How to Design an API – 10 Steps to Success

How to Design an API – 10 Steps to Success
August 21, 2018 Justin Jersey
Justin Jersey
In Technology
Java Developer

Many people are not sure how to design an API that improves their chances of success. The goal for every developer is to create an API that users love, recommend, and it becomes part of a growing ecosystem of successful software. The end goal is to obviously profit off the API’s wide acceptance. However, it all starts with an idea and then following the steps we’ve outlined below.

API Type

Knowing what API type you want to design is essential. You also need to justify why that particular type is critical for your application and why it will be more effective than others.

The Planning Phase

The next step is crucial in the development phase, and if rushed through to create a product it can be disastrous. Consider who will use the API, and what actions will it make easier. Make a list of all the actions. You have to understand how the API will need to interact with all existing services, how maintenance will work, how versioning will work and how it will be documented. Since there is a lot, you need to consider taking your time as it will save you a lot of time moving forward.

The Spec Sheet

The next step is creating a blueprint of the API. Use what’s called Spec-Driven Development to build the API. This method will allow you to keep the API churning at a smooth pace as well as catch potential glitches and other bad design issues. Given that you’ll be adding another four weeks to the development cycle it will, in turn, save months of work if not years of the hassle associated with bad design.


RAML is a tool which helps to build the specs and offers support for Spec Driven Development. You can also use the best practices for designing an API as well as reuse code to take advantage of the necessary design patters guaranteeing API consistency.

Furthermore when building specs make sure that it incorporates some way to get feedback from users so that the API continues to improve towards meeting their needs. The best way is to use prototyping for the API. A platform like MuleSoft’s latest version of Anypoint Platform for APIs will help to develop mocks that you share with developers. Notebook and Postman will help you share that API with users but without having to dive into any coding.


When building APIs for mainly SaaS, you need some form of authentication which allows users to access the account via an API. Since you’re dealing with user accounts, their security is your responsibility to make sure that you use to leverage the advantages and disadvantage of each option before deciding on one.


Your clients will interact with the API via resources, and so they have to adhere to all the best practices when designing. This isn’t just important for usability but also the long-life of the API.


Designing methods is the next step. You’ll want to implement standard responses like JSON and XML while taking advantage of all full power of HTTP. Make sure that everything is consistent across the methods.

Quick deployment

APIs are designed to be consumed quickly so not only should you provide solid operational information but also debug connections that return practical details on the error as advised by the experts at Loggly. The more sense it makes, the easier your API will be to use.

Finally, it is essential to have an understanding of hypermedia in the API as it works to improve longevity and usability over the long-haul. Once your API is built managing and updating it requires time and effort which shouldn’t be overlooked.

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