API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface. If you’ve dabbled in app development before, you’ve likely come across the term. It is an integral piece of mobile app development, responsible for app function.
An API allows developers to interact with separate software or resource. Unless you completely code from scratch, you will interact with external software, each with its API. But, even if you write a single line of code, a well-designed app features internal APIs to organize the code and make the components reusable.
That said, API development offers various benefits for app development, including speeding up the process. So, here we’ll look into APIs, what is API development, the associated terminology you should know, why they are essential, and how to create an API.
What is API development
API development is the process of creating a programming interface that forms the base of all apps dealing with data or needing to communicate between two products or services. APIs are a set of instructions or requirements that empower software to employ features of another app.
For example, Candy Crush directly accesses your Facebook account details when you tap ‘Connect with Facebook.’ With API integration, it can access the Facebook server, saving you the hassle of entering your details manually.
So, it is right to say that it allows apps to interact and share their data without involving developers. API development also eliminates the need to develop similar programs from scratch by enabling you to use existing applications.
What makes APIs incredibly beneficial is that you don’t need to know the logic behind its inner workings. Instead, you command, and the programming interface brings the results.
That said, let’s look at crucial terminologies you need to know and the types of APIs before we turn to how to create an API, its importance, and API development tools:
APIs are fundamental to mobile app development. For instance, it is Android and iOS APIs that allow native applications to access devices’ built-in features. So, before we look at the importance of API development, here are some terms you need to understand:
An API key is a code that grants authorization to an API request through a header or parameter.
In a communication between two systems via APIs, one end of the channel is labeled ‘Endpoint.’
It is the RESTful API’s HTTP method for securing resources. It requests a resource at the request URL. It should not contain a request body as it will be discarded. Maybe it can be cached locally or on the server.
It is how RESTful API’s HTTP method allows resource building. It submits information to the service for processing; it should typically return the modified or new resource
It stands for an Open standard Authorization framework that enables access from the user’s side without sharing credentials.
REST or Representational State Transfer is a type of architectural implementation for enhancing communication between applications. It is based on the ideology of making specific information available only when requested through references, instead of a complete copy of the data. World Wide Web is an example of systems following the architecture, referred to as RESTful systems.
SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. It is a messaging protocol that works with XML information set and application layer protocols like HTTP and SMTP for message formatting as well as negotiation and transmission.
Latency is the time taken for an API to process the request into a response.
API rate-limiting is the process of defining the rate at which a user accesses APIs. That is, it limits the number of requests to an API per time.
Regulating the use of API per user at a specific time is referred to as Throttling. It is when a user exceeds the limit of API requests per day, the server delivers a message as HTTP status stating ‘too many requests.’
Types of APIs
When you’re looking into API applications and API Development, then you need to know the various types of APIs available at hand
APIs can be categorized into four primary types:
Open APIs or Public APIs are publicly available to anyone without restrictions.
Developers need licenses or specific rights to access Partner APIs, as they are restricted to the public.
Internal APIs are also referred to as Private APIs. They are exposed within internal systems, thus are relatively less known to the world outside a company. An organization uses internal APIs between teams to improve its products and services.
Combining data and service APIs, Composite APIs are a sequence of tasks that run simultaneously due to execution, but not at the request of a task. It speeds up the execution process and improves listeners’ performance in the web interfaces.
These APIs are the principal APIs, referred to as Web APIs. Other APIs include web service APIs, namely SOAP, XML-RPC, JSON-RPC, REST.
Web service describes a system that provides access to its services via an address on the web.
Why are APIs important for businesses?
In a world void of APIs, app functionality would be limited, and the development time would increase exponentially. It’s because features that aren’t a module of any of the programming languages would need to be developed independently; thus, decreasing time to market.
Plus, knowing how to develop an API also helps combine two disparate applications, so they complement each other, elevating the user experience for both. For example, a hotel selection service application can use external APIs to catalog photos of their rooms, allowing users to view the places before booking.
Conversely, the photo service can use APIs to offer its users the opportunity to find and book hotel rooms; thus, enriching the functionality of travel apps.
That said, here are a few benefits of API development for businesses:
Benefits of APIs for businesses
Here are some of the benefits businesses can leverage through an API-driven strategy:
As mentioned above, APIs help enrich app functionality, thus elevating the user experience of an application. Some of the many API applications that businesses can leverage include personalization, data collection, and integration.
With the innovation of application architecture like cloud services, IoT devices, and AI, APIs are now integral to app development.
Reduced costs and time to market
For businesses, one of the significant benefits of an API-driven strategy is the reduced development time, which ultimately speeds up the time to market. Knowing that most of the app functionality exists somewhere else, developers can use APIs to integrate external features within the app without coding from scratch.
Thus, entrepreneurs can save their time and money, while developers can work on providing unique functionality through their applications.
How to develop an API – tools for developing APIs
Now that you understand the types of APIs let’s look at how you can create an API. A plethora of API development tools and technologies exist in the market that can help in creating an API for websites and apps.
That said, here are some API development tools that can help develop an API:
Apigee – as Google’s API management provider, it supports digital transformation through an API-driven approach.
APIMatic and API Transformer – it offers automatic generation tools for building quality SDKs and code snippets from API-specific formats. It also converts them into other specification formations, like RAML, API blueprint, and more.
API Science – it supports the evaluation of internal and external APIs’ performance.
API Serverless Architecture – it helps in designing, building, publishing, and hosting APIs via cloud-based servers.
API Platform – it is an open-source PHP framework that allows web API development.
AuthO – for authentication and authorization of APIs, it is your go-to identity management solution.
ClearBlade – it is an API management provider that allows you to integrate IoT technology into your process.
GitHub – is an open-source repository hosting service where developers can manage code files, version control, pull requests, and comments that are shared across the community. Alternatively, you can also save your code in private repositories.
Postman – it is an API toolchain that you can use to run, test, and document APIs, as well as evaluate their performance.
Best practices for API development
Here are the best practices to keep in mind when considering investing in API development:
If you need to redirect traffic overflow, backup APIs, or safeguard it from DoS attacks (Denial of Service), then practice App throttling.
Consider API gateway as enforcer
Consider the API gateway as an enforcement point that ensures the data is accessible to the right users. It will help you encrypt messages or confidential information, which will ultimately help in analyzing and managing the use of your APIs.
Allow overriding http method
Some proxies only work with GET and POST methods, so enable your RESTful API to override the HTTP method.
Evaluate the APIs and infrastructure
Some of the API development tools allow for easy analysis and evaluation of APIs. Meaning, instead of having developers working around the clock, you can analyze in real-time.
Be sure to create extensive documentation when you create an API. It will allow other developers to conveniently understand the process and use the API to enhance the experience of their applications.
Create an API for your next mobile app
I hope the blog helps in understanding what API development is and how to develop an API.
APIs are essential if you want a faster time to market your app and elevate its user experience. Businesses can leverage from the integration of advanced technologies via APIs, enriched experience, and reduced overall cost of development.
Conversely, developers enjoy automatic workflow updates via APIs, which is faster and more productive. It also increases the efficiency of operations, allows personalization and flexible service provision.
That said, if you want to leverage APIs in your mobile app, consult our expert developers for industry insights, expenses, and more.