5 Essential Considerations Prior to Building an API | Dreamfactory

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Laptop on desk: Building an API

An API is a process where one application, website, or software can talk to another and provides a way for the developers of one application to interact with the components of another application. The goal is to make it easier for people who are working on different projects at the same time to work together seamlessly. There are various reasons that an API may be needed. We can see many companies using APIs in their software development processes, such as Slack, Google Docs, Facebook, and Gmail. While there are many good API building practices, here are five essential considerations prior to building an API.

1. Understand Why You Need an API

An API is a set of tools that allows software developers to access and use the data and functionality of an application. There are many reasons why you would want to build an API:

    • To provide a way for your customers to integrate your app with their own software

    • To open up your product or service so that others can learn from it and build on it, just like the contributors who created the Internet

    • To partner with other organizations in order to provide them with data

    • To monetize your product or service by giving developers keys to its capabilities for a fee

    • To create public APIs that anyone can use for free

2. Identify the Purpose of Your API

There are a lot of use cases for APIs. The most common ones are:

    • Mobile API

    • Database API

    • Personalized API

An API can be used in the following scenarios:

    • For data analysis (e.g., Salesforce)

    • To improve customer experience (e.g., Google Maps)

    • To provide knowledge (e.g., Wolfram Alpha)

Some APIs allow you to get information from a website or service, while others let you add information to the site or service. APIs can be for websites, mobile apps, and desktop programs. They can be used with social media sites, shopping sites, and even live streaming sites like Twitch and YouTube Gaming.

3. Select the Right Programming Language and Framework for Your Needs

Selecting the right programming language is one of the most crucial decisions you will be making. The typical list of languages for building APIs includes: 

    • Java: Java is a popular choice because it is a well-established language with numerous integrations with other languages and frameworks. It might not be the best choice if you are building APIs for mobile devices since it doesn’t have any particular optimizations for that use case.

    • Node.js: Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment for developing server applications. Node.js can be used to develop web applications, real-time applications, and more.

    • C#: C sharp is a general-purpose and imperative computer programming language that can be used for many different things such as scripting software development. It supports procedural programming and data abstraction while also providing strong typing, dynamic memory management, and exception handling features.

    • Python: Python is a popular programming language that runs on different platforms and can be used to create different types of applications.

    • Ruby: Ruby is a reflective object-oriented programming language that makes it possible to be more expressive and less verbose than imperative or procedural languages. It can be used to build web applications, scripts, games, web services, command-line tools, and desktops.

    • C++: C++ is a general-purpose programming language that has been used for over 30 years. It is an object-oriented language that supports procedural programming and structured programming.

    • PHP: PHP is a server-side scripting language that generates dynamic web pages. PHP can be embedded into HTML or can be used in combination with various web development frameworks like Zend Framework, Symfony, Laravel, and CodeIgniter.

DreamFactory is an API management platform that helps you get started with building your own API. It also provides the right programming language for your specific needs. Because it is a complete and versatile tool, DreamFactory can build APIs in your language of choice: Ruby, Python, C#, or PHP.

4. Plan Your Development Process

The creative process of developing products is not linear, so it will more than likely change throughout the development process. A good way to plan out your creative process with your team is to create mocks with drawings or wireframes. This will allow you to identify any problems before they happen and make sure that you agree with your team members. It is important to develop a process that ensures development is done in a timely and reliable way.

You can plan out your workflow and figure out how to keep all the team members happy with their responsibilities. Doing this will ensure that development happens more smoothly and everyone feels they are contributing to the process. This will also make sure that there is no conflict between any team members that may feel their position is less important than someone else’s.

5. Prepare Designer Assets Beforehand

It is important to prepare all assets beforehand. This way, developers can start with the development process as soon as they are done with the design phase. One of the best practices for building an API before development begins is to upload all necessary images and style guides to a content management system for designers and developers. This will reduce the time spent searching for these assets during production.

All logos, screenshots, wireframes, and UIKit libraries should be uploaded before development starts. Those files will also be handy when it comes time to create your API documentation. Documentation is crucial so other people can use your API. DreamFactory automatically generates documentation for all the APIs it creates to make your life easier.

Getting Started With DreamFactory

Developing APIs can be a complex, time consuming, and expensive process. It also exposes businesses to a number of risks including consistency, quality, and developer resourcing. DreamFactory is a REST API generation tool for 20+ databases and a range of other data sources. It gives you the ability to generate secure and fully documented APIs in a matter of minutes. Ready to get started?  

Sign up for a 14-day free trial and start creating your APIs today!

Related reading:

10 API Developer Mistakes to Avoid