6 Best Practices for RESTful API Design | Dreamfactory

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Many businesses need to build an API for their customers to use, but many businesses also struggle with making their API easy for customers to use. DreamFactory makes it easier for developers to design RESTful APIs. It builds on the best practices in web-based software development, allowing developers to design RESTful APIs without cumbersome hand-coding. RESTful API design is a critical part of developing APIs, so it's important to know the best practices for RESTful API design and implementation.

1. Start with a Solid API Strategy

A robust API strategy will help you build a solid API architecture and design, which will support your project and pave the way for future growth. An API strategy is important for any company that wants to become agile, innovative, and data-driven. It helps to build the business around an API by focusing on key areas such as data governance, authorization, and security.API development starts with the creation of an API project management plan. This plan specifies how the work will be done and who will be responsible for what tasks. The plan should include timelines for how much time is allocated for each task in order to maintain a timeline for when the final product will be completed.

2. Identify Your API Users

Understanding the behaviors, motivations, and goals of your customers is the key to a great product.The first step in understanding your API users is finding out where they already congregate. What platforms do they use? What forums do they post on? Which blogs do they read? Which social media sites are they active on?The API user research includes the following steps:

  • Define the target audience.
  • Conduct user interviews.
  • Conduct user research.
  • Analyze the data to find patterns and insights.
  • Create personas for each target audience to inform your future design decisions.

3. Create an API Design Specification Document

An API design specification document (apidoc) is a file that contains all the information about an API. It should include the functions, input parameters, output parameters, and error handling of the API. API design specification documents are the documentation of the methods that an API exposes to its clients. It is a contract between the API provider and its clients that defines how the provider intends to provide access to their data.It is also used as a reference for both API consumers and implementers. It is important for every service to have this document because it helps developers understand how to use it, how it should be used, what data structures are supported, and what exceptions exist. A well-written document can make your API more user-friendly for developers who want to use your service.

4. Write an Error Handling Plan for Your API

Web services and APIs rely on code that can potentially generate errors. However, it is important to provide for error handling to make sure that the service is available and reliable.Error handling is a necessary step to take for your API. Without it, any error that occurs will cause your API to crash. This will require code fixes and downtime. To prevent this from happening, you should create an error handling plan for the API now before the need arises.An error handling plan includes:

  • What errors can occur and how they would be classified
  • How much information should be returned in each type of error message
  • What type of response should be given when an error occurs
  • The process for monitoring errors and logging them

Along with creating an error handling plan, DreamFactory has a built-in REST API that can help developers build applications faster and more easily by handling many of these problems automatically.

5. Write a Clear and Concise Documentation Plan for Your API

Writing documentation is one of the best practices for RESTful API design and is an important task that needs to be done on time. The apidoc format is a great way to write clear and concise documentation for your API.In order to write a clear and concise documentation plan, you need to have a good understanding of the following:

  • Who are the consumers of your API?
  • What data structures does it use?
  • What operations does it support?
  • How does it handle errors?
  • What security measures are in place?
  • How should people interact with the documentation when using the API?

6. Use the Right Tools to Generate Documentation From Your Design Documents

Design and documentation tools for UI/UX designers are becoming more mainstream in the industry. Examples of these include Sketch, Axure, Adobe XD, and Framer Studio. Designers are using these tools to create their designs in vector format, which is easier to edit later on. They can use these documents for collaboration with remote teams or completing decisions with clients.One of the benefits of using design document tools is that they make it easier for you to organize your thoughts and ideas when creating a design. They also help you stay focused on what you need in order to complete your project in a timely manner.Generating documentation from design documents is simple and one of the best practices for RESTful API design. You need to go through the following steps:

  • Take screenshots of the design elements, and use a tool like Photoshop or Sketch to make them look crisp and orderly.
  • Add text boxes to your screenshots, and add your design requirements in these boxes. All you have to do is append ‘[design requirement]’ at the end of whatever you want to mention in the text box.
  • Use a tool that allows you to create PDFs from Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files, such as Adobe Acrobat Pro.

DreamFactory offers an API documentation tool that can generate both static and interactive documentation. It can also provide you with detailed descriptions of all the parameters and return values for each endpoint.

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 effort. DreamFactory is a REST API generation tool for a number of databases. 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.

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