What Should Your Ideal REST API Look Like? 

One of the most popular types of modern web services is the REST API. They make it possible for many clients, including browser applications, to interact with a server via the REST API. Because of this, it’s crucial that it be designed correctly to avoid issues in the future. Given that REST APIs are increasingly being used to provide sensitive data to clients, we can discuss the best tips for creating REST APIs that are easy to understand for any user, can adapt to new technologies, are secure, and load quickly. Resources, which may be anything from objects and data to services, are at the heart of REST APIs.

Here are some tips on what your ideal REST API should consist of: 

1) Use JSON to send and receive data

If you want greater uniformity in the format of your JSON responses, check out the JSON API, which has been praised for its effective caching capabilities that can avoid needless server calls, which is a step toward the objective of increasing productivity and efficiency. The compact and human-readable JSON format has swiftly gained acceptance with the rise of REST, as it is well-suited for rapid data interchange. 

It is a lightweight data exchange format that is simple to parse. Contrary to its name, JSON is not limited to users with JavaScript but may be used with any computer language and many computer languages share the same data structures found in JSON files, including collections of name/value pairs and ordered lists of items. This means that JSON can be simply included in any language. 

2) Correct URL/Endpoint

In a REST API, the location of the resource or service that the API will access or change is specified by the URL or endpoint. The API’s ability to accurately determine which resource or service to access is crucial to its successful operation and the delivery of desired outcomes. Also, while accessing or updating sensitive information, it’s important to use the proper URL or endpoint to prevent unauthorized changes. REST APIs provide for more granular control over who has access to what by offering a uniform and predictable interface for requesting resources. If you’re having problems debugging an issue, you’ll find that utilizing the proper endpoints and the correct structure for your API calls substantially aids the process.

Read more on using JSON & the correct URL/Endpoints

3) Use plural nouns instead of verbs in the endpoints

Using nouns rather than verbs in the URL endpoint route is standard in a RESTful API. This is so that the endpoints may be organized in a way that is consistent with the resource-based nature of RESTful APIs, making them easier to use. In REST, the resource is a noun, not a verb, and is represented by the URL path and endpoint. Accordingly, it should be represented with plural nouns. 

For instance, the URL for an endpoint that fetches user data may look like this: https://api.example.com/users, whereas, a URL like: https://api.example.com/users/123 might be used to access a specific user’s data at a certain endpoint. 

In this method, the resource is treated independently from the task that must be completed on it. This decoupling simplifies URLs and expands API functionality. Multiple operations can be performed through a single endpoint, and additional operations can be introduced at a later date without requiring any modifications to the current endpoints. The API may be made more self-descriptive and less confusing by making use of plural nouns in the endpoints. One that uses a noun rather than a verb as its terminal expression conveys its meaning more precisely. Therefore, RESTful APIs benefit from being more self-descriptive, consistent, and scalable when they use plural nouns rather than verbs at their endpoints.

4) Use HTTP error codes

It is recommended that REST APIs make use of HTTP status codes to inform both the client and server of the request’s current state. The server can let the client know if the request was successful or not and, if not, why using HTTP error codes, which are defined in the HTTP protocol. Regardless of the specific API implementation, standard HTTP error codes provide a uniform means of communicating the status of a request. Based on the HTTP status code, clients can automate their response to various problem states. 

For instance, if a client encounters the “404 Not Found” error code, it can inform the user that the requested resource is unavailable and show an appropriate message, whereas if it encounters the “401 Unauthorized” error code, it can ask the user to re-enter their credentials. In addition, the standard error codes offer the developer a more precise and complete error message in the event of an issue, making the process of addressing errors more efficient and effective. 

The status of the API may be more clearly seen when HTTP error codes are used. Developers may learn from the error codes’ logging to see how frequently specific mistakes occur, and then utilize that knowledge to enhance the API. 

Read more abour HTTP error codes

5) Maintain a consistent response structure

REST API response structures must be consistent for several reasons:  

  • Predictability: A consistent response format helps customers anticipate API responses. Clients can parse and handle API data using a specified format, making programming more efficient and accurate
  • Simplicity: API developers may work with a consistent response format. They’re prepared and know where to get info. This can simplify API understanding and speed up development
  • Documentation: A consistent response format lets API documentation focus on data rather than structure. Clients can rapidly grasp documentation if they know the response structure 
  • Scalability: As the API expands, a consistent response format makes it easier to add new resources and modify old ones without disrupting clients 
  • Error-handling: Consistent response structures provide standardized error messages, making them easier to interpret and troubleshoot 

6) Create different API versions and document them

REST API developers should create many API versions and document them to make API development more flexible, manageable, and scalable. Reasons for generating and documenting API versions include:  

  • Backwards Compatibility: Incompatible API updates might break current clients. Creating separate API versions lets older clients utilize an older version while new clients use the newest. This reduces interruption for current clients 
  • New Features or Modifications: New API features or substantial changes may not be backward-compatible with old clients. Instead of breaking clients, establish a new API 
  • Deprecation: Developers can discontinue supporting an API by generating several versions. This gives existing clients a clear notice to upgrad 

Documenting API versions helps developers understand what has changed, which version is stable, and which is deprecated. It simplifies API knowledge and uses 

These are some best practices that we recommend for API developers to build better and more efficient RESTful APIs. With these best tips in mind, implementing these standards and guidelines will help ensure that the apps you create are reliable, secure, and, most importantly, useful to the people who use your API. 

At MBiz Software, we partner with multiple technology companies, to create bespoke digital products that solve all your problems. We are seasoned experts working with enterprises from multiple industries to empower your organization to do what you do best.

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