Anyone who’s about to work with application programming interfaces (APIs) for the first time should know the basics about them. An API acts as a software intermediary that allows two separate applications to communicate with each other. Think of the technology that allows you to share a WordPress blog post from Facebook or Twitter—that’s when you’re using an API.
A business API provides both a specific language and a contract for how the two connected systems will interact. Thanks to the many important services that you can link to through an API, integrating with one would prove beneficial to your company. You can either connect to a third-party API, have one built for internal use, or commission one that can also be used outside the company. Either way, the right design team will launch the right kind of API solution for you.
One element of API design that ensures that the product behaves as intended is the API endpoint. Here’s everything you need to know about what API endpoints are and how they work. You’ll also learn about API developers’ best practices when tracking endpoints, for example by using hosted API documentation. By the end of the article, you’ll know why endpoints matter, and why your developers need a proper system for documenting them. All of this ties into your reception of a well-designed, responsive API product.
API Endpoints: Definition and Rationale
To put it simply, an API endpoint serves as a communication touchpoint or the end of a communication channel. Each API endpoint represents a touchpoint between the API and the server. It’s like when you’re dialing a telephone number to reach a particular person. API endpoints act in the same manner: they’re the location of resources needed in order to fulfill particular requests. Actual examples of API endpoints include URLs of web services.
Endpoints are crucial elements of API design. Whenever you make an API request, you will need a corresponding endpoint; the endpoint is what specifies where the API’s resources are located. If an API communicates effectively through its endpoints—resulting in clear pathways to all the necessary resources—you’ve got a well-constructed product in your hands.
The Best Practices for Documenting Endpoints
The endpoints in themselves aren’t the only thing your API design team should pay attention to. It’s good practice to keep track of all of them in the API documentation. Or even the technical guide to using the API. When every endpoint is accounted for, it’s easier to monitor how the API behaves and how it responds to requests. If the API team is conscientious about documenting endpoints—as well as parameters, sample requests, and sample responses—working with the API will a breeze.
To date, these are the three best things that an API team can do when documenting endpoints.
Using an Effective API Documentation Tool for Endpoints
Being on a good API documentation platform will count for a lot. Hosted tools, in particular, provide a stable environment for mapping out endpoints. Some platforms even host interactive documentation, and API endpoints can be tested as well as written down. These allow for a bird’s eye view of the API’s endpoints, and ultimately, how the API could work as a whole.
Staying True to the Logic of Writing and Organizing Endpoints
API development is a big industry now. Practitioners have widely accepted standards for doing API-related work like keeping API documentation. They follow a logic that governs the naming, organizing, and grouping together of endpoints in API doc. The wise API designer knows the allowable interactions per endpoint, the naming conventions for URLs, and the most efficient means for grouping endpoints together. Their research should include the common HTTP methods, how to write concise URLs, and how to group multiple endpoints (for example, by type of information).
Compiling Endpoints in a Way that’s Visually Interesting and Easy to Read
If you want great documentation to come with your API, it won’t be enough to simply type all the endpoints down. Your API team can use their documentation tool to add some visual appeal and dynamic space to the endpoints sections. It won’t be a chore for an outside developer to read, and it guarantees clearer focus and higher engagement in their API-related work.
Your API team will go “end-to-end” in designing you a product that’s worth your money. Take that same approach when getting to know endpoints, documentation, and all other things related to your API-in-progress.