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How to Build RESTful API for Your Mobile App?

by Mic Johnson

A mobile application should have an API in order to connect to the various web services that are in existence. Without an API, maintaining functionality to services like Facebook and Google will simply be impossible. This guide will cover 10 tips for how to create a restful API, and it will briefly touch on what an API is and why a RESTful API is a solid choice for your next project.

What Is an API

An API is a way to connect to other programs easily. Like electrical sockets in homes, your program will be able to engage with other software through an well-established means. When you perform a Google search, you typically don’t have access to the parameters to make your search entirely within your specifications. Yet using Google’s API will let you access their software to a greater degree than by typing up their domain name in the search bar. Therefore, having an API will let you or your program engage with other software and output a seamless experience to the user as if only one program existed.

What Is a RESTful API

There are many types of API. A common one utilizes REST. This essentially means that an API is designed to integrate a server as much as possible to keep the client as lightweight as possible. REST also utilizes DELETE, POST, GET and PUT as the major functions to achieve integration: There are only four main things that this API will be performing. The REST module is extremely popular in the software world because it is efficient for connecting systems together. Using a REST API will let a mobile application connect to other online services easily, so it is excellent for native and non-native applications.

The following 10 tips will help you and your team to develop a RESTful API for your application that will allow it to integrate into other software efficiently.

Utilize Popular Architecture

While a custom-built API can add performance to your mobile application, using popular mainframes will provide great scaling options should other developers ever need to work on the design. Reading through code can be difficult utilizing already-established practices, so it can be challenging for new developers to work with unique mainframes that don’t have the documentation that popular architecture have. Therefore, a REST API can be built with proven architecture plans that are time tested to keep future development on the interface easy for new coders to improve.

Direct Work to the Server and Not to the Client

The REST module focuses on being stateless to keep the client running as smooth as possible. This means that the client should not have the details of what come in and out of it; resources should always be directed to a server. This concept is especially important in mobile applications as smartphones typically limited in hardware as opposed to home computers. The knowing that traffic should be directed to an outside server can keep your API running as efficiently as possible.

Incorporate HTTPS and Not HTTP

Mobile applications strictly enforce HTTPS over HTTP, so using HTTPS consistently throughout your API is vital. If your project is ever scaled larger, then having a foundation on HTTPS can keep problems from arising. While early computers utilized HTTP, smartphones strictly use encryption in endpoints. Keeping consistent signed certificates throughout your servers is important for users not to experience problems and rate your application poorly because of it as well.

Choose Your Server Based on Your Needs

A remote API is more useful than having a local interface because of the demands of the software on a smartphone. Developers should keep the battery life of a smartphone in mind when developing applications, and a RESTful API synergies well with this concept. Keeping your API and other important functions on a server can help you sync user data across their multiple devices, which can be a huge benefit to your application. Your server should have the specifications for your project, and this can be determined by what types of services your API will interact with. A remote server can also be used to keep your API running on iOS and Android systems through consolidating code in one ideal place.

Have More Than One Environment for Your Backend

Your API should interact with all of your development environments, so keeping a consistent version for testing is important. RESTful API is very basic in its premise in which applications will only need to create, update, delete, or update things, but this philosophy needs to be extensively tested prior to an application going live. Some features that are expected to work without a problem can crop up during a live release of your project, and your release will suffer due to poor user reviews. Keeping a live application free of bugs is important to secure good reviews, and this is possible by having your RESTful API interact with every version of your development environment to catch errors.

Pick the Right Database

A database should be chosen that is compatible with a RESTful API. RESTful API is stateless, so caching your data could be an ideal way to go about accessing resources when it is necessary do to so. An example of this would be using your API to access weather data for a user. Your API can temporarily download data to your database and access this information the next time it is needed instead of calling on your API to locate the right resources. Some databases like Regis are excellent for caching, so having your architecture planned in advance can help you to pick a database that works well with your RESTful API.

Incorporate Development-Tracking Tools in Projects With More Than One Developer

An API is central to the performance of an application, so having proper documentation and version control for it is imperative for your project to be successful. This is even more so if multiple developers work on an application, for changes will be made regularly. If your RESTful API is not well documented, then having to figure out where it stands in terms of development will drastically slow the work pace. New features in application will shift priorities for how your API should work, so keeping it clean can help you develop quickly and without having to debug unnecessary code. There are excellent tracking tools on the market, so picking one should be based on experience and ease of use for your project.

Have RESTful-Designed Endpoints for the URL of Your API

RESTful API utilizes nouns and verbs, and knowing how to develop your API on this principle can save you from big headaches. You only want to have as many endpoints as you can get away with, and they should be vague enough to cover all of the functions for your program. Creating endpoints that specify each action of your application will bog down a client and go against the stateless strength of a RESTful API. Starting your endpoints from the five actions of REST is the way to go, and these are GET, POST, PUT, PATCH and DELETE. From there, you can set the resource to be acted upon and build empty dictionaries to house the information that you will need. The result won’t be as specific as naming each individual action on your application, but this method will execute functions far more efficiently to keep your client running as smooth as possible.

Have Your Call and Responses Work With Your Endpoints

Since a RESTful API has endpoints that are based on verbs and nouns, keeping server-request architecture tuned to this design will make the API work as well as it can. Since endpoints are designed to be modified for each call, a server should only update information that is strictly presented to it. This means that an endpoint can be used to accomplish multiple functions through many calls, and the server should not assume that anything more is asked of information is missing.

If your project works around a library and a call comes through that a book’s publishing year should be updated, you server should not assume that the other details within that book’s list should be treated as null. By coordinating your server to only do exactly what is receives, you will have complete control over how your information isn’t mistakenly deleted by using the noun and verb architecture.

Keep Support for an Old API When a New One Is Developed

Users often go through long periods of time without updating applications in their smartphone. This means that old versions of your API shouldn’t be discontinued as soon as a new one is ready for public release. Making your new API the go-to version will require at least three months of waiting after the initial release to give users time to update the application, so planning is required to keep your API compatible with legacy versions. Bad reviews can tarnish an application’s reputation based off bugs resulting from an old API that doesn’t work, so giving users notice of the change through push notifications can help you ease the switch between different versions of the application interface.

These tips can help you build a RESTful API for your mobile application, and incorporating them into your next project can provide you with the performance that you seek. Having a RESTful API for mobile development is a great idea because REST revolves around lightening the load on the client, so a user’s smartphone will be free to have a better battery life and more memory for executing your software quickly. It is important to plan well before coding a mobile application, for knowing how your API will interact with it can direct you to the programs that you will need to get, techniques that you will need to use and resource-management strategies that you will need to incorporate.  

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