API design

Probably, the first logical question in your head is—what is API design? That’s what makes your technical ecosystem effective and intuitive to users, while UX is now a central reference point. In other words, through API designing, companies attempt to make their software solution useable, smoothly integrated with other services, and well-thought-out in terms of testing and security.


Moreover, it’s at the stage of designing an API integration suit, the scope of integration is defined. To get it more clearly, catch a quick API design example. Think of such a task management system as Trello. It works the way you know it, thanks to the REST API design, which allows quick processing of GET requests through URL and translating them to your visual task tracking boards. 


Well, now it’s time for you to think about how to design a good API. Hopefully, you’ve already grasped our hint about the importance of a user-centred approach, but that’s not all. As the task is handled by API developers, a good API design should be also programmer-centred, which implies easiness of use, proper documentation, and best development practices. Remember that the adoption of API influences the result of integration. So, let’s learn it step-by-step from now on.


Types of API 


Though synchronous messaging protocols (API requests sent and returned with answers) are considered classical, we still consider it important to mention the asynchronous, non-classic API architectural protocols, without which any API integration is impossible. They’re AMQP and MQTT which are used to allow applications to send and get messages from producer to consumer. 


AMQP 


AMQP, or an Advanced Message Queuing Protocol, is a protocol that supports the interaction between applications, and this way, ensures synergies between clients coming from different vendors. This explains its popularity in multi-client environments, such as the financial industry. The latter leverages AMQP to exchange a bundle of data between financial systems and avoid dealing with the licensing of proprietary ones.


MQTT


In its turn, MQTT, or MQ Telemetry Transport, is another messaging protocol that appeared in the technology domain. Specifically, it was developed by IBM with the idea to provide an efficient flow between the MQSeries of products and the smaller devices. Due to its features, MQTT is most often used in manufacturing, automotive, smart homes, and telecommunications industries, but this list is expanding daily. In simple terms, it’s the established vendor-driven communication between machines, which doesn’t consume much energy on the size-constrained devices and allows them to send small messages.


API data protocols: Nuances of usage


While speaking about how to design API architecture, we’d like to stress that REST APIs are mostly used to determine the API ideas for small and mid-size projects, while large projects require more elaborate and qualitative documentation that usually comes from using other API protocols we’ll list below.


 In brief, the REST API design principles presuppose the following: 


  1. Client-server separation. All interactions are launched on the client’s side with the request sent to the API. Then, the API returns the response to the client. 
  2. Uniform interface. The requests should follow one format, language, and protocol. Usually, it’s HTTP for requests and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) for responses because they can be easily parsed by client apps.
  3. Stateless transfer. Not to keep the log of previous calls and related information, each separate call to the API should be read independently, with all the necessary data provided. 
  4. Layer independence. No matter the number of layers between servers, all the requests and responses are to be processed in the same fashion.
  5. Caching. To sync the communications between the API and the client, the responses should state the information about the caching necessity and duration. This will allow for flexibility and security of the API used.


Now that you’ve got acquainted with REST API basics, it’ll be easier to plunge into comparing the most popular API data protocols.


Does the task of designing API become clearer to you? Hope. yes. Meantime, there’s one more crucial point to cover—documentation.


How to document an API design 


Creating this API design guide for you, we decided to include one more essential sub-topic—how to document an API design efficiently. 


First, what’s the purpose of API documentation? The developers can deeply learn the particular API, which will prevent many issues in the bud and guide them in the right direction towards the correct usage of API and its services.


Secondly, what makes documentation good? Open access among all involved parties, code examples, tutorial parts, and screenshots to help developers quicker and better get the API specifics.


Finally, how to document your API design correctly? Here’s the list of our tips: 


  • ​​Understand the API’s TA and shape the documentation in a way helpful to both developers and PMs;
  • Visualize each step of the buyer’s journey to explain what the API does and how it differs from competitors; 
  • Choose the authentication method, specify the Terms of Use (how to use the API), and pay attention to the changelog from the very start;
  • Indicate the status codes and error messages other users of the documentation should be aware of;
  • Create with humans in mind, which means the logical flow of materials, easy-to-grasp explanations, and no tech jargon;
  • Make the documentation up-to-date, adding alerts about upcoming updates or any other changes in the API performance.


Build your API design with Patternica 


As you can see, preparing and implementing the API interface design can be daunting and requires a lot of tech knowledge and expertise. But don’t worry, there’s a reliable API integration and development partner that can withdraw this challenge from you. Contact Patternica and get peace of mind while your product is professionally integrated with third-party services.

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