A Complete Guide to API Development – Its Need, Working, Tools, and Best Practices (& Terminology)

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Assuming that you’ve heard the word ‘API’ for like zillion times while communicating with mobile app developers, today I’m going to cover everything about APIs in this article. So, put your seat belts and get ready to get into the world of APIs – the superheroes behind the functioning of the mobile apps.

Let’s begin with what are APIs?

  • API

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

For example, when we hit on the ‘Connect Facebook’ button on Candy Crush, it does not ask us to enter our Facebook account details. Rather, it accesses the data from the Facebook server and let us enjoy playing – all thanks to API.

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. On the top of it, APIs eliminate the need to build a similar program or platform from scratch; you can use the existing one of some other app/platform. Because of these factors, both app developers and business leaders focus on API development.

  • Terminology

a) API Key: When an API request through a header or parameter to recognize the requester, the authorized code passed into the request is said to be an API Key.

b) Endpoint: When an API interacts with another system, one end of the communication channel is termed as Endpoint.

c) JSON: JavaScript Object Notion or JSON is said to be a data format used for APIs request parameters and response body.

d) GET: The RESTful API’s HTTP method of obtaining resources is called GET.

e) POST: It is the RESTful API’s HTTP method for building resources.

f) OAuth: It is basically an Open standard authorization framework that renders access from the user’s side without directly sharing the credentials.

g) REST: REST (Representational State Transfer) is a kind of programming architectural implementation meant to enhance the efficiency of communication between the two devices/systems. It is light-weighted and based on the idea of making a particular data available only when requested by sharing references to the data instead of the entire copy of the data itself. 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.

h) SOAPSOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol is a messaging protocol for sharing structured information in the execution of web services in computer networks. It works with XML information set and application layer protocols (like HTTP and SMTP) for message format and message negotiation & transmission, respectively.

i) Latency: Latency is defined as the total time taken by an API in the process from the request to the response.

j) Rate-Limiting: The term API Rate-limiting refers to the process of defining the rate at which an end user can access the APIs. In other words, it means restricting the number of requests a user can hit to an API per time.

k) API Throttling: The process of regulating the usage of APIs by users during a particular time period is called Throttling. This can be used for API limiting. For example, you set the limit of 1000 API requests per day. When the user hit the 1001 request, the server will send 429 messages as HTTP status to the end user along with the message, “Too many Requests”.

For more terminology and acronym, refer this site.

Now, as you know what are APIs, are armed with the terminologies and are familiar with the anatomy of the growing API market, let’s dig deeper into the technical part – beginning with how do APIs work?

  • Working of API

Suppose you opened some XYZ app/website to book a flight. You filled the form – you entered the departure and return date, city, flight, and other relevant details – and submitted. With a fraction of seconds, a list of flights appears on the screen along with the price, timings, seat availability, and other details. How this actually happens?

To provide such stringent data, the platform sent a request to the airline’s website to access their database and get relevant data via API. The website responded with the data which API 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 as the intermediate streamlining the data sharing process. When talking about communicating the endpoints, the API works in two ways, namely: REST and SOAP (see definition above).

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

To understand the API lifecycle and working process in detail, contact our experts today!

Now coming to the main part – How to develop an API? What tools and technologies to choose? What practices to adopt for an effective API development?

  • Tools for Developing an API (like a PRO..)

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

a) Apigee: It is a Google’s API management provider that assists the developers and entrepreneurs to triumph at digital transformation by reestablishing towards an API approach.

b) APIMatic and API Transformer: 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.

c) API Science: This tool is primarily used for evaluating the performance of both internal APIs and external APIs.

d) API Serverless Architecture: These products assist mobile app developers in designing, building, publishing and hosting APIs with the help of a cloud-based server infrastructure.

e) API-Platform: This open-source PHP framework is apt for web API development.

f) Auth0: It is an identity management solution used to authenticate and authorize APIs.IoT technology

g) ClearBlade: It is an API management provider for embracing the IoT technology into your process.

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

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

Although the world is full of APIs and APIs, there is still a major gap in utilizing the perks of API. While some APIs make integration to the app a breeze, other turns it into a nightmare. To help you out in ensuring that you build a former one, here are some of the factors related to APIs for developers to consider: