All APIs are made up of endpoints, or distinctive URLs, that define the API’s resources. From an endpoint, you can also learn what operations can be done on each resource and what information is needed whenever someone makes a request. Amazingly enough, in a REST API, you can tell the following from just one URL:
- The location of the API service
- The datasets that can be found within the server’s backend
- Additional parameters that let the API user access an even wider and more specific range of data sets
That said, you should pay attention to how you design your API’s endpoints. You need to use certain naming conventions and methods of organizing resources that are commonly accepted in the API industry. The goal is for you, your fellow designers, and your API’s eventual end-users to intuit what the endpoint is supposed to do. Thus, your approach to designing endpoints should be one that follows clarity, simplicity, and specificity all at the same time.
But of course, as it is with all things related to API design, it’s easier said than done. If you’re not very experienced at building REST APIs, writing concise URLs and devising a system for your endpoints will require a lot of practice. To that end, here’s some advice that will make the work easier, more efficient, and more fun on your part. Clear the path between Point A and Point B of your API’s resources with these helpful tips.
Subscribe to a Platform Where It’s Easy to Write and Organize Your API Endpoints
Defining endpoints is a tedious job, and it is one that gets more difficult if you don’t have a good platform to support your workflow. As such, you may want to try using an API Design, Planning & Modeling Tool for describing, editing, and testing your endpoints. A comprehensive API design platform will help you visualize your endpoints and make it easy to improve them—thus enhancing your workflow overall.
Follow the Naming Conventions Set for API Endpoints
Veterans in the field of APIs, who already have a lot of experience designing endpoints, have a set nomenclature for them. It’s a good idea to review these naming conventions before you start writing your own. Some of the most important conventions that you should remember are:
- Use nouns instead of verbs, as nouns represent the API’s resources (and not actions)
- Go for plural nouns instead of singular ones, i.e. /users instead of /user
Get Familiar with the Different HTTP Request Methods
The “verb,” or action-oriented aspect of the API endpoint, is detailed in its HTTP request method. The most well-known HTTP methods used for REST API endpoints are the following:
- GET, which retrieves a resource
- POST, which creates a resource
- PUT, which updates a resource or creates a new resource within the existing one
- PATCH, which partially modifies an existing resource, and,
- DELETE, which removes the resource
When writing endpoints on your design platform, you can list the applicable HTTP method next to each item. But never mix states or substitute the purpose of one HTTP method for another.
Make Good Use of Query Parameters
It wouldn’t be practical to keep creating brand-new uniform resource identifiers, or URIs, for functions that relate to the same resources. You can make all of those possible by adding query parameters to your API. These can be to search through, sort, or filter the data that your user will need. For example, you can start with the parameter sort_by to start sorting a resource by date, alphabetical order, and the like.
Organize Endpoints in a Way That Makes Sense
In the process of designing a REST API, you may have written a lot of endpoints. You can make handling all of them much easier on yourself by determining a scheme to organize them all. There’s the option to group multiple endpoints by method or by the type of information that you expect them to return. This one is really up to you.
Take Note of Resources That Need Updating in the Future
After its initial creation, an API endpoint may need to be updated. The update may pertain to its password, its alias, or the application that’s attached to it. It’s good practice to mark which endpoints will likely need updating. That will make the work of updating the endpoints faster and more productive.
Mock Your Endpoints
Lastly, to see if your API endpoints elicit the correct HTTP requests and responses, it’s good to subject them to a round of mocking. Mocking your endpoints will help you predict errors, nip them in the bud, and reduce your own back-end dependencies. If your API design platform has a mock server, use it to safely test your endpoints.
Hopefully, this article has equipped you with some useful strategies for endpoint design. Now you’re ready to direct users to the important resources being handled by your API.