The Ultimate Guide to API Development- Strategy, Tools, best Practices
Ishan Gupta
Ishan Gupta

The Ultimate API Development Guide – Strategy, Tools, best Practices

APIs play a prominent part in the mobile app development domain. Businesses are individually building their APIs to provide ease of effort to the developers and increase their customer base. For example, Google’s map API is embedded in multiple third-party apps. Further, businesses are exploring new innovations through API development. With it, the start-up economy is gaining a boost using APIs from multiple tech giants.

Hence, the importance to understand APIs in detail becomes necessary for technical and non-technical audiences. This blog will let you understand APIs in depth. You will learn how APIs work, how enterprises gain benefits through API development. Further, you will also learn what practices API development businesses must implement in their API teams, the tools & terminologies, and more.

Understanding APIs

The aim of this section is to deliver a brief introduction about APIs. The determined Audience for this section is the general audience who has little or no knowledge about APIs.

What is API?

Application programming interface (API) allows products or services to communicate with other products & services. During the communication process, the backed process stays hidden, delivering Flexibility, simple design, administration, and usage. The main goal of APIs providers is to deliver innovations and ease of building products to other enterprises.

According to McKinsey digital, “For companies who know how to implement them, they can cut costs, improve efficiency, and help the bottom line.”

How do APIs work?

Understand APIs as a contract or agreement. The way an agreement allows two parties to communicate with each other or exchange services, API too works similarly. Party 1 sends a remote request to Party 2 and party 2 responds to the request with the response or answer to the query.

How do APIs work.png

API Types & release

An API can be released in three ways. They are also known as Types of APIs

  • Private: Build to be used internally
  • Partner: Build to be used only with specific business partners
  • Public: Available for everyone also known as Open API
  • Composite API: Combining different service and data APIs

Types of API

API development terminologies

  • Endpoint: API has two points, and the one end is Endpoint.
  • API Key: The requester has to specify an authorization code known as API key to pass the request
  • JSON: COmmon data format used for API requests
  • GET: HTTP method to obtain the resources
  • POST: HTTP method for building resources
  • REST: Programming architectural implementation to enhance communication efficiency.
  • SOAP: Messaging protocol for sharing information. It is compatible with XML and application layer protocols.
  • Latency: Time taken b API to provide a response.
  • API throttling: Regulating the API performance is called Throttling. It is monitored to analyze the performance of API.

How business gain benefits by building APIs?

How enterprises gain benefits by building APIs.png

With API development process, businesses can innovate, gain opportunities and grow rapidly.. Here is an example to understand how business innovate with APIs.

Imagine you are a digital navigation solution provider like Google maps. You have your own app, with your own user base. A food delivery business wants to integrate map functionality in their business to let customers and delivery partners view the exact locations of each other.

In this case they have two options.

  1. Build their own maps system from scratch.
  2. Or embed your services into their app.

If we consider the CASE 1, then building another robust solution will cost them massive.

If we consider CASE 2, then you, as a navigation business, have to provide them an easy way to integrate. While sharing your code or app it must be compatible with their OS platform. Your iOS app will not be compatible with their Android app.

So, the ultimate solution is to build an API that acts as a communication system between your app and their app. They can embed your system inside their app and achieve high quality efficiency with the lowest budget.

Hence an enterprise get the following benefit by building an API:

  • Accelerating new startups to save cost by using API
  • Collaboration opportunities bringing growth
  • Marketing services in multiple apps from third party
  • Attracting customers from third parties to their main apps
  • Facilitate open innovations and a channel to accelerate other enterprises
  • Expand the reach of your brand bringing growth

Mastering the API development strategy

You have read a brief intro about APIs, now we are ready to talk about API development. However, before the actual development you have to determine API development strategy.

API development strategy requires you to answer three questions: why, what and how. Let’s understand it.

The “why” of API development strategy

The why’s main objective is to focus on the value of API development on the business.

Typically you might have these values associated with your API development:

  • Grow B2C or B2B  ecosystems
  • Content distribution
  • Bringing new and innovative business model
  • Development innovation for internal use
  • Simplify back end systems
  • participation in digital innovation

Quoting the example of Flickr, a social photo sharing sensation, it engaged with multiple partners to generate trust.

Once you have identified  the why related to API development, you can head to “What.”

The “What” of API development strategy

What will the API development do that impacts the overall business strategy? To identify the What part of API development, you have to define internal and external views of the organization.

  • Internal view: Valuable assets in organization processes.
  • External view: Market, trends, competitors, consumers and everything outside organization.

Quoting examples here, the mapping APIs were sold to multiple organizations and governments to deliver navigation and planning.

The “How” of API development strategy

Now, that you have determined why and what of API development strategy, you must consider the How part. How you are going to build an API program to achieve your business values and objectives. Here you may try to figure out the below elements related to your API development:

  1. Designing
  2. Maintenance
  3. Promotion strategy- internal or external
  4. Determining API team
  5. Success Monitoring

Building the API team

Since a team is important for several tasks in organizations, API development tools require a team. The team takes care of building, deploying, operating and optimizing the API for your enterprises. You must:

  • Hire project leader
  • Hire designers
  • Get the experienced developers
  • Hire testers for quality assurance
  • Hire security experts

API programs can be large and it’s highly important to ensure the team works with collaboration.

Best Practices from successful API development teams

Once you have laid down the strategy and made your team it’s time to build the API. However, when building the APIs, you must consider some of the practices as a priority to ensure its success. Altogether, here are the best practices from the most successful API development teams.

Concentrate on the value of API

While determining the strategy for API development, we talked about values in the “why” factor. During the development process, values again remain a very critical factor to consider.

The Director of Platforms for Ford motor company quoted that an API program must:

  • Offer valuable service
  • Determine plan and business model
  • Achieve simplicity, flexibility and ease of adoption
  • Be easily measured and organized
  • Deliver best support to developers easing their coding part

If no user group either its consumers and business or developers, gets specific values from your API, your APIs won’t be sustainable.

In order to achieve the above results with API development, you can follow certain steps.

  1. Identify a problem of users and developers
  2. Analyse pain pointers that targeted user base face to enhance your solution
  3. Determine what benefits users get from your API

Have a clear vision of business model

Aligning business models according to your API is never a sustainable option. It will add rapid costs in the end. Hence, build a business model and align your API development according to it.

In order to determine a business model, you need to have a clear vision of:

  • Market needs
  • Customer segments
  • Distribution channels to reach customers
  • Revenue model of your company

You can use business model canvas by Strategyzer to have a clear business model. Even Netflix did the same.

In 2013, Netflix shut down its Public API to realign its API according to their new business model which was online data streaming. Netflix has given access to its private APIs to a very limited number of apps that are in collaboration with Netflix.

Keep users in mind while designing and implementing API

Have you noticed something in cars? Gear, race, steering and majority of the driving elements remain the same with every car you buy. Why? Because, automobiles know that a driver must be able to drive every car and face no issues in switching to one or other company. The same is applicable in API development. Your API must be:

  • Simple my implementing easy Data formats, Method structures, Data model, Authentication
  • Flexible delivering most valuable and feasible use cases
  • Easily adopted by developers

API operations should be at the top

The API operation must be according to the expectations of developers who will use it to gain value, ease and flexibility.

As per API operations donut, You can keep your API operations at top. Here is how it looks.

API operations should be at the top

API Operations Donut (Operations Management book by Slack, Chambers & Johnston 2007)

Build an engaging developer experience

Developers are your first users who would use your API in the first place.  If developers do not find engaging experience while working with your API, they might look for other alternatives.

According to Musser, you can follow these practices to increase developer engagement:

  • Clear info about APIs goals
  • Quick sign up
  • Absolutely free and smooth
  • Clear display of pricing
  • Deliver crisp and clear documentation

Further, you can build a developer platform. Developers can post their queries and get answers if they have issues while using your API. Additionally, a developers program will provide a clear value to developers and a great brand value for your business. Here are the elements of the developer program displayed by RedHat.

Build an engaging developer experience

Step Beyond marketing

Some enterprises build APIs but they only market it at technical portals like Hackathons. You must market your API just like you market any other product. Though, The main concept should be to market it to the right person. Some entrepreneurs having IT businesses are not at all from technical backgrounds. But, they might be interested in your API.

Market your API by using:

  • Perform proper Segmentation
  • Evaluating the Targeted market
  • Correct Positioning in the minds of consumers

Hence by performing the steps, you can initiate the right marketing process for your API.

Don’t forget maintenance and updates in your API

After a heavy designing, developing, and marketing process, your API may reach the right users. But, if your API does not align with developers’ feedback, it won’t survive long enough.

Specifically, ensure that you:

  1. Solve bugs  regularly
  2. Keep Optimizing your API
  3. New methods and functions to make it fluid
  4. Remove unwanted methods that demand more resources
  5. Roll out the latest versions of your API

Once you maintain it right, you increase the lifecycle of your API.

Technical tips to keep in mind while building APIs

API specification framework: You can stick to specifications like OpenAPI/Swagger for better tooling interoperability. Also, focus on SDKs, UI points, and documentation every time your code changes.

Versioning: Enforce versioning information in your APIs so that users can see if they are running on the old version. Generally, version information is given in a URL like this.

/api/v1/customers

Filtering and Pagination: Use LIMIT and OFFSET statements on queries for filtration and pagination. Here is a MySQL statement example to return the slice.

SELECT * from customers LIMIT 5, 10

And a JSON response.

// _links
{
 “first”: “/api/v1/customers?page=1”,
 “prev”: “/api/v1/customers?page=1”,
 “next”: “/api/v1/customers?page=3”,
 “last”: “/api/v1/customers?page=9.”
}

Use REST and HATEOAS: Apply some design considerations like exposing a list of orders at the endpoint:


GET /api/vi/orders

Secure endpoints: Ensure HTTPS connections for secure communications.

API Development tools

  • Apigee: It is Google’s API management tool assisting users in boosting their digital transformation.
  • API Science: This tool aims to evaluate the performance of internal and external APIs.
  • Postman: API Toolchain empowering developers to test and run performance evaluation of APIs.

How can RipenApps can be an ideal partner for your API development vision?

With ample experience in the API development field, we are pioneers in technology. Our passionate team of experts in the IT sector is focused on building APIs using the latest technologies that deliver success and growth to businesses. If you are visioning to build an API, RipenApps will transform your API product vision into a real product.

Additionally, you can distribute this final product to multiple small and medium enterprises to ease their development efforts. Further, your customer base will grow significantly when you deploy your APIs to third-party mobile apps. You can work with us if you want to build your own API for internal use to ease your development efforts.

Read Also: Do APIs Make The Mobile App Development Process Quicker & Easier?



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WRITTEN BY
Ishan Gupta

Ishan Gupta

CEO & Founder

With a strong belief that inclusion of mobile technology and digitalisation of processes for any individual or a business will help them to ease their life so that they can be more focused on their Core Business functions, with this intent and an experience of 6+ years our service ranges from consultancy to build next-generation mobile applications for Entrepreneurs/Startups to Enterprise Businesses. Our goal is to provide optimum quality services to our clients at the best reasonable price in the market.

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