Understanding REST API: A Product Supervisor’s Information

Whereas working for a multinational media firm, I used to be a part of a workforce tasked with delivering a service for purchasers to add, print, and ship paperwork to a specified mailing tackle. We wished prospects to have the ability to order merchandise and monitor their packages all by means of our utility. An preliminary evaluation revealed that every little thing however supply may very well be carried out in-house.

As an alternative of constructing the supply operate ourselves, we determined to outsource it and combine an present supply firm’s utility programming interface (API). REST, or representational state switch, structure was the clear alternative. REST APIs have change into a vital a part of software program improvement. For groups whose core enterprise is growing purposes, constructing peripheral options may be time-consuming and infrequently calls for deep experience in a distinct segment area. That is the place REST comes into play. Relatively than spending useful sources growing a function in-house, there’s possible an present answer that may be purchased and built-in into your product utilizing REST.

Utilized by 86% of builders, REST is by far the most well-liked API structure, based on Postman’s 2023 State of the API Report. The survey additionally revealed that 46% of organizations plan to extend the time and sources they put money into APIs over the subsequent 12 months.

When asked about API investment at their organization over the next year, 46% of respondents said it would invest more, 46% said invest the same, and 8% said invest less.

By bridging the hole between the enterprise and technical worlds, product managers are properly positioned to orchestrate API creation. A primary understanding of REST API ideas and finest practices is important, nonetheless, with a view to lead groups successfully.

As a product supervisor with a background in software program improvement, my method has all the time concerned hands-on fixing of technical issues, and I’ve used REST to attain success in each position. This information goals to empower product managers with the foundational data they should assist groups construct high quality REST APIs.

REST API Key Ideas and Greatest Practices

REST is a software program architectural fashion that defines requirements for the design and improvement of distributed methods, making it simpler for them to speak with each other. The next sections clarify the important thing traits of REST APIs and how one can maximize their potential.

Get Acquainted With Information Codecs

REST APIs typically talk utilizing JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) or XML (Extensible Markup Language) as information codecs. Gaining a primary understanding of those codecs will allow you to interpret API responses and design efficient information buildings. In my years working as a product skilled, these are the one information codecs I’ve encountered when working with REST APIs.

XML is extra prevalent in legacy methods and industries with established XML-based requirements, comparable to finance or healthcare, through which it makes extra sense for sustaining compatibility with present methods. JSON, however, is used for all kinds of microservices and has change into the dominant alternative for many fashionable REST APIs resulting from its light-weight, human-readable format and its compatibility with JavaScript, which is often used for net improvement. It’s broadly favored for its simplicity and effectivity. Most programming languages extensively help JSON and it’s thus the default alternative for a lot of standard APIs, together with these supplied by social media platforms, cloud providers, and fashionable net purposes. I like to recommend, subsequently, that you just begin getting accustomed to JSON first.

To understand the fundamentals, create easy JSON recordsdata to get some hands-on expertise, experiment with them, and learn to characterize information. There are lots of out there JSON instruments that may assist you validate your creations.

Use Useful resource-oriented Design to Reinforce Statelessness

An necessary function of REST methods is that they’re stateless: The shopper and server exist as solely separate entities and don’t must know something in regards to the different’s state with a view to carry out an motion. This separates the issues of shopper and server, making REST a great answer for connecting two completely different organizations.

As a result of REST APIs are stateless, every request is handled in isolation; each request from the shopper to the server should comprise all needed info for the server to know and course of it. The server responds with all the data it has for the given request, so if some information is lacking within the response, it’s possible that the request itself was incorrect.

On account of their stateless nature, fairly than utilizing instructions as endpoints, REST APIs use sources. Consider sources as nouns that describe the item the request is about. Having nouns as endpoints makes it clear what every request does.

Utilizing HTTP strategies (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) to carry out actions on these sources means you may simplify your endpoint names, focusing them solely on the sources. Within the context of the supply API, for instance, if you wish to validate an tackle, your endpoint must be named /deliveryAddress (i.e., the useful resource/noun) as a substitute of /getAddress (i.e., the verb), since you are utilizing the HTTP methodology GET to retrieve the data.

Consistency in useful resource naming is essential to creating an API predictable and simple to make use of. If names are inconsistent, it’s more durable for builders to anticipate the construction of the endpoints, and it’ll even be troublesome to scale the system. Consistency results in fewer errors and extra environment friendly integration—decide a naming conference and keep it up all through the API. For instance, for those who begin with buyer for user-related sources, don’t change to person for the same idea.

To make integration extra modular and exact, it is usually necessary to keep away from overloading endpoints. Don’t use a single endpoint for a number of functions; every useful resource ought to have a definite URL, and every HTTP methodology (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) ought to have a transparent and constant objective for that URL. For instance, it will be unhealthy apply to make use of POST /deliveryAddress for each checking the validity of the tackle and for offering recommendations on comparable addresses. To keep away from confusion, a separate endpoint for offering tackle recommendations must be constructed, say, POST /addressSuggestion.

Select a Clear Path Construction

REST API paths must be designed in a manner that helps the server know what is going on. In line with finest practices, the primary a part of the trail must be the plural type of the useful resource, comparable to /prospects, so that you just enter a number of enter parameters. This formatting ensures nested sources are easy to learn and perceive.

Within the media-printing group, we used the next path construction for our endpoints: api.mediaprinting.com/prospects/321/orders/9.

On this instance, 321 is the shopper ID, and 9 is the order ID. It’s clear what this path factors to—even for those who’ve by no means seen this particular path earlier than, you and the server would be capable to perceive it.

The trail ought to comprise solely the data and specificity wanted to find the useful resource. Word that it isn’t all the time needed so as to add an ID; for instance, when including a brand new buyer to a database, the POST request to api.mediaprinting.com/prospects wouldn’t want an additional identifier, because the server will generate an ID for the brand new object. When accessing a single useful resource, nonetheless, you will have to append an ID to the trail. For instance, GET api.mediaprinting.com/prospects/{id} retrieves the shopper with the ID specified.

Parameters will also be handed through question string. Generally, path parameters are used for useful resource identification, with question parameters being reserved for filtering, sorting, or paginating outcomes. Retrieving the finished orders for a buyer could be carried out on this method: api.mediaprinting.com/prospects/321?orderStatus=full.

Study Frequent Response Codes

Responses from the server comprise standing codes to tell the shopper of the success (or failure) of an operation. For every HTTP methodology, there are anticipated standing codes a server ought to return upon success:

GET: return 200 (OK)

POST: return 201 (CREATED)

PUT: return 200 (OK)

DELETE: return 204 (NO CONTENT)

As a product supervisor, you don’t must know each standing code (there are various of them), however you need to know the most typical ones and the way they’re used:

Standing Code

That means

200 (OK)

That is the usual response for profitable HTTP requests.


That is the usual response for an HTTP request that resulted in an merchandise being efficiently created.


That is the usual response for a profitable HTTP request through which nothing is being returned within the response physique.


The HTTP request can’t be processed due to unhealthy request syntax, extreme measurement, or one other shopper error.


The shopper doesn’t have permission to entry this useful resource.


The useful resource couldn’t be discovered right now. It’s doable it was deleted or doesn’t but exist.


That is the generic response for an surprising failure if there isn’t a extra particular info out there.

Supply: Codecademy

Familiarity with these standing codes shall be useful when troubleshooting as a result of REST APIs, like some other expertise, can encounter errors. This data will allow you to anticipate potential points throughout integration and talk successfully with builders to resolve them swiftly.

Grow to be a Palms-on Product Chief

Understanding REST API ideas is vital for each product supervisor, enabling you to make the suitable selections as a frontrunner, talk successfully with builders, improve your workforce’s effectivity, and in the end optimize supply.

REST’s simplicity and compatibility make it a great structure for creating unbiased microservices that talk successfully. By selecting an acceptable information format, creating clear, constant endpoints, designing clear path buildings, and performing on response codes, you may capitalize on the advantages of REST to your API.

As APIs change into much more ingrained within the net, implementing the guidelines and finest practices outlined above will help you in constructing high quality features that corporations will proudly incorporate into their merchandise.

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