by Tony Harris • August 23, 2021
With the emergence of low-code and no-code tools, building an API is simpler and faster than ever. Given the ease of development, it is easy to overlook potential problems that can result in downstream effects throughout your business. Taking a bit more time in the design phase can ensure the API is truly useful, secure, scalable, and stable. Here, we’ll discuss the top ten most common API developer mistakes to avoid and in doing so, give you every chance to develop a high quality API.
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From a coding perspective, it’s much easier to return the entire object call instead of only the specific properties the consumer needs. Unfortunately, this decision causes more problems than it is worth. These bloated responses serve no purpose to the consumer and ultimately impact latency and bandwidth on both ends. A better approach is to build flexibility into the method. Give consumers the option to receive a full object that has all properties or one that only delivers a subset of the information they need.
Testing individual methods in isolation is only useful for unit testing. It does not guarantee that the same method will work in the context of the app ecosystem. You could get positive results in unit testing but run into errors with actual use testing. To avoid this problem, run each method through multiple scenarios to ensure they work for each use case.
When there is a disconnect between the requirements and what the developer thinks is the problem, issues are sure to arise. This unfortunate but common mistake causes frustration for the consumer. It also results in wasted time for you since you have to rework things. To avoid this problem, evaluate the entire workflow to understand how it fits in.
When error messages don’t make sense to the consumer, it creates unnecessary work on both ends. The consumer must spend hours troubleshooting an issue. You’ll end up having to help them and ultimately do some rework to create a more useful error message. Create helpful error messages by explaining exactly what each one means and what went wrong. Also, stick to using well-known status codes.
Increased usage over time puts more demand on the system. The Application Programming Interface needs to handle the demand and scale appropriately. Planning for scalability in the design phase can help avoid this problem.
The chances of anyone using your newly developed Application Programming Interface decreases significantly when documentation is lacking. This problem causes frustration and endless troubleshooting. Provide comprehensive documentation that explains how to use the API. Be sure you keep the documentation up to date; this lets your customers know how to use any new features.
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When you don’t spend enough time on data validation, someone will invariably find a gap that causes problems. It could be as simple as passing invalid data in a seemingly innocuous field. Take the time to validate every input the consumer sends to minimize the chances of this happening.
Consumers looking for the most up-to-date data make frequent requests that put unnecessary stress on the system. Instead of allowing the customer to request updates, use a framework such as webhooks to push the updated data when it changes. This cuts back on unnecessary polling.
Redundant endpoints are support and refactoring nightmares. This API developer mistake happens when multiple endpoints return the same data, as you need to make updates to all endpoints referencing that data. Keep a close eye on updates as you implement new endpoints to support various use cases. Make sure there isn’t an endpoint that contains the same information that you might reuse.
Sending multiple requests to accomplish a task causes overhead in latency and bandwidth. You can optimize performance by batching these small requests into one call. These batch requests are useful for consumers who want to send a lot of requests for the same process.
Developing a robust, scalable, and useful API doesn’t have to be complicated. If you follow a few extra steps and avoid these 10 API developer mistakes, you’ll minimize rework and create a full-featured API that provides tons of value. When you sign up for a free trial of DreamFactory, you’ll see firsthand how our no-code tools make building an API quick and easy.
Key Questions to Ask When Building an API
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