10 Best Practices to Follow for REST API Development



Communication between the applications and devices is crucial for the success of the product and to deliver comprehensive services to the users. REST API plays a crucial role to enable effective and fast communication. That is why REST API development is growing more than ever before.

When a web development agency uses rest API, it means it needs to establish effective communication between the applications. Many Tech giants like GitHub, Netflix, Facebook, and others are also using the APIs. It helps the developers to communicate with data easily, so using API has become a more common practice.

APIs must be designed meticulously otherwise, they can affect the user experience. There are many APIs, however, most developers use REST API. Let’s know what is REST API and the best practices to follow for its development.

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What Is REST API?

REST API (also known as RESTful API) is an application programming interface that is a protocol to establish communication between applications. REST stands for Representational State Transfer. Likewise, it is an architectural style to create REST API and services around data models.

It is one of the vital and easiest APIs to develop. That’s why knowing the API building best practice software engineering is important. Have a look at the REST API Model to understand it better.

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Why Do Companies Want Custom API?

Security and protection of data are a must in today’s time. Companies develop their custom APIs so, that they can have full control over the data used by third parties. The companies can know how and where their data is being used.

They follow the REST API development best practices to control the data used by other companies and apps. Likewise, the outside developers can use the business logic of the company to build applications. And for this, they will not have to use the company’s proprietary code or frameworks.

A development team in a large organization can work consistently without altering the crucial data using API. It can provide access to developers through APIs for fast and effective development. API development is important for the different types of web app development as well. So, REST API gives the ability to develop web apps effectively.

Also Read: 9 Different Types of Web Applications in 2022

Features of REST API

You should know the basic features of rest API. Because it will help you understand the REST API best practices. Have a look at each feature in the space below.

  1. 1. Easy to View and Read

    It is crucial for developers to understand everything and implement the concepts. REST API is precisely designed so it becomes easy for the developers to read and work with it. The developers can remember the functions and resources of REST API while dealing with it.

  2. 2. Cache Enabled Information

    If the answers from the sever are cache enabled, it improves network traffic efficiency. REST clients use such type of information and decide whether to perform a local copy of the resource or change the latest resource condition.

  3. 3. Hard to Misuse

    You can decrease the possibility of writing the wrong code if you execute the API with a lucid design. Moreover, you will not have to face difficult instructions while commanding the end user.

Also Read: 21 Excellent Industry-Based App Ideas For Startups

10 Best Practices to Follow for REST API

For precise and effective REST development, you have to focus on some best practices. These practices make the life of a developer easy. Design and development practices help the developers to produce impeccable APIs for the app and web app.

Have a look at the 10 best practices to follow for REST API.

  1. Document API Changes
  2. Utilize JSON as a Data Format
  3. Maintain Consistent Versioning
  4. Create Data structure and Schemas Early
  5. Choose Suitable Libraries
  6. Understand the Update Options
  7. Anticipate Error Handling
  8. Enhancing API Security
  9. Data Filtering, Field Selection, Sorting, Paging
  10. Keep the Resources Limited

Read About each practice in the space below.

  • Document API Changes

    Whatever changes you make in the API always document them. It helps to keep the complete and clear APIs. You can use ChangeLog to keep the track of any changes you make to API. Likewise, it is crucial especially when you are about to add new features to your API.

    Avoiding the documentation can lead to bugs and errors and handling them becomes a difficult job. Accurate logs help in security, authentication, and error management. The users can use API effectively if it is documented properly.

  • Utilize JSON as a Data Format

    It is one of the important REST API good practices. The data must be easy to read for humans, so most developers use the JSON data format. Although they can use XML, HTML, and CSV, JSON provides effective features, easy to use, and helps to complete tasks fast.
    In addition, JSON has an extensive array of supported browser compatibility which makes the process easy for the developers.

  • Maintain Consistent Versioning

    Consistent versioning helps to make changes as needed. But make sure the API users can understand which version they are using and how it can affect the upcoming changes. As the project increases with time, you have to deal with many APIs because their number also increases with time.

    It helps to improve the API by following particular actions and making changes in the data structure. Sometimes, you get mixed feedback and need to think about whether to include the API version in the URL or header. Likewise, the search of the browser across various versions should be seamless.

  • Create Data Structure and Schemas Early

    In API development, it’s crucial to make decisions regarding data structure/schemas because these decisions leave significant implications on long-term functionality and performance. You should focus on the questions mentioned below while writing code.

    1. Can I use the existing data structure (e.g. Hashes and lists) or make my own?
    2. Will each call return all of its results at once?
    3. How to design these results when they return from an API?
    4. How much data do I need to return?
    5. Which is the right format for the code (XML or JSON)?
    6. Is it necessary that every client has access to resources?
  • Choose Suitable Libraries

    OAuth and OpenID are the most common tools and libraries you may use while working with APIs. You can use OAuth for authorization whereas, Open ID for Authentication. Both have similar use cases.

    Moreover, You have to analyze the library or tool to check whether it is suitable for your existing stack or not. It means the package or library you choose should integrate well.

  • Understand the Update Options

    Updates can be confusing if you are building a REST API that supports bidirectional updates. If you want to escape from ending up consuming massive amounts of bandwidth and server resources, use the important data updates.

    Moreover, if your API is consumed by the application software that stores its data in a database. In this case, you may need to apply delta updates.

  • Anticipate Error Handling

    If you anticipate error handling, you can develop an easy-to-use API. You can understand the nature of mistakes with the help of HTTP responses. If you smartly manage the errors, it can reduce confusion for API users. Have a look at the basic error HTTP status in the space below.

      1. 400 Bad Requests – It shows that client-side input is unsuccessful in documentation and validation.
      2. 401 Unauthorized – It implies, that the user is not authorized to use resources.
      3. 403 Forbidden – Improper user has no permission to use resource.
      4. 404 Not Found – It shows there are no resources.
      5. 500 Internal Server Error – Null and invalid response by the server.
      6. 503 Service Unavailable – Basic server error.
  • Enhancing API Security

    You can create web API best practices with the help of security frameworks like TLS and SSL. SSL certificate offers a private and public key to develop a secure connection. You can’t be sure of safeguarding sensitive data like financial and medical information without an encrypted connection.

    So, TLS and SSL provide improved security and protection. However, regular testing and checking of errors are the best API practices. There are two vital tests: penetrating and Fuzz testing.

  • Data Filtering, Field Selection, Sorting, Paging

    Retrieving the data smartly is an important step toward a secure connection with API. When you have a huge amount of data retrieving the exact one asked for is difficult. You have to show only that data which is asked not the entire.

    For this, you have to use filters so that you can fetch the data that meets the request. Filters save massive bandwidth size on the client-side. As the data increases the necessity for managing it also increases. Thereby, you have to use REST API filtering options (Tools).

  • Keep the Resource Nesting Limited

    You can pair two functions that share a similar hierarchy with the help of resource nesting. For example, if you run an online store, the Users are resources for you. Moreover, you can pair the relevant resources effectively. So, nesting is a beneficial REST API development practice.

    But try not to overuse the nesting because it can reduce its appeal. Likewise, it can produce complex dependencies that beginners can’t understand effectively. So, using the nesting efficiently is one of the best REST API practices.

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Wrapping Up

The above-mentioned practices will help you develop the impeccable REST API.
Well-designed REST APIs make sure that your solution is secure and easy to use. However, following the REST API development practices is sometimes a challenging job. Focus on API management so that you can make successful APIs in a short time.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the difference between Web services and API?

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What is the difference between REST API vs RESTFUL API?

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What is the significance of REST API?

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What is the cost of API development?

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Saikat Ghosh working as a Business & HR head at mobile app development company, Technource. He is an Electrical engineer by education and studied management from IIM, Calcutta. He has worked last 23 years in client-facing roles like Marketing, Sales, and Support. He loves to work with on-demand app development, Marketing & Sales strategies, brainstorm new ideas and learn from people. When he is off from his regular job, he works for his theatre group.

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