7 Things to look for when evaluating API’s

November 24, 2021
Hemang Shah

Retailers have diverse issues with client-facing APIs as not all tech vendors follow good API design processes.  

Each of the APIs have a different domain, path, response structures, error codes and documentation. There is no uniformity across APIs. Some of the APIs have security and authentication, others do not. All of this makes it challenging and time-consuming for developers to integrate the APIs.  

Given this context, retailers need to look for APIs that are standardized, developer-friendly, secure and hassle-free to integrate.

APIs: An Overview
API’s (Application Programming Interfaces) enable applications to exchange data and functionality in a hassle-free and secure manner through a documented interface. It is made up of a HTTP verb (GET, POST, etc.), domain name and path. Domain and path together are known as the endpoint. When valid requests are made, a response is provided while invalid requests get an error code.  

HTTP request headers represent the metadata associated with an API request and response. HTTP status codes, response data. When there are issues with an API, looking at the header carry extra information such as request authorization, response caching, response cookies, HTTP connection types, proxies, etc.

APIs That Make Way for Hassle-Free Integration

RESTful API Design
RESTful API Design enables users to easily understand the data model by simply looking at the APIs. How so?  

  • The paths are resources. For instance,  

GET /products
GET /user/userId
GET /recommendations/cart/cartId

  • Resources can be nested in a simple and predictable, if there is a hierarchical relationship. For instance, for each user, the path will have a user id. Each user id will have collections and each collection will have products/ collection id/ outfits.  

Further, it is simple to search, fetch details, modify and update data when RESTful API design is used.  

Use of Standard HTTP Verbs
Retailers must look for APIs that use standard HTTP verbs. This minimizes the need for multiple APIs for multiple operations.
For instance, if you want to create a new collection for a user, you use the POST HTTP verb with /users/:userId/collections. This would return a collectionId which you will use for other functions. You simply need to use the respective HTTP Verb:  

  • GET to get details of the collection
  • POST to create a new collection
  • PATCH to update the user collection  
  • PUT to replace the user collection  
  • DELETE to delete the user collection.  

So, the developer does not need to know 5 different APIs to integrate the APIs. They need to know just 1-2 APIs and standard HTTP verbs to integrate APIs.  

Uniform Response Schema and Standard HTTP Codes
The APIs should follow a uniform response schema and standard HTTP status codes, thus, enabling seamless integration. When standard HTTP status codes that are well known such as 200, 200 series, 400 series and 500 series are used, developers do not have to keep referring to the documentation to understand and find application status codes.  

Improved Responsiveness to Client Data Requirements
Retailers must choose APIs that are responsive to client’s specific data requirements, expediting page loading times. In a typical response schema, the status code is followed by the API name and product info where the client has full control over the response fields.  

For instance, some vendors do not use product descriptions. If the product info section in the response schema provides descriptions, it will slow down page loading and is detrimental to security.  

Strong API Security
Given how costly and detrimental data breaches are to businesses, API security must be a top consideration while choosing APIs. Through the use of trustworthy API Gateways such as the Amazon API Gateway, all requests are routed through the Gateway before reaching the specific API. This helps ensure that bad requests are weeded out. Further, with capabilities such as authorization, authentication, service routing, rate limiting, logging and metrics, they help ensure that the API is always available.  

APIs that use the industry-leading authorization protocol – OAuth2, have stronger security. OAuth2 uses refresh and access tokens for secure designated access. While the refresh tokens are issued once upon onboarding, the access tokens used for making user requests to the APIs expire every 24 hours and need to be re-issued. Since the refresh token does not travel much, OAuth2 improves security. Even if the access tokens get compromised, the duration of abuse and thus, impact are less as these tokens expire every 24 hours.  

Developer-Driven Documentation
Most API documentation is not developer friendly. For seamless API integration, retailers must look for not just developer-friendly but developer-driven.  

Managing diverse APIs is challenging. For instance, if you want to plug into Postman or API Gateway, you will have to write these in a format that is acceptable in that tool. This is where the OpenAPI specification is critical. It helps define various parameters, data types of parameters, inclusions, response schema, etc. in OpenAPI and use the specifications in various places.  

When APIs are declared in the machine-readable format of the OpenAPI specification, it is easily pluggable in several other tools such as -  

  • Stoplight – for editing OpenAPI
  • ReDoc – for generating documentation  
  • Postman – for integration, testing and validation of APIs
  • API Gateway – for deployment
  • Swagger – for generation of client and server stubs for mocking
  • FastAPI – modern web framework in Python where you can write code and generate an OpenAPI specification.  

Streamoid offers standardized and secure APIs that create a frictionless experience for developers in integrating APIs.

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