A Quick Introduction to API and API-First Approach
API or Application Programming Interface is a series of capabilities that enables any application to engage with external operating systems, applications, microservices, or data. This means APIs allow applications to interact and “talk to” others.
Most modern software is cloud-based and can be accessed through a browser. In other words, it is more of a packaged solution or experience we buy and utilize.
Here, APIs can be added on top of software companies' platforms as this helps in areas of automation or integration. Additionally, it also enables gaining access to certain elements of the structural features of the software.
An API-first approach flips this whole scenario. Here, APIs are present at the foundation instead of any pre-built software solutions or experiences. This ensures that every aspect of the functionality in the platform is completely accessible via the APIs.
Why API-First Approach Has Gain Prominence?
It has grown in popularity as the permeation of omnichannel has increased and because it reinforces the trend toward “microservices application architectures”. There is no better way to interact with any application. The API-first approach allows any business to create apps that can operate in any channel and scale without the requirement of new solutions for each of those channels.
Companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber have achieved greater growth, scalability, and competitiveness with the API-first approach to software development The important factor that made APIs popular - it enables organizations to divide capabilities into separate and autonomous services while ensuring a great user experience on every digital screen.
While it is true that any business would need APIs to thrive in digital business, the competitive edge is no longer achieved by simply having it. The key is to have the right performance and reliability of those APIs to deliver real-time experiences for product development projects. A dynamic API-first strategy empowers companies to create APIs that serve applications and maintain them effectively for every platform, operating system, and device.
For instance - Icreon has helped ASTM to create an API structure that was capable of providing the real-time speed required to deliver major business outcomes. Additionally, a pivot to a microservices architecture was provided to ASTM while also tackling a lot of complexity around API architecture. Furthermore, increased inter-service communication was initiated by Icreon to facilitate microservices to communicate with each other.
The Advantages of an API-First Approach
As mentioned previously, an API-first approach is becoming increasingly popular in today's modern business landscape and product development. This is because of the emphasis on the rapid implementation of functionality. However, there are several positive aspects of this approach that aren't so well-known yet. Let’s dig deeper into them -
Improves The Speed to Market
A major part of building APIs can be automated with certain tools that enable the importing of API definition files in product development. These files help in the auto-generation of API tools like mock APIs, API documentation, and SDKs. This automation process speeds up the entire development journey of APIs and applications.
Minimizes The Cost of Developing Apps
APIs and code can be utilized for several other projects and product development. For instance, if your development team is looking towards building a new app, they don't need to start from zero which can be time-consuming and expensive. API-first approach tackles most problems before any code is written. This helps in avoiding issues when it is the moment to integrate APIs with software or applications.
Development Teams Can Work Simultaneously
This is one of the biggest advantages of the API-first approach for developers and stakeholders. Once set up is done, API architecture changes rarely which makes it perfect for parallel software development and ensures a solid foundation of your projects. Besides, this strategy enables parallel development of application front ends for several devices without any need for an external back end. APIs can be created and tested concurrently which denotes teammates can receive real-time collaboration and faster feedback cycles.
Assures Of Good Developer Experiences
When it comes to APIs, developers are the customers. Hence, developer experience (DX) can make a huge difference to the success of any API which is why API ensures developers have a good experience utilizing it. Any well-documented, consistent, and well-designed API architecture would offer a positive experience as it is simpler to re-utilize code and reduces the learning curve.
Lessens The Risk of Failure
The great thing about API architecture is it first-handedly reduces any risk of failure by making sure reliable, consistent, and simple APIs are being used for developers. Mostly APIs are utilized for every single business process - be it marketing, operations, or sales, which means they have a greater impact on every part of the business.
Planning Your API-First Program
Now that you are aware of the advantages of an API-first approach to product development, it is time to know about formulating a plan and executing an API-first approach.
Here are a few things to get started –
Brainstorm - First & foremost, it is essential to recognize the key services that your organization offers and the functionalities of business. Find out the APIs that should be developed and which solutions should be provided via APIs. Additionally, make it a point to figure out and write down the use cases for every API. Based on the use cases, write the possible endpoints.
Develop API stakeholders - Get to know the stakeholders who should be involved in the API initiative within the organization. Make sure to allow the stakeholders to have opinions about the API design and then agree on discussions across the organization. This will ensure the APIs remain consistent.
Create an API contract - Having a contract is important as it sets the right tone of best practices for designing APIs. Make sure to describe and document every API.
Have a style guide ready - An extensive and encompassing style guide helps in maintaining consistency across the teams in organizations by standardizing. There are several tools available to create a style guide for all APIs.
Implement API governance - API governance procedure is useful to enforce certain important standards and achieve desired outcomes. Initiating peer code reviews are also valuable for ensuring all the API design standards are being followed and quality code is being produced.
Automate processes - Tools like - RapidAPI, SoapUI, REST-assured are utilized to generate API documentation, API mocking, style validation, and versioning. Additionally, make APIs self-service for developers to work on creating apps with APIs. Offer a sandbox or interactive documentation for developers to try out API endpoints.
Track and manage your API portfolio - Prevent any kind of duplicity and develop outdated APIs by tracking and handling the API portfolio. Have a system in place to track and manage all the API architecture across the company.
Have a portal for internal developers - Build a place for internal developers to store everything related to APIs, such as API specification, documentation, contracts, etc. This portal should be a home base where developers can handle APIs, view any documentation, configure security settings, and view resources.
Leverage Your APIs with The Right Technology Enablers
Over the years, APIs have expanded the surface exponentially for websites and applications majorly. However, many enterprises don't have sufficient information about all the functions and parameters associated with those APIs which can be a gamechanger for their business. To discuss the API architecture and find out the right solution for your business, connect with us here.