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Massive RESTful API Design Guideline to Make Your Users Happy

Web development services have existed for as long as the HTTP protocol around the world. But after cloud computing, web services have become a common way of letting clients interact with the database. We have been working on projects involving either building or using APIs for the last 4 years. While most of the APIs have seen claimed to be RESTful with the principles and constraints of REST architecture. The standardized API design starts with an internal exercise to make sure that the designing, developing, and testing APIs are on the same page. Below are the guidelines to design REST APIs that make your users happy.

1. Learn how HTTP applied to REST?

While building a well-designed REST API, you should better know about the basics of the HTTP protocol. It helps to make better design decisions. Here are the points of how HTTP applied to REST:

  • HTTP has verbs like GET, POST, PUT, PATCH, and DELETE which are the most common.
  • REST is resource-oriented which is represented by a URI.
  • Endpoint is the combination of a Verb and URI both. It also can be interpreted as an action on a resource like /articles/ which means to create a new article.
  • The verbs map to CRUD operations on some high-level sources like GET means Read, POST means Create, PUT and PATCH mean Update, etc.

You can use anything to the HTTP protocol which offers for REST API design. These are the basic things that should keep in mind while applying the HTTP to REST API.

2. You should not return the plain text –

Most of REST APIs are using JSON as a data format although it’s not imposed by the REST architectural style. But, it’s not enough to return a body containing as a JSON-formatted string. You also have to specify the header too which must be set to the value application/json. It’s important for programmatic clients. You can easily verify a response with Firefox.

3. Avoid the Verbs using in URIs –

If you know the basics, then you will understand it’s not like RESTful to put verbs in the URI. Because HTTP verbs are sufficient to describe the action being performed on the resource. Suppose, you want to provide an endpoint to an article to generate and retrieve a banner image. We will note a placeholder for a URI parameter like an ID or a slug. But, you might be tempted to create this endpoint:

(GET: /articles/:slug/generateBanner/)

Here GET method is semantically sufficient to say that we’re retrieving a banner. So, just use:

(GET: /articles/:slug/banner/)

Same for an endpoint that creates a new article:

  • Don’t

POST: /articles/createNewArticle/

  • Do

POST: /articles/

4. Using the plural resource nouns –

It’s tough to decide you should use plural or singular form for resource nouns or not. We recommend you to use the plural form as it fits all types of endpoints very well. It’s fine to use (GET /article/2/), but what about GET /article/? We are getting the only single article in the system or all of them? To solve this query, use plural everywhere:

(GET: /articles/2/)

(POST: /articles/)

5. Consistently use the Status Codes –

When you mastered with status codes, you must be using them consistently. Just like you are choosing a post which endpoint returns a 201 Created, and then use the same status for every POST endpoint. Because it doesn’t matter for the users about which method on which endpoint will return. That’s why to be consistent, and if you stay away from the conventions, then document it with big signs.

6. Do not Nest the Resources –

REST APIs always deal with resources and retrieving an instance of a resource is straightforward. But, what about the related resources? For example, we want to retrieve the list of articles for an author with id=12. Then 2 options are available. First is to nest the articles resource under the author’s resource:

(GET: /authors/12/articles/)

This option represents the relationship between the author and their articles. But it’s not clear what kind of resource you’re requesting. Author or Articles? Our recommendation is to use the query string for filtering the articles resource directly:

(GET: /articles/?author_id=12)

7. Handle the Trailing Slashes Gracefully –

Trailing the URIs is not like a debate. So, choose one way, stick to it, and gracefully redirect to clients while they are using the wrong convention. Let’s take a previous experience for more detailing. Once, we were integrating a REST API into a project, but we received 500 Internal Error on every single call. The endpoint was:

(POST: /entities)

We couldn’t find out what was doing wrong. In the last, the server was failing because of missing a trailing slash! So, we started using:

(POST: /entities/)

And everything worked fine. The API wasn’t fixed, but at least you can prevent this type of issue for your users.

8. Use the Query string for Filtering and Pagination:

Sometimes, a simple endpoint is not enough to solve the complex business cases. The users always want to retrieve the items that fulfill a specific condition likewise time to improve performance. And this is exactly what needs filtering and pagination are made for. With filtering, users can specify properties that returned items should have. While Pagination allows users to retrieve fractions of a data set. So, the question is how do you incorporate such features in a RESTful API? The answer is simple, use the query string.

9. Understand the difference between 401 Unauthorized and 403 Forbidden:

While handling the security errors in an API, you can easily be confused about whether the error relates to authentication or authorization. Here’s the point how we are dealing with:

  • 401 Unauthorized – User has not provided authentication credentials.
  • 403 Forbidden – User has the authentication but doesn’t have the required permissions to access the resource.

10. Use of 202 Accepted:

We found 202 Accepted to be a very handy alternative to 201 Created which means the server has understood your request. In such two cases which we found 202 Accepted to be especially suitable for:

  • The resource will be created as a result of future processing after the job has finished.
  • The resource already existed in some way, but this should not be interpreted as an error.

When you are designing the REST API services, you have to pay attention to the resources which are defined by URIs. Every resource you are building in service will have at least one URI identifying it. URIs should follow a predictable structure to enhance understandability and usability. RESTful APIs are written for consumers. The structure of URIs should have meaning to those consumers. Hopefully, this blog helped you to learn some of the important techniques to build a much cleaner & better REST APIs with a much happier client. If you have some different approaches to some of the points mentioned in this blog, we’d love to hear about it. And if you want to create a massive REST API design for your clients, Inventam Tech Solution is the famous name as REST API development company in Surat, India who provides the complete REST API Development Services to fulfill your or your client’s requirements.

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