API Development Guide For Beginners: – Tips, Importance, Tools, and Practices To Follow
If you are relatively new to the app and web development world but have heard the acronym “API” a million times and don’t know the meaning, functions, and much more about it, you are not alone. Novice developers usually have a very vague idea about API development; if you are one of them and want to have complete knowledge of API development, you are at the right place.
API stands for Application Programming Interface. In simple words, API acts as a medium that exchanges information between two systems or software. The main object behind creating an API is to exchange information seamlessly without acknowledging end-users.
If you are connected to the app development industry, API helps in making applications without reinventing the wheel from scratch. It means you can use someone else’s code while developing your app. Mobile applications such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter are using API to send messages and for other functionalities.
APIs are sometimes protected and many times are free. Overall, API makes the development process easy as you don’t need to write long codes.
In this piece of article, you will explore,
- What are APIs
- Why build APIs
- Best API development and testing tools
- Best practices to follow
- How API works
- And real-life examples
So, without any ado, let’s get started.
What is API? Breaking Down the Acronym
API is a pretty common term that we often use while developing a website or app.
To simply put, an API is an interface with which you can access any application’s features without deploying or hosting them on the same server.
Technically, API integration is the simple connection between two or more applications, systems, software, and programs. One can use it to send and receive data and information.
API allows developers to make a specific “call” to receive and exchange information between two systems or software. And this communication is done using a programming language named “JSON.” You can also update and delete data; for a specific “call” or “request,” you can basically use four types of methods such as,
- GET- Gather Information
- PUT- Update Piece of Data
- POST- Create a new product category
- DELETE- Deleting a data
Now that you have got a basic idea of what an API is and some real examples, now let’s jump to why you should care about APIs.
Why Develop an API
APIs are very important because it makes programmer’s lives easier as they don’t need to write long codes while building their own app or product. No, that does not mean someone can steal or use your data, but when it’s done right, an API can allow your brands to grow into new dimensions beyond your imagination.
Here we have mentioned some companies that have used their own APIs to grow their business and to rule their own fields
And the list goes on. But why do you need to build an API? Well, there are some reasons you need to build an API. So let’s explore some valid reasons why you should care about building APIs.
- If you want to build a mobile application or desktop app someday
- If you want to use modern frameworks such as React or Angular
- Your website has so much data that you need to run quickly
- You want to have the same data access at a different location or ways
- You want to upsell your customers on API access
Overall, API helps you access the data and get your done with ease- whether you are a business entity, a student, or a government agency.
5 Best API Development and Testing Tools
APIs are a critical part of modern application development. With API development and testing, you can check all your APIs in a single place before and after deployment. According to Google Trends, the interest in API development and testing has been increasing gradually.
All you need to follow the right process, tools, and practices for API development and testing as it has become a critical part of the entire app development process. Here we are going to discuss the top API development and testing tools, which range from free and paid solutions depending on the specific needs of development teams.
Amazon API Gateway
Amazon Web Service offers free access to Amazon API Gateway along with many other services. With this API, you can access up to 1million API calls or more than 750,000 connection minutes. If you are a beginner, this number would vary as per your requirements.
Amazon API also has a paid version that lets you develop front-end APIs for apps on EC2, Lambda, etc. Further, it also comes with API version control, traffic management, and package tracking facility.
Apart from multiple facilities, Amazon API Gateway offers top-notch security to control API access. The service later interacts with Amazon Identity and Access Management to authorize access to APIs.
IBM Cloud API Management
IBM Cloud offers many services in its free version; a developer can take advantage of many features available on the platform. Like Amazon API Gateway, IBM also offers API connect, which is one of the best API management tools.
Earlier, IBM’s API management tools were only used to develop APIs, but now it has been updated and offers several supporting tools. These tools play a significant role in developing composite API design, integrating cloud service with enterprise systems, and much more. In its free version, IBM cloud offers 50,000 API calls per month.
Postman initially launched as a Chrome plugin but now has become one of the best API testing tools. Postman is ideal for those who want to test API without coding in an IDE using the same language as developers. Postman is now compatible with Mac and Windows as well. Some benefits Postman includes:
- Simple to use a REST client
- Offers multiple features such as run, test, document, and much more
- You don’t need knowledge of programming language to use this API testing tool
You can get started with the free plan; however, its paid plan starts from $21 per user per month.
API metrics is an API monitoring tool based on data-driven that keeps eyes on security, compliance, and performance. You can also set alerts for your APIs; it means they will send you alert notifications when something goes wrong. API metrics’ popularity keeps increasing as it supports both SOAP and REST APIs.
It’s out of box API designer workflow system that helps to trigger API calls in an order. If you want to choose API metrics, you need to go with the “Grande Level” because it offers 30,000 API calls per month. However, you can opt for 14 days trial version to test the features and functionalities.
SoapUI is another best API testing tool for SOAP and REST APIs. The free version of SoapUI allows users to gain access to the complete source code and create their own features. But you should prefer paid version if you want to enjoy the following features,
- Efficient creation of custom code
- Data can be extracted from files, database, and excel
- Support native integrations
SoapUI offers a free and paid version; paid plans start from $659/year.
Best Practices to Implement in API Development
Every piece of software you use involves an API, and there is a constant rise in the demand for API developers every year. Poorly developed API can create lots of security issues and difficulties for end-users. So what are some best practices to follow for API development that prevent those causes and offer you amazing output?
Name the Collections Using Plural Nouns
For the collections in API development, use plural nouns. It is good practice to follow and makes it easier for normal people to get an idea that something is actually can be defined as a collection.
In the first example, you can see “cars” sounds plural, and anyone can understand that this API consists of a list of all cars.
Have a Clear Documentation
You should have clear documentation for API development. Developers usually auto-generate it based on API definition, but it would be great if you work hard to make sure that the documentation is easy to learn and grasp for those who have little technical knowledge.
The more detailed your API documentation is, the easier it would be for users to utilize it. For instance, you can check out PayPal’s API documentation.
Above are the popular practices used for API development, however, if you have nitty-gritty technical knowledge but are unaware of technical aspects, it would be beneficial for your organization to hire an app development company for API development.
In a technology-driven world, there are endless terminologies used, but here we are going to talk about APIs terminology that helps you understand various terms and technologies with ease.
REST (Representational State Transfer)
REST has become the most popular framework for APIs in the last few years. This framework for API is divided into four key functions that are referred to as “CRUD,” which refers to Create, Read, Update and Delete.
GraphQL ( Graph Query Language)
GraphQL is new to the API world and serves as both an API type and schema. It is open source technology launched by Facebook.
An API that opens a backend system over the Web using the HTTP protocols. It makes the process of cloud and mobile apps creation much easier.
This is an Open Standard authorization framework that allows access from the user’s side without sharing confidential details.
This method of obtaining resources is called GET.
How does API Development Cycle Work?
APIs exchange information through a set of rules that define how systems, applications, or machines can exchange information with each other. The API acts as a bridge between any two systems or software that want to connect to accomplish certain tasks.
Here let’s take a simple example.
When you sign in to your Gmail account from your phone, you tell the Gmail App that you would like to use your account. The Gmail mobile app makes a call to an API to access your Gmail account and credentials. Later, Gmail will access this information from one of its servers and return the data to the mobile application.
Companies use API technology to gain an edge over rivals as it is one of the best ways to retrieve information quickly to serve the customer.
Real-life Examples of APIs
Here we have presented an excellent API implementation that will help you develop the best products and services that will win you customers for life.
Twilio – More than 50,000 companies and 2 million developers using Twilio API.
WhatsApp – 1.6 billion users using WhatsApp API in more than 180 nations.
Facebook – Organizations can link Facebook API with most CRMs and give marketers the power to deliver a personalized experience to customers.
In a nutshell, API has been a game-changer for modern organizations across the globe. The rise of API allows software companies to integrate important features and makes the development process speedy that might earlier have taken months or years.