A Guide to Creating an API for Your Mobile App
A Guide to Creating an API for Your Mobile App
These best practices for creating an API for your mobile app will help you ensure good performance, security, and design.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
In the current innovative atmosphere, a host of helpful and informative content on designing proper APIs that let mobile applications communicate with specific web or cloud-based services has been put out. Although most of these concepts and practices may have aided mobile API designers over the years, many others have faded away as time passed. Making the most of back-end APIs for fantastic mobile consumer experience is something that should be considered by everyone who is looking to improve the performance of a mobile app. This piece will showcase some proven tips when it comes to designing excellent mobile APIs that will ensure that customers are remotely served with app and data resources. Read on and learn more.
Optimize LocalStorage and Caching
If you want to halt the negative impact that slow mobile networks cause for your app's performance, make sure that you store the CSS, HTML, and all images in localStorage. Many mobile app owners have reportedly witnessed a cut-down in the average size of their HTML data, from 200KB to 30KB. Additionally, it is ideal to move all unchangeable data like main navigation and categories (to name a few) within your mobile app. By doing this, you won't require a trip through the chosen mobile network, removing the stress of pre-fetching information (like queries, user data, and paginated results) that would normally be loaded on the device with no extra requests.
Pagination of Results Is Compulsory
Pagination is a unique technique used to prevent the return of thousands of records of numerous consumers at a particular time. Hence, while building your mobile API, do not forget to paginate the results that will return a specific list of items. In batches, you can conveniently initiate pagination manually using the LIMIT and OFFSET statements in your data collections and queries or data. A point that you must bear in mind is that it is compulsory to display pagination metadata when each paginated result is returned. A feasible option for carrying this out is using HTTP Link-Headers in the responses. It is essential for you to understand that this header will include a full URL to the starting, last, next, and previous pages of the result set, making it more comfortable for clients to simultaneously deal with multiple paginated results. Simple parsing is attainable with on-time pagination of outcomes.
The days where passing POST information as URL-encoded data was seen as an effective option are gone. Today, things have changed, which is why it is recommended that you use JSON to send data to endpoints. By doing this, you make requests more readable and easier to assemble by the user. Rails have served as a faster means of dealing with JSON-encoded parameters. The Rails ActionController will automatically unwrap data fetched with JSON, allowing you access to it using params hash.
Do Not Neglect Authentication for a Non-Public API
Web hackers are all over the place. If you are creating a non-public API, you need to have made a streamlined authentication system available. Unlike the traditional TokenAuthenticatable initiative that has been used for authentication mechanisms in private APIs, it is ideal to leverage HTTPs' primary Authentication. Implemented in each HTTP client, this basic authentication expects consumers to input valid usernames and passwords to gain access to the API. Additionally, you can let your users sign into your API using private access tokens.
Make Sure You Have Proper Versioning From the Start
Since your mobile API must go through changes at some point in the future, it is up to you to optimize it for appropriate versioning. Serving as the contract between backend and applications using it, your API must be available in a wide range of versions. By doing this, you will be able to continue using the app, which is very well familiar with the recent API changes that are introduced, as time passes into the new application version. Ignoring versioning of your API would make apps non-functional when there is any modification made to that API.
Implement a Rate Limit Early in the API Designing Process
Even though things are calm in the starting phase when clients begin to make use of your API, things may eventually get out of control if your app becomes a massive success. This means that more and more people will opt to integrate or assimilate your API into their infrastructure and workflow, thus calling your endpoint and requesting the same URL over and over thousands of times every single hour. This is where the concept of initiating a rate limit serves as a bright spot or ray of hope. An average rate limit would prevent the servers from going down with a CI server and offer users a clearer indication of how your API can be used more accurately. For larger infrastructure, Nginx limit_req should serve as the appropriate approach to initiate a rate limit; Redis can work wonders for others.
Your API Should Be Accompanied by Commendable Documentation
Documentation is the paramount part of your API design plan. Ambiguous or unclear documentation can frustrate app developers to the point that they might just abandon your product for something different. Hence, it is important to offer nice, error-free documentation that is free of lengthy code snippets. Most developers prefer simply browsing through examples. You should ensure that you include this to provide a better understanding of the API and its utilities. If you want to offer code snippets to your users, it's better to include them in different test scenarios. Doing this will authenticate the updated status of your documentation every time the API is moderated. To create the appropriate documentation for your API, go for any of the renowned ready-made tools, such as Apipie, or choose a custom-made solution.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.