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Application programming interfaces (APIs) have quickly become vital to modern businesses. APIs work by allowing different systems to talk to each other and share data. The commercial use of APIs and web APIs has skyrocketed over the last decades in accordance with the rise in app development, mobile apps, and e-commerce. However, how do you estimate API development time?

Well, API creation and the development time frame will always vary from project to project. However, certain components can be used to estimate API development times. Read on to learn more about the key elements that can help assess the amount of time it will take to develop an API.

Here's the key things to know about estimating API development time:

  • Developing a successful API requires careful selection of skilled developers, as their expertise is crucial to the project's success.
  • Essential steps in API development include designing databases, conducting research, creating prototypes, documenting processes, and implementing robust security measures, each with specific time allocations.
  • Effective collaboration between database experts and developers is vital, especially when creating new databases from scratch.
  • Investing in comprehensive security measures is critical to protect the sensitive data that APIs often handle.
  • Utilizing a monitoring dashboard is recommended to track API performance metrics and address issues promptly.

When it comes to developing an API and generating the most profitable API design, you need the right API developer on your team. Finding a qualified API developer should definitely be factored into the time it takes to create an API. Of course, choosing the right API developer will be the ultimate key to your API’s success. Keep in mind that working with an experienced developer will not be cheap. The cost will vary based on the developer's experience and whether you have an in-house team or are contracting with developers. 

Factoring in Development Time 

After finding the right API developer for your project, you will need to outline what capabilities and functions you need for your API. Note what areas need to be worked on in your API and what your overall goals are for your API. 

Related Reading: How APIs and Businesses Work to Enable Business Agility

By creating an outline and discussing it with all developers, contractors, and your in-house team, you will have a much better idea of the project's direction and how much time you need to allocate for its entire production. While every API project will vary in production time, some of the key elements to include when trying to estimate API development time include database design, research, prototyping, API documentation, security, and dashboard monitoring. 

Determining Database Design 

One of the significant elements to consider when trying to estimate API development time is database design. The development time will vary depending on whether your API will draw data from an existing database or your API will require a new database design. If building a new database, you will most likely need to hire a database expert to develop a database structure. Collaboration between database experts and the API developers will be essential at this stage. 

Time Estimate: You should allow your development team at least 2-3 days to go over database design. 

Allowing Time for Research

Research is another critical part of the development process, and it will take up significant time during API development. Starting any API development project requires a lot of research. During the research phase of API development, you will need to outline the purpose of your API and ensure that your developer team is meeting your requirements and the expectations of the API's consumers. 

In addition, you will need to research key elements that include:

  • Which data sources will the API expose. 
  • Requirements of any third-party services the API interacts with. 
  • Regulations that the API must abide by for proper functionality. 
  • Recent market trends to ensure that your API can compete against similar APIs. 

Time Estimate: You should allow your development team at least 2-3 days to research. 

Related Reading: How To Define an API Integration To Support Business Agility

Scheduling Time for Prototyping 

Another key element to allocate time for when estimating API production time is prototyping. When it comes to an API development project, prototyping proves to be very important. Development teams must come up with a prototype quickly to begin testing it during the early stages of development. In addition, finding and rectifying errors during the early stages of API production will help cut down on both time and cost. 

Time Estimate: You should allow your development team at least 3-5 days to build a prototype. 

Writing API Documentation 

One crucial element in API production that often gets overlooked is API documentation. However, API documentation is a key component when it comes to ensuring that your API is understood by all team members, even if they are joining the development team halfway through the production process. Many APIs that fail or do not live up to their intended expectations are products of little to no documentation. Great API documentation is essential for producing APIs that meet developer and consumer expectations. 

Time Estimate: You should allow your development team at least 1-2 days for documentation. 

Investing in an API Security Expert 

Along with having an expert API developer team, you should also allocate resources to bring an API security expert into your team. APIs are computing interfaces that power and share vast amounts of data and information between applications. This means that APIs handle significant amounts of sensitive data that require protection at all times. In addition, it is vital that consumers feel that their sensitive data and information is safe when using your API. Therefore, it is essential to allocate enough time for a security ecosystem to be developed to ensure security throughout the API’s lifecycle. 

Time Estimate: You should allow your development team at least 5-10 days to ensure security is sound. 

Related Reading: API Cost Calculator: How Much Does it Cost to Build an API?

Monitoring Dashboards 

A final key component to factor into API development is a dashboard system. Dashboard development is vital to the success of APIs. A good API dashboard allows the developer community to receive detailed reports of failed API requests to troubleshoot issues. Therefore, to ensure profitability at its endpoint, you will need to allocate time to build a dashboard that provides your API with metrics and real-time performance alerts.

A good dashboard is essential, especially when it comes to monitoring:

  • API feedback 
  • HTTP response status codes 
  • Usage 
  • KPIs 

Time Estimate: You should allow your development team at least 2-3 days for monitoring.   If all elements go according to plan, you might be able to successfully develop an API over the course of 20-30 days.

Estimate API Development Time with DreamFactory

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FAQ: Estimating API Development Times

What qualifications should I look for in an API developer?

Look for developers with a strong background in software engineering, experience in the specific API technologies you intend to use, and a track record of successful API projects. Familiarity with security best practices and database management is also crucial.

How long does it typically take to develop an API?

The development time can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the API and the specific requirements. Generally, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, with key phases like database design, research, and security implementation each taking several days to a few weeks.

What are the key stages of API development?

Key stages include planning and designing the database structure, conducting thorough market and technical research, developing and testing prototypes, writing comprehensive documentation, and implementing security measures. Monitoring and maintaining the API post-launch is also essential.

Why is security so important in API development?

APIs often handle sensitive data and serve as gateways between different software applications. Robust security measures prevent unauthorized access and data breaches, ensuring that user data is protected, which is vital for maintaining trust and compliance with regulations.

What is the purpose of a monitoring dashboard in API development?

A monitoring dashboard helps developers track the API’s performance in real-time, monitor usage patterns, and quickly identify and rectify any issues or failures. This tool is crucial for maintaining the health and efficiency of the API, ultimately ensuring a better user experience.

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