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Every developer wants to create an API that will be convenient and easy to use. And every user wants an interface that isn’t confusing or difficult to navigate. Fortunately, there are some tricks developers can use to improve their API. Without further ado, here are the 7 hacks that will make your API design clear and convenient. 

#1 Be Consistent

First and foremost, you need to be consistent when developing your API. Everything you do regarding your API needs to be standardized and organized to ensure that it’s all as consistent as you can possibly keep it. If you are inconsistent with your actions, you could end up with a poorly-designed API that doesn’t function the way you want it to.

For instance, when you are naming items, you need to use one specific logic for doing so rather than naming them in a new way every time. On a less technical level, you should also take care of the documentation related to your API and make sure that it is both accurate and consistent as well. Keep this outlook on everything you do or work with that is related to your API.

#2 Simplify Naming

Speaking of naming, it is definitely a good idea to simplify the names you give to your items. You need to name them in a way that is both simple and self-explanatory, which will help you avoid confusion. It’s important both for you to avoid mixing up items and for your team to be on the same page when working on your API.

Without some guidance, each developer will independently decide what naming conventions to use, and things could get messy. You might end up with endpoints that have a combination of single nouns, plural nouns, and jargon. You could also wind up with endpoints and properties that have an inconsistent mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, along with underscores and dashes. Once developers name things in an API, those names usually cannot change easily, as that can be a breaking change for API consumers. Including a section in your style guide that outlines naming conventions is well worth it.

Just imagine a situation when some of your team members name items one way while others do in a completely different way. Miscommunication and confusion are bound to happen. That’s why you need to agree on a naming system beforehand and make it as simple and straightforward as possible. No need to complicate things.

#3 Standardize Responses & Versioning

In addition to agreeing on a system for naming items, you should also standardize your error responses instead of trying to invent something that doesn’t need to be invented. Most of the time, all you need to do is look at existing examples of similar APIs and see what kind of error messages they use in different situations. Then, you can use the same ones for your own API.

If you use versioning, include guidelines in your style guide so that developers update and deprecate APIs in the same way. You might include versioning rules, such as:

  • Always apply version numbering to each API, explaining the numbering scheme.
  • Never include version numbers in API URLs.
  • Always include version numbers in API headers.

#4 Specify Strictly

You probably already noticed the overarching theme of all the tips listed so far. To put it simply, you need to be organized in everything you do with your API if you want to make the most of the design and ensure that your users love it as much as you do. This is precisely why you need to be strict when specifying different aspects of your API.

For example, when designing your endpoints, naming fields, etc., you should also be specific. It will help you avoid confusion, but in some cases, it is actually essential for creating that particular element or item the right way. Treat the job seriously and specify everything strictly.

Define the units, formats, and standards that developers should follow in your API style guide. What to define can depend on your industry, but “some types of data — like date-times — are relatively universal.”

#5 Accept API Key Authentication

Besides thinking about your users, you should also think about the potential for developing your API in the future and integrating it with other applications. Though you can never predict things accurately, you can be sure that accepting API key authentication will definitely be useful in the future.

Why? Because it will allow third parties to create integrations with your API. Easy integration opportunities can help with the adoption and consumption of your API. 

Many early APIs used API keys. While they might not be the latest standard in security now, they were often an improvement over passing other credentials in API code. There are drawbacks to API keys, but they’re also a simple way to secure access.

#6 Utilize Pagination

Pagination is quite valuable for developers because it allows you to paginate all the requests returning a collection of resources. You can also use filtering and sorting when you are fetching these collections of records.

Your collections will be growing over time, so you need to start limiting and controlling the number of elements that will be returning early on. You need to let users have some control over this as well, but it’s still necessary to predefine the number of objects that will be displayed.

#7 Try Different Technical Hacks

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to try different technical hacks and tricks as you develop your API. You will likely come across way more things you could try than you will actually end up implementing, so it’s a good idea to have many options to choose from. Here are some more technical hacks you can try when designing your API:

  • Provide a health check endpoint.
  • Use reasonable HTTP status codes and methods.
  • Use nouns in endpoint paths.
  • Provide extended response options.
  • Use SSL for security and configure CORS.

All in all, creating a good API design that your users will enjoy is definitely one of the most important aspects of developing your website or application. For more on utilizing the full design-first approach, check out Stoplight’s API Design Hub. 


Kristen Bray is a professional writer and blogger. She has been working as an editor at а Best Writers Online and Trust My Paper She mainly covers topics such as blogging, digital marketing, and self-education. In her free time, she practices yoga and also travels.


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