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Guide To API Development: Importance, Process, Tools, Terminology, and Best Practices

Software Development July 10, 2024

If you’ve heard the term ‘API’ countless times from mobile app developers, this article covers everything you need to know. Learn what APIs are, how they’re developed, how they’re used, and how they make mobile apps work. Get ready to dive into the world of APIs, the essential tools behind mobile app functionality!

Let’s begin with what APIs are?

What is API and Why Is It Important?

An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a set of protocols, routines, and tools that allow different software applications to communicate with each other. It defines the methods and data formats that applications can use to request and exchange information.

APIs are important because they allow different services and features to work together on different platforms and devices, even if you don’t know how they work internally.

For Example, when you click ‘Connect Facebook’ in Candy Crush, you don’t need to type your Facebook login details. Instead, the game accesses your data directly from Facebook’s servers, allowing you to play seamlessly – all thanks to APIs.

An API is like a foundation for apps that handle data or allow different products or services to communicate. It lets a mobile app or platform share its data with others, making user experiences smoother without needing developers to start from scratch.

APIs also save time by letting you use existing programs or platforms instead of building new ones. This is why both app developers and business leaders prioritize API development—it streamlines operations and enhances app capabilities.

If you’re curious about API development frameworks or want to learn more about them, this guide is for you.

Before we go deeper, let’s first explore some basic terms that will help you grasp the concept better.

Terminologies of API development

1. API Key: An API Key is a code passed with a request’s header or parameters to identify and authorize the requester.

2. Endpoint: When an API communicates with another system, each connection point is called an Endpoint.

3. JSON: JSON, short for JavaScript Object Notation, is a data format commonly used for sending and receiving information in API requests and responses.

4. GET: The HTTP method used by RESTful APIs to retrieve resources is called GET.

5. POST: This HTTP method in RESTful APIs is used to create new resources.

6. OAuth: A Standard Authorization Framework for Secure User Access Without Credential Sharing

7. REST: REST (Representational State Transfer) is a programming architecture that improves communication efficiency between devices. It’s lightweight and focuses on sharing data references rather than entire copies, making data available only when requested. Systems built on REST principles are called ‘RESTful’ systems, with the World Wide Web being the prime example.

8. SOAP: SOAP, or Simple Object Access Protocol, is a messaging system used in web services to share structured information over computer networks. It uses XML for data formatting and works with application layer protocols like HTTP and SMTP to format, negotiate, and transmit messages between systems.

9. Latency: Latency refers to the overall time the API interface takes to complete a request and send back a response.

10. Rate-Limiting: API rate-limiting controls how frequently a user can use APIs by setting a maximum number of requests within a specific time frame. It ensures fair usage and prevents overload on the server by limiting the number of requests per user.

11. API Throttling: The process of regulating the usage of APIs by users during a particular time period is called Throttling. This can be used for API limiting. For example, you set the limit of 1000 API requests per day. When the user hit the 1001 request, the server will send 429 messages as HTTP status to the end user along with the message, “Too many Requests”.

Now that you understand what API development is and are familiar with its associated terms, let’s delve into the technical details. We’ll start by exploring how APIs work and how you can create one.

How Do APIs Work?

Imagine you open an XYZ app or website to book a flight. You fill in the form with your departure and return dates, cities, flight preferences, and other details, then submit it. Almost instantly, a list of flights appears on your screen, showing prices, timings, seat availability, and more. How does this happen?

To get the needed data, the platform requested it from the airline’s website through an API. The website sent back the data, which the API passed on to the platform, and then the platform showed it on the screen.

In this case, the flight booking app and the airline’s website are the endpoints, and the API helps them share data. The API can work in two ways to connect the endpoints: REST and SOAP.

Although both methods are effective, mobile app development companies prefer REST over SOAP because SOAP APIs are heavy and rely on specific platforms.

For a clear understanding of how APIs work and their lifecycle, reach out to our experts today!

Now, let’s focus on the main part: How do you create an API? Which tools and technologies should you use for API development? What practices should you follow to ensure effective API development?

Top API Development Tools

There are many tools and technologies available for creating APIs. Some popular choices among developers include:

1. Apigee

It’s a service by Google that helps developers and entrepreneurs succeed in digital transformation by shifting towards an API integration approach.

2. APIMatic and API Transformer

These tools are widely used for API development. They include advanced features that automatically generate high-quality SDKs and code snippets from API formats. They can also convert APIs into different specifications like RAML and API Blueprint.

3. API Science

This tool is mainly used to assess how well both internal and external APIs perform.

4. API Serverless Architecture

Serverless products help mobile app developers create APIs using cloud-based servers. They simplify designing, building, publishing, and hosting APIs without managing traditional server infrastructure directly.

5. API-Platform

API-Platform is an open-source PHP framework designed specifically for developing web APIs.

6. Auth0

It is a tool that helps manage user identities. It verifies who users are and controls what they can access, especially for APIs.

7. ClearBlade

ClearBlade is an API management provider that helps integrate IoT app development into your operations by managing APIs effectively.

8. GitHub

GitHub is a platform where developers can host open-source git repositories. It helps manage code files, track changes (version control), collaborate on code through pull requests, and leave comments. Developers can also store their code privately on GitHub.

9. Postman

Postman is a powerful tool for developers to manage APIs. It allows them to run, test, document, and measure API performance efficiently.

10 Swagger

Swagger is an open-source framework for developing API software. Companies like GettyImages and Microsoft use Swagger for their API development. Despite the abundance of APIs, not all are easy to integrate. Some simplify app integration, while others complicate it. To ensure smooth integration, consider these efficient API features in our development guide.

Must-Have Features of an Efficient API

Must-Have Features of an Efficient API

Here are some key features of APIs to consider when building a secure mobile application:

1. Modification timestamps/Search by criteria:

The most important API feature for any app is having modification timestamps and the ability to search by criteria such as date. This allows users to find specific data and track changes like updates, edits, or deletions after the initial data sync.

2. Paging:

Many times, we don’t need to see all the data changed, just a preview. In these cases, the API should decide how much data to show at once and how often. It should also tell users how many pages of data are left to view.

3. Sorting:

To make sure the end user gets each page of data in order, the API should allow users to sort the data based on when it was last modified or another specific condition.

4. JSON Support/ REST:

While not mandatory, aiming for a RESTful API with JSON support enhances effective API development. REST APIs are lightweight, stateless, and facilitate seamless retrying of mobile app uploads after failure, unlike SOAP. JSON’s syntax, similar to many programming languages, simplifies parsing for mobile app developers into various languages.

5. Authorization via OAuth:

Your application program interface (API) should use OAuth for authorization because it’s quicker than other methods. With OAuth, you simply click a button to authorize access.

Simply put, when developing APIs, it’s crucial to prioritize minimal processing time, good response time, and high security. This is especially important because APIs handle large amounts of data, making adherence to best security practices essential for protecting your application.

Best Practices for Building the Right API

Best Practices for Building the Right API

Building a well-designed API involves adhering to several best practices to ensure usability, scalability, security, and maintainability. Here are key guidelines for building the right API:

1. Use Throttling

App throttling is a smart strategy to manage excessive traffic by redirecting it, ensuring backup APIs are available, and protecting against DoS attacks.

2. Consider your API gateway as Enforcer

When setting up throttling rules, API keys, or OAuth for security, the API gateway acts as a crucial checkpoint. Think of it as a guard that ensures only authorized users access your data. It enables encryption, manages access to sensitive information, and provides insights into API usage for better control and analysis.

3. Allow overriding HTTP method

To work around proxies that only support GET and POST methods for your RESTful API, use the custom HTTP Header X-HTTP-Method-Override to specify the intended HTTP method. This allows you to override the default method and ensure compatibility with these proxies.

4. Evaluate the APIs and infrastructure

In today’s world, real-time analysis is achievable, but what if the API server faces issues like memory leaks or high CPU usage? You can’t keep a developer on standby for these situations. Instead, you can easily monitor and manage them using various tools like Amazon CloudWatch available in the market.

5. Ensure security

It’s crucial to keep your API technology secure without sacrificing user-friendliness. If authentication takes more than 5 minutes, it’s not user-friendly. Token-based authentication can help achieve both security and ease of use for your API.

6. Documentation

Finally, it’s beneficial to create thorough documentation for your API used in mobile apps. This helps other developers understand the process and improve user experience. Good documentation reduces project time and costs, and enhances API efficiency during development.

Read Also: Guide to REST API Development Services

API Development Cost

Typically, building a basic API costs around $15,000. This estimate includes creating a secure, well-documented API with all necessary features, developed by an experienced API software developer from a reputable API development company.


Now that you understand APIs, how to use them, and what to consider when developing one, are you interested in API development? Contact our API developer for top-notch API development services. As a leading API development company in the USA, we’ll guide you through the process and ensure your API is secure. If you need mobile app development, we can help with that too. Let’s build something great together!

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    Meet Prashant Suthar, a Sr. Software Developer at Zealous System. With a passion for building elegant code and solving complex problems, Prashant transforms ideas into digital solutions that drive business success.


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