST APIs
November 19th, 2021Evgenia Kuzmenko
APIs typically assist software developers in handling a variety of microservice issues, thereby enhancing client-server communication. For example, it serves as a framework for separating software technicalities from the user interface while executing certain user requests. It also allows applications functions to be replicated without the need to develop from scratch again. REST-based APIs make it even easier to achieve this.
REST is popular for a variety of reasons. It’s easy to grasp, adaptable, and scalable; moreover, it is powered by a thriving community and innovative tools.
I guess you are already considering utilizing REST, not a bad idea; we got you covered. In less than a minute, I’ll be sharing 8 important pieces of advice for utilizing and creating REST APIs. But before then, what is REST?
REST API is an architectural style for networked hypermedia systems that stands for representational state transfer. It’s a flexible approach to developing APIs that adhere to a specific protocol. A REST API allows a client to interact with a server by transmitting the states of data, which is often kept in a database.
So here we are.
Eight things you should have in mind to develop REST APIs
Consider these points for your REST development projects.
- You should stick with JSON
Every time, I wonder why some developers still think the “NON-JSON way.” I mean, coding is already challenging enough; why would you want to add to it. JSON is like the unofficial industry standard for transporting data. It is compatible with virtually all backend framework
Using JSON is not a prerequisite for REST, but you should consider discarding XML for optimal delivery and ease of use. XML is not commonly compatible with many frameworks, so you would likely need to change the data to something usable.
Besides, JSON is simpler to use and understand; it takes up less memory space, making it speedier; JSON may be parsed without any additional support, and it is compatible with almost every programming language.
Rest APIs should use JSON as the protocol for exchanging communication. It shouldn’t only be limited to responses; it should also be used to request payload. Importantly, always specify the kind of input in the response header to ensure that the REST API uses the JSON format.
I know it boils down to choice, but it’s a terrible thing to have bad taste and choose stress over convenience.
- Adhere to the grammatical requirements for endpoints
Okay, don’t fret yet; there are no grammar problems to solve with REST; however, you should obey certain rules and requirements, like labeling things correctly in the API’s endpoint.
The hallmark of REST API is simplicity; thus, every REST-based API should be simple enough for anyone to grasp. Here are the two requirements to note;
- Make use of nouns in endpath
- You should use plurals and not singulars.
It would help if you used nouns for endpoints because the default requirement for HTTP requests is verbs.
So, having verbs at the endpoints again would not be beneficial and would only lead to a stall because no new or additional information would be transmitted.
The majority of actions we usually take are plural or group-based, so collecting information from the server would mostly always be in mass. Having endpoints in the plural would help produce more correct results when requested data access and make accessing and retrieving data convenient.
If there is a need to access singular data, you can add further labels to specify your request. For instance, you can have DELETE/ USERS, but if you want to execute a singular command, it becomes DELETE/users/:id; you include the id of the defined user you want to delete.
Adopt nesting for relative endpoints
API nesting is the practice of grouping relevant endpoints together to form a structure. It is advisable to group endpoints that contain related data when constructing them. To put it another way, if one entity can include another, the endpoint should be designed accordingly.
For example, If a client has any open orders, layering the order after the user id rather than creating new strings is a smart method to manage the API. You can have something like this;
Nonetheless, it is good that you employ lesser nesting levels to avoid technical difficulties or complications; two or three nesting requirements are the healthy recommendations. The use of filtering can help manage your nestings better.
- Follow the due and right process
As a programmer, you should always seek to comprehend the technologies you’re using before setting out; therefore, knowing how HTTP functions is crucial if you’re working on APIs. Most developers only employ the GET HTTP modal because it is the most popular. However, this doesn’t seem right and could make our API less efficient.
There are other HTTP methods, and they were created to be utilized in specific scenarios. Let’s consider them briefly.
The get modal is quite popular among developers and greatly misapplied. It would be best if you only used ‘GET’ when you want to view any information. For example, GET/ users would provide a list of every user. Pretty straightforward, right? Let’s move on.
When you use the ‘POST’ command, it is believed that you intend to create something new and store it.
The most used application of PUT requests is for updating data. It can also be used to generate new or additional input from the client-side.
Patch requests are also used to update data, but not in the manner PUT operates. While PATCH updates the modified data, PUT is capable of influencing the whole.
The ‘DELETE’ command is used to delete or take away data or information from the database.
- Do not overlook errors; make them easy to understand
Errors occur in every program for diverse reasons, so error management is critical to enhance iteration and help the user experience prevent confusion. A good API must always produce the appropriate HTTP error code, which accurately projects the type of error.
Providing the appropriate error code helps the engineers to identify any problem and provide a solution quickly. It will be further helpful if error codes are displayed with an accompanying message.
Assume we need to respond to a faulty command with an error. The ensuing pictorial example registers people by email address:
- Be security conscious
Every API developer should be concerned about cybersecurity, especially server integrity and database safety; a security breach may cost a firm millions of dollars in lost revenue.
We must keep the communication between server and client completely confidential because data occasionally contains sensitive information such as credit card numbers. SSL/TLS security is a common and inexpensive approach to ensure that all requests and responses are encrypted as they travel over the network.
Furthermore, a client should not have access to more information than is required. Users should be restricted to only what concerns them and their personal information.
- Make use of data caching.
The development of REST APIs should focus on licensing the storage of information. Caching gives developers the option of accessing local RAM cache to return data rather than accessing the database whenever they are obligated to obtain the information sought by the clients.
one significant benefit of caching is that consumers can access data more quickly. However, one difficulty that may develop is that the data may become obsolete. But there are remedies for this, such as Redis and Amazon ElasticCache.
It’s important to remember that caching happens on the client’s end. Although you may be able to cache some data to enhance functionality and execution, the goal is to inform the user on how to continue and if the data can be temporarily stored or not.
- Employ appropriate versioning
If you’re going to make modifications to your API, double-check to ensure that you assign the correct version, so the client-end doesn’t fail. Clients should have the option of continuing to use the earlier version or trying the updated one.
By making the adoption of updates discretionary for clients, the focus is on providing a satisfactory user experience. It’s standard procedure to include a version number. However, much older versions can be gradually taken off from user access.
In recent times, more systems rely on APIs to function properly and promote user satisfaction. Hence it becomes pertinent that we prioritize the creation of high-quality REST APIs. The outcome will be fully efficient and standards-compliant if we design our APIs according to the guidelines above.