7 Essential Tips for API REST Design | Sensedia

Content Team
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November 13, 2023
2.5
min reading time

7 Essential Tips for API REST Design

REST API Design Tips and Tricks


Welcome to the world of REST API Design, where crafting an interface becomes an art, with well-defined rules that serve as the backbone of seamless interactions. Think of it like a skilled waiter in a restaurant, effortlessly taking your orders and returning with the desired resources (or dishes) without having to step into the kitchen.

In this post, we will explore the secrets of creating an exceptional and standardized API design within the dynamic world of RESTful standards. Before we start, remember the golden rule: understand your audience. Designing your REST API goes beyond constructing endpoints; it involves envisioning users, aligning with strategic goals, and making a positive impression. Leveraging an API Management Platform can further streamline this process, ensuring your API strategy is not only effective but also optimized for your specific needs.

We call this approach "API First Strategy" — a mindset that places your API strategy at the forefront of your planning, ensuring it stands as a key player in your digital landscape. Now, let's unlock the seven essential tips that will elevate your API game.


Use Nouns and Not Verbs

Now that we've set the stage, let's dive into the first vital tip that can make or break your REST API design: the art of choosing the right words. In API endpoints, it's not just semantics; it's a fundamental principle. Proper language selection is akin to the precision required in API full lifecycle management.

Many stumble at this very juncture, creating endpoints that resemble a to-do list rather than a streamlined interface. Forget about the allure of:

/getAllCustomers

/deleteCustomer

/createNewCustomer

In the RESTful universe, we lean towards the simplicity of nouns.

Consider this: 

/customers 

Where the endpoint becomes a gateway to a world of information, unburdened by unnecessary actions. Ditch the verb-heavy clutter and embrace a cleaner, more intuitive design. Opt for endpoints that proudly showcase the essence of your API, like:

/customers/563

So, as we navigate the landscape of API design, let's make a pact to let our endpoints tell a story through nouns, not verbs. It's not just good practice; it's the first key to unlocking an API strategy that speaks the language of efficiency and clarity. Now, let's move on to our next essential tip, where simplicity meets functionality.

Use HTTP Methods Correctly

Now that we've established the importance of meaningful endpoint names, let's focus on the next critical aspect of effective REST API design: mastering the art of HTTP methods.

At the core of REST lies a fundamental principle – the logical separation of your API into resources, each elegantly manipulated using HTTP requests. Think of these requests as your API's language, with GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE as the verbs that give life to its functionality.

Consider this scenario: a GET request to /customers/563 is akin to flipping open a dossier, specifically requesting details about the client with the code 563. It's a deliberate action, a call for information.

Now, switch gears for a moment. Imagine the same endpoint, /customers/536, but this time with a DELETE request. What unfolds is a decisive act, signaling the removal of a specific client, code 536, from your records.

In the world of HTTP methods, precision is paramount. Each method has a distinct purpose, contributing to the seamless functionality of your API. So, as you navigate the landscape of RESTful principles, keep this second tip in mind: let your methods articulate the actions, ensuring your API communicates effectively. 

Moving forward to our third tip, where consistency takes the spotlight, it becomes even more crucial when leveraging an API management platform for a comprehensive and effective API strategy.


Use Names in Plural

Now that we've successfully navigated the intricacies of HTTP methods, let's untangle another common dilemma in RESTful API design: the perpetual debate between singular and plural endpoint names.

The question looms: should your endpoint names stand alone or gather in groups? In the grand tradition of REST discussions, the answer is a matter of preference. Some advocate for singular names, others for plural. 

Here's where I throw in my two cents – plural names carry a certain elegance, hinting at a collection of features rather than solitary entities, as exemplified by our earlier discussion on clients. This consideration aligns well with a broader API strategy, emphasizing a cohesive approach to naming conventions for enhanced clarity and user experience.

But here's the golden rule: whichever path you tread, do not venture into the realm of endpoint ambiguity. Consistency is key. Mixing singular and plural names is like following two different paths at once – it creates confusion.

In the essence of simplicity, I suggest keeping things uniform: use the plural. Allow your endpoints to come together for clear communication, ensuring a smooth experience for users. This third tip sets the foundation for a cohesive and user-friendly REST API design. Now, let's move on to the fourth tip, focusing on the significance of sub-resource utilization within your overall API strategy.


Use Sub-Resources for Relationships

As we continue our exploration of REST API design, let's focus on a situation where relationships between resources become relevant. Picture a hierarchy of objects, a structured web of interconnected data – where sub-resources take center stage.

Consider an API offering statistical data on the geography of a country. In this intricate landscape, there might be sub-resources for states within the country and municipalities within states. It's a way of organizing information, creating a hierarchy that mirrors the real-world relationships between objects.

When the need arises, seize the power of sub-resources in your endpoints. Take, for instance, the request:

GET /customers/231/projects/

Here, the endpoint gracefully returns the project list belonging to client #231, mapping out the relationships clearly and logically. Now, take it a step further:

GET /customers/231/projects/4

In this case, the API responds with project #4 of client #231, allowing you to pinpoint specific details within the hierarchy.

By using sub-resources, you're not only creating endpoints but also building a user-friendly map for exploring your API's interconnected world. 


Do Not Change States With the GET Method

Now, let’s talk about the importance of the GET method. 

In HTTP, the GET method acts like a calm observer, giving us a view into the world of the resource without changing its core.

For actions that can alter the state of an object, there are three methods at your disposal: POST, PUT, and DELETE. These methods are the experts in making precise modifications.

To clarify, as its name suggests, the GET method allows access to a read-only version of the resource. It acts as an observer in the vast landscape of API interactions, providing information without disrupting the process.

HTTP provides various methods designed for interacting with resources, so let's use them wisely. It's not just about following RESTful principles; it acknowledges the nuanced management of permissions and the critical concern of API security. Integrating robust API monitoring ensures that these methods are not only wisely employed but also tracked for performance and security considerations.


Use SSL Encryption

As we draw closer to the culmination of our exploration into RESTful API design, let's focus on a vital aspect: SSL encryption. Imagine your API as a participant on a global platform, reachable from busy food courts, quiet bookstores, cozy cafes, and even the transient buzz of an airport. Ensuring SSL encryption becomes even more crucial when considering the diverse and potentially insecure environments your API may traverse.

Here's the crux – not every corner of this stage provides a secure entry. SSL encryption becomes a non-negotiable API security solution to safeguard the sanctity of the data and services your API offers. It's the digital shield that ensures a secure passage, regardless of the venue.

If you're carrying valuable information, encrypting it is not just a choice; it's a necessity. SSL, coupled with tokens, becomes your dynamic duo, facilitating seamless authentication between requests. There is no need for constant re-authentication; it's a backstage pass that maintains the flow of your API's performance.

In this tip, it's crucial to emphasize: that SSL encryption is more than just a security feature; it's the commendable assurance ensuring a secure and dependable interaction with your API. 


Create Versions for Your API

As we explore the ever-changing field of API development, it's essential to acknowledge a basic truth: achieving perfection in the initial version is uncommon. Like any software, APIs are meant to develop and advance, with each version enhancing performance. Utilizing an API management platform can be instrumental in this continuous improvement process, providing tools and insights to optimize your API development over time.

Here's the liberating reality: your initial API version can be flawed. It's often wiser to unveil that first iteration and let it breathe. This is the beginning of a series of gradual improvements.

However, a note of caution arises from experienced wisdom. Altering the design too quickly could disturb the balance of applications depending on earlier versions. As Jeremiah Lee from Fitbit pointed out in an insightful interview with our CEO, Kleber Bacili, evolution is a delicate process that requires finesse.

When it's time for a new version of your API, proceed cautiously. Make sure the previous version remains available to maintain system functionality. Communication with developers becomes your guide, facilitating a smooth transition. 

Give ample time for adaptation before deciding on the retirement of old versions. This decision can be made gracefully, either with a simple acknowledgment or by keeping them accessible without active support.

In the world of computer programs called APIs, think of them like chapters of a story that keeps evolving. It's not about getting it perfect from the start, but about making them better with each iteration. I hope your experience with APIs, supported by effective API lifecycle management, keeps improving and leaves a positive mark in your digital world.

Ensure Success for Your RESTful API!

Congratulations on navigating the seven key steps that will pave the way for scalability and seamless developer onboarding when engaging with your API. 

As you venture into API strategy, success lies not only in functionality but also in usability. Making developers feel at home is key right from the start. It's not just about what your API does, it’s about how easy it is for developers to engage with it.

So, as your API takes its place on the digital stage, may it be a beacon of clarity, security, and user-friendly design. Here's to the success of your RESTful API strategy, a testament to the thoughtful implementation of principles that exceed mere functionality, creating an experience that resonates with developers around the globe. 


Cheers! 

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