A Complete Guide API Development: Types, Working, Tools, Terminology, and Best Practices

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Pragya Chauhan

May 21, 2024

In today's interconnected world, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are the building blocks that enable communication between different software applications.

They play a crucial role in everything from online shopping to social media, and developing robust APIs is essential for businesses of all sizes.

In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about API development, from understanding different API types and their functionalities to exploring essential tools and best practices for creating effective and secure APIs.

What is API?

Application programming interface, or API, is a set of instructions, standards, or requirements that allow software or apps to employ the features and services of another app, platform, or device to provide better services.

You can understand what is API as something that allows apps to communicate with each other.

For instance, when we hit the ‘Connect Facebook’ button on Candy Crush, it does not ask us to enter our Facebook account information; instead, it accesses the data from the Facebook server and lets us enjoy playing, all because of an API.

An API is the fundamental component of all applications that deal with or enable communication between two products or services. It helps a mobile app or platform share its data with other apps/platforms. It eases the user experience without involving the developers.

APIs also eliminate the need to build a similar program or platform from scratch; you can use an existing one or some other app/platform. Because of these factors, app developers and business leaders focus on API development.

Types of APIs

There are many types of APIs that serve different purposes and are designed for different use cases. Here are some of the most common types of APIs:

1. Private APIs

A private API is an application programming interface designed to improve the organization's services and solutions. These APIs work as front-end interfaces to back-end data and application functions. In-house developers generally use these APIs to build new applications.

In such cases, the app's interface remains available only to those working with the API publisher, even if the app is publicly available. With a private strategy, the company can take complete control of API usage.

2. Partner APIs

Partner APIs are used for software integration between two parties. They are also openly promoted and shared with business partners who have signed the agreement with the publisher.

A company can benefit from extra revenue streams by granting its partners capability benefits and data access.

Meanwhile, they can also monitor how exposed digital assets are used. Furthermore, they ensure whether the third-party solutions that use their APIs offer a decent user experience and whether they maintain corporate identity in their apps.

3. Public APIs

Public APIs are also referred to as external or developer-facing. These APIs are also available for third-party developers. The public API program enables you to increase brand awareness and, if properly executed, earn extra income.

Public APIs can also be divided into two categories: open and commercial.

The Open API states that all its features are public and can be used without any restrictive terms and conditions. It also states that the description and related documentation of the API software must be available.

Moreover, it also says it should be a freely available test and application creation. If we talk about commercial API users, they either pay subscription fees or use APIs on a pay-as-you-go basis. Publishers also offer free trials, which enable users to evaluate APIs before they purchase the subscription.

4. Composite API

Composite APIs are known for combining different service and data APIs. They are made by combining existing API functions, which can perform many tasks in a single call. This boosts the execution speed and enhances the listeners' performance in the web interfaces.

Also Read: How to Build An Auto Dialer Software in 5 Simple Steps

How does API work

To better understand how APIs work, let’s take an example. Suppose you opened some XYZ website or mobile app to book a hotel. You filled out the form, entered the check-in and check-out dates, city, and other related information, and clicked search.

Within seconds, a list of hotels appears on the screen, along with their price, availability, and other details. But how did this happen?

The platform requested that the hotel booking website access its database and get relevant data via the API interface to provide such stringent data. The website responded with the data that API Integration delivered to the platform, and the platform displayed it on the screen.

Here, the hotel booking app/platform and hotel website act as endpoints, while the API is intermediate, streamlining the data-sharing process.

Why You Should Consider Custom API Development for Your Business?

Custom API development goes beyond using the pre-made APIs, it includes creating unique solutions that are customized to the specific needs of a given system or software application.

Unlike pre-developed APIs that offer broad functionalities, custom APIs are made to meet specific business demands, ensuing adaptability, performance, and scalability.

Let’s take a look at 4 reasons when and why you should choose to develop a custom API for your business:

1. Prioritizing Security

As a business owner, you must choose to develop a custom API if you prioritize security. As such, some potential challenges are associated with adopting a pre-built API software for data interchange with your company. Consider building your own if you need a pre-built application programming interface that meets your security requirements.

2. Stay Ahead of Competition

To stay ahead of the competition, you must build your custom API. Partnering with the right API development company like Arramton will help you develop a custom API-enhancing performance, improve security, and increase sales, leads, and revenue.

3. Seeking Tailored Solutions

If you need to create a gateway to access data in an out-of-date file format or transfer data between a legacy database and an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, a custom-built API development service is your one-stop solution. This approach will work better for you because a pre-built one might not meet your requirements or needs.

4. Accessing Limitless Resources

Incorporating APIs for small businesses or firms will be a good approach as it addresses the deficit of a development team, high budget, or resources. On the contrary, if you are a large firm, then opting for a custom API will be highly beneficial for your business.

Must Read: Cloud Payroll Software Development: Benefits, Process, Costs

Terminologies Associated with API Development

If you’re looking for custom API development, you must know the following terminologies:

  • API Key: It’s a unique code that is passed in computer programs to authenticate users, developers, or programs.
  • Endpoint: Interaction touchpoints between the server and API are called endpoints.
  • JSON: JSON (JavaScript Object Notion is a data format) is a data format used for APIs to interchange data. This data interchange can occur between a web application and a server or between two applications.
  • GET: A method that requests the server from a specified resource.
  • POST: It’s a method used to send data to the API server to update or create a resource.
  • OAuth: It’s an open-standard authorization or authorization framework for APIs. It offers secure and restricted access to the end-users data, which is to be used by the application or third-party websites without accessing their password.
  • Latency: Latency is the time taken by the API to process a request and respond.
  • Rate-limiting: Rate-limiting is the process of controlling the rate of incoming and outgoing traffic. It’s also defined as the total number of requests that a user makes to the API.
  • API Throttling: API throttling refers to the process of controlling the duration for which consumers use APIs.

Tools for API Development

There are many tools available when it comes to API development. Some of the most prominent tools and products that developers use for API are as follows:

  • Apigee: Apigee is a Google API development management tool. It is helpful when a company updates its legacy apps or facilitates data transfer between apps and services. It's also beneficial when a developer builds connected apps.
  • Dredd: Dredd is an HTTP API testing framework that validates the description of an API in the backend. It thoroughly reviews the description and determines whether it is validated.
  • APIMatic: APIMatic is a developer experience platform for website APIs. Developers use it to generate SDKs for their APIs for ten platforms and to keep them in sync with API updates. This tool also enables the developers to convert API descriptions into multiple formats such as WADL, Swagger, RAML, OAI format, IO Docs, API Blueprint, HAR 1.4, Postman Collections, etc.
  • Sandbox: This offers a quick and easy mock RESTful API from API definitions. It also reduces the risk and cost of third-party API calling during testing.
  • Postman: Postman allows app developers to evaluate the API's performance by documenting and testing it. It's also an interactive tool that can be set up for automation.
  • SoapUI: SoapUI is an open-source testing tool that can operate on cross-platforms and automate both functional and non-functional tests. It is used for Web API regression, compliance, execution, security, and load tests.
  • Swagger: Swagger is an open-source framework for API development. Big technology names such as GettyImages, Apigee, PayPal, and Microsoft use It.
  • JMeter: JMeter is open-source software that is used to test RESTful API.

Must-Have Features of an Effective API Development

Here are a few features of API that you should consider for building a secure mobile application:

a) Modification timestamps/Search by criteria

The foremost API feature an app should have is Modification timestamps/Search by criteria. An API should allow users to search data based on different criteria, such as a date. This is because we consider the changes (update, edit, and delete) just after the first initial data synchronization.

b) Paging

Many times, we do not want to see the complete data changed but just a glimpse of it. In such a scenario, the API should be capable of identifying how much data to display in one go and at what frequency. It should also inform the end user about the number of pages of data remaining.

c) Sorting

To ensure that the end user receives all the data pages individually, the API should empower the users to sort data as per the modification time or some other condition.

d) JSON Support/ REST

Although it's not compulsory, it is good to consider your API to be RESTful (or provide JSON support(REST)) for effective API development. REST APIs are stateless and lightweight and let you retry the upload mobile app process if it fails, which is quite tough in the case of SOAP. Besides, JSON's syntax resembles most programming languages, making it easy for a mobile app developer to parse it into any other language.

e) Authorization via OAuth

Your API software must be authorized via OAuth since it is faster than other methods. You need to click on a button, and it's done.

In short, processing time should be minimal, response time good, and security level high. Implementing API development best practices for securing your application is paramount; after all, it deals with a lot of data and that’s what we’re going to discuss in the next section.

Read More: How Much Does It Cost to Build Grocery Store Billing Software?

Best Practices for Effective API Development

Above, we looked at the must-have features in the API and the top tools used to build APIs for mobile or web apps. However, this will be in vain if you don’t follow the correct API-building practices. Let’s look at the top 5 practices for perfect API development.

1. Throttling Implementation

When it comes to redirecting traffic overflow, safeguarding from DoS (Denial of Service), and backing up APIs, app throttling is the best practice, which you all should consider.

2. Consider your API gateway as an Enforcer

When setting up throttling rules, applying API keys, or using OAuth, the API gateway must be considered the enforcement point. It should be taken as a cop that lets only the right users access the data. It should empower you to encrypt messages or edit confidential information and thereby analyze and manage how your API is being used.

3. Enable overriding HTTP method

Some proxies only support the POST and GET methods, so you must allow your RESTful API to override the HTTP method. You can do this by employing the custom HTTP Header X-HTTP-Method-Override.

4. SDK and Libraries

Offer essential resources to the development team to boost service development and implementation speed. These resources can contain reusable processes and code.

5. Security

You must ensure that your API is secure, but not at the cost of user-friendliness. If any user spends more than 5 minutes on authentication, then it means that your API is far from user-friendly. To make your API secure, you can use token-based authentication.

6. Documentation

Offering a wide range of documentation is another excellent practice you must consider. You must create extensive documentation for an API that enables other mobile app developers to understand the entire process in detail, utilizing that information to provide a top-notch user experience.

In summary, well-crafted API documentation will decrease project costs and implementation time and enhance API efficiency.

What is the cost of building an API?

Now that we’ve discussed everything from what is API development to the five best practices for a successful API, one question remains: How much does it cost to build a custom API?

While the cost of custom API development for your business depends on its complexity and features, the estimated cost could range between $25,000 and $80,000 or more.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective option, consider an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that offers all intended functionalities. This approach is affordable for small businesses that want an API for their business.

Also Read: How Much Does Website Development Cost in 2024

Let Arramton Create a Successful Custom-API For You

APIs are proven to enhance business profits by offering the required technological connectivity. You can also build and integrate your business's required application programming interface.

After reading this article, I hope you understand API development, how it works, and how one can develop a top-notch API for one's business. If you want to build a custom API for your solution or business. In that case, you can partner with our software development team.

AT Arramton, our development team consists of dedicated developers who are reputed to develop top-notch APIs. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today to get started on your API!'

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the API's full name?

Ans. API stands for Application Programming Interface.  Think of it as a middleman, allowing different software programs to talk to each other.  There are many types of APIs, but platform APIs connect apps to specific platforms like Facebook or Google Maps.

Q. How to create an API?

Ans. Creating an API involves planning (purpose, design), development (writing code), documentation (clear instructions for users), testing (making sure it works), and deployment (making it accessible).

Q. What is the purpose of API?

Ans. Overall, APIs serve several purposes.  They allow data sharing between applications, enable integration of features from other apps, streamline development by reusing existing functionality, and ultimately improve the user experience by creating richer and more connected applications.

Q. What is API in web development?

Ans. In web development, APIs are crucial for interactive websites.  They let web apps communicate with servers, databases, and other online services.  For instance, a website might use an API to display weather or social media updates.

Q. What is the tool that is used to develop API documentation?

Ans. There are many tools available to create API documentation, such as Swagger, Postman, and API Blueprint. These tools help developers write clear and user-friendly instructions, making it easier for others to understand and use your API.

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