How to spot a good API
The value and importance of APIs in business transformation today cannot be overstated. They are increasingly becoming a major integral part of how companies will conduct their business in the coming months and years.
APIs have enabled businesses to optimize their internal efficiencies, reach new clients or customers, and continue to grow through improved efficiency, increased revenues and more. Regardless of the sector/ organization – whether enterprises, startups, or governments, the ability of APIs to speed up product development, expose datasets and functionalities, and expedite a more programmatically efficient cooperation with external partners and third-party providers cannot be disputed.
Creation of an API layer in products enables others within or outside your institution to make use of your service or product to create new applications, pull in new clients, or broaden their industry. Internal APIs enhance the productiveness of development teams via maximizing reusability and enforcing consistency in new purposes.
Open APIs can add value to your business by allowing 3rd party developers to enhance your services or bring their customers to you. As developers integrate with your business and create new applications for your services and data, a network effect may occur and lead to a significant paradigm shift in your business fabrics; technically, resulting in a positive bottom-line impact/success for your business. For instance, Expedia opened up their travel booking services to partners through an API to launch the Expedia Affiliate Network, and in the process created a new earnings circulation that now contributes $2B in annual income. Synonymously, Salesforce discharged their APIs to empower their accomplices, extend the capabilities of their platform and now generates half of their yearly income through those APIs.
Nonetheless, even as APIs continue to become more ubiquitous as their potential to transform businesses is recognized, delivering a successful API program that achieves defined business objectives requires a systematic approach to designing and managing. A great API should:
- Be in accordance with the general business vision and adopt a client-driven strategy for the internal & external developers.
- Have an industry mannequin that is designed for your users and business strategies that the API will support.
- Make it simple for designers/developers to discover and consume your API.
- Allow you to actively manage your API developer community as an extension of your business.
Understanding properties of a good API carries vital importance. It makes the critical difference between choosing a perfect API for your business & a mediocre one with thousands of pitfalls. So what makes APIs good? Well, let’s consider these fundamental properties & features that will see you understand how to spot a good API.
Features of good quality APIs
Good APIs should be able to encourage standardization, extend functionality and inspire innovation.
As such, before beginning the journey of spotting a good API for your business, you should have first answered these fundamental questions
- What is the company trying to achieve with the API
- How will the business position and sponsor it
- What are the terms and conditions of the API usage
- What are the risks and liabilities to the company in case of the API misuse
- How will the company protect itself from intellectual property infringement
- What business functions will be made available, and at what level of granularity
- What is the rationalization of the API
- How will the API be discovered
Having had concrete answers to such questions and others that may be of concern, consider these features for a good quality API:
Great user experience/ Easy to Learn
To spot a great API, the design must be a first-order consideration. The API user experience is a primary & critical feature because an optimal design is what will enable application developers to easily understand the purpose and functionality of an API for them to effectively interact with it. This feature will also allow your organization to get the API design right before investing in back-end implementation, which is time-consuming and expensive to undo if design issues aren’t identified until after implementation.
Good APIs offer simplicity and ease of use. For instance, developers reviewing your API should only invest a few minutes on the API before deciding whether or not to continue. Having information easily available in a clear and easy-to-consume format will encourage them to stick around. Otherwise, chances are high that they will consider going elsewhere.
Additionally, a good API should be able to provide the following for users:
- Informed decision making for customers: Customer journeys with the API should be simple & intuitive and information must be easily assimilated in order to ensure informed customer decision making.
- Simple and easy navigation: There must be no unnecessary steps, delay or friction in the customer journey.
- Parity of Experience: The experience availed to a customer when authenticating a process with the API should involve no more steps, delay or friction than the equivalent experience they have when interacting directly with the company.
- Familiarity and trust: The customer must only need to use the login credential accorded where necessary. Simple sandbox can allow developers to play with your demo product without any potential harm to live product.
It’s no argument; simple API documentation without examples is equal an undocumented API, and is outrightly disgusting. You’ve simply got to get this right, the importance of API documentation is as essential as the API itself. In fact, the provision of a good, extensive documentation for an API is something that should be understood by developers & vendors by default – you shouldn’t have to point that out.
The API documentation is the first thing you will see, so in some way, it’s like the gift wrap. It should, therefore, be well presented for its users to follow it seamlessly and put up with any idiosyncrasies. A good documentation of an API should enable its consumers to easily understand all the principles incorporated in the API including:
- Features: Descriptions of what the API is designed to achieve in a form that the consumers can easily digest.
- Structures: A schematic description of the API, including data structures & security.
- Capabilities: What is the peak load the API can handle (both projected and actual) and the performance pinch points.
- Sensitivities: Does the API consume or expose any data that may be subject to regulatory or privacy constraint, such as payment card data, personally identifiable data, and so on.
Authorization via OAuth
After registering an application, one has to add server-side code to the app to enable OAuth flow. Authorization via OAuth is a great and effective method to get a fine-grained access to an API.
OAuth is an open-standard approval convention or system that describes how inconsequential servers and services can securely enable authenticated access to their assets without really sharing the underlying, related, single login accreditation. OAuth acts as an intermediary on behalf of the end user, providing services with an access token that authorizes specific account information to be shared.
OAuth is a great property/feature for an API as it provides superior usability for the application developers and other users. Courtesy of OAuth application users like Xero users are able to interface one application to another via some integration services through authenticating themselves and expressly granting service access to an application.
Although it is not a must for an API to be RESTful in order to be viewed as great, most new APIs are REST APIs that by default support JSON, and there are many valid justifications for this. For one, REST APIs are stateless, which is one factor that makes many APIs want to incorporate this feature, especially in cases of applications that require a lot of forward and backward informing, e.g. mobile applications.
For example, on the off chance that data transfer to a mobile application is hindered because of, say, reception loss, REST APIs makes it extremely simple to recompose & retry the procedure. Moreover, REST APIs are lightweight and perform very well with the web as they utilize basic URIs for correspondence. REST APIs bolster a variety of arrangements, with JSON being just one of them. They also support others like TXT, CSV and XML formats.
Security is a critical consideration when it comes to APIs. This is because APIs will more than often pass critical & vital business data and know-how such as e-store transaction information or cardholder data details. In this regard, APIs must offer the highest level of security standards to safeguard such information in order to be considered useful.
Quality APIs need to help you keep important information protected and out of the wrong hands.
A good API must encompass the capability to greatly increase in capacity with relative ease – literally because the amount of information accessible to entrepreneurs is continually changing and developing. Quality APIs should thus be able to convey all essential data rapidly, without stoppages, standard slowdowns or other disappointments. It’s critical and of paramount importance to evaluate the reliability and quality of an API through target/goal/objective measures. This can be done through measurements like:
- How rapidly can the API relay data?
- What amount of data will it be able to relay at a given time?
- How regularly has it flopped in the previous years?
These sorts of inquiries help to evaluate whether the API offers the scale and unwavering quality essential for your business or not. They will equally help you assess the possibility of the API presenting that indispensable scalability and reliability necessary for your business’s optimal performance.
Making information open to mobile applications has developed significance. Although principally all APIs ought to be platform agnostic, in practice, it’s imperative to consider mobile readiness & integration capabilities of your API. This is primarily because mobile poses unique integration challenges, and hence having a mobile amicable API will present a more pleasant, flexible and versatile offer in your business and for the consumers.
For a quality API, it should be simple for developers to access it and easy to integrate it into different applications. Does it utilize normal advancement protocols to help development teams integrate easily utilizing regular standard procedures? The simpler it is to incorporate, the more likely a user or developer will pick it over another alternative.
The easier it is to use, the more easily developers will enjoy and love working with your API thereby making it easy for them to properly implement new features with your API.
Modification timestamps/ Search by criteria
A Quality API should permit to seek information by a specific criterion, and above all by its date.
A decent API must have the capacity to confine the measure of information that can be received at one go as well as the recurrence of solicitations for information. It ought to likewise have the capacity to tell about the number of “pages” of information left to be cleared out.
Sorting and filtering
An API must be well equipped to permit data sorting and filtering, at least according to the time of modification.
The customer of today is more technically focused, agile, and demanding than in the in the past. On the other hand, new or small organizations have less money, less time, and spending a greater focus on security, which hinders their ability to focus on and deliver what’s needed in today’s competitive market. APIs thus present themselves as the most effective and efficient way for enterprises to progress.
As such, the future of APIs is bright and its architecture will continue to help meet user demands at an even quicker pace. They will enable businesses to become more agile. API is a new-age technology that will enable businesses to think progressively & embrace strategic and exceptional approaches that will promote the delivery of hyper-personalized services across mediums. And, although spotting a quality API might seem tedious and time-consuming, it’s worth the time and price. A good API will enhance your organization’s ability to serve customers efficiently and make your life significantly much easier.