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An API (Applications Programming Interface) is a computing interface that dictates the communication and sharing of data between applications. This has simplified things for software developers and companies that want to create innovative solutions.
For instance, software developers no longer need to build solutions from scratch. If they are building a transportation system, they can implement the Google Maps API to get the maps functionality.
Apart from saving the time it takes to build solutions, APIs have made it possible for companies to create amazing and state-of-the-art applications. So, how do you choose an API for your project?
Here are a few factors you need to look at;
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to use a third-party library that lacks documentation, you can check its source code to understand and evaluate its code. However, this is different for APIs.
Sometimes, you might lack access to the source code of some APIs. You, therefore, need to have a way through which you can understand how the API works. You also need to evaluate how complex it would be for you to implement the API.
This is what makes API documentation important. If you look at the APIs shared on Rapid, the world’s largest API hub, you will realize that they come with detailed documentation. This ensures that you do not have any problems using the APIs in your project.
When choosing an API for your project, you need to ensure that you have also chosen the type of data format you want to use. This will be vital in choosing the right API for your project.
A few years ago, most developers used XML data format for their projects. However, JSON has taken over, especially due to the growing popularity of APIs. That notwithstanding, both JSON and XML are easy to read. JSON can, however, be implemented easier compared to XML.
When looking at the API documentation, ensure that you also look at its libraries. This is important in helping you find out if your API is consistent or not.
If you choose an inconsistent API, chances are that you will be dealing with an API whose underlying code is poor. Such an API is difficult to implement. It might also bring a lot of challenges in the future even after successful implementation.
But do you know what to look at when deciding whether an API is consistent or not? Well, if it is a REST API, then make sure that all REST API principles are followed. If it uses JSON data formats, then all inputs and outputs should be in JSON. These are just some of the things you need to look at.
You also need to check the interface of the API you choose to use for your project. This means checking the methods and names the API uses. The API’s interface helps you evaluate the naming conventions of your project and those of the API.
In addition, you need to make sure that you are choosing an API whose parameters match the ones you have used in your project. In case these parameters do not match, involve your software developers. You need to ensure that they are good decision-makers when hiring them.
Imagine a situation where you are using an API that lacks support forums or platforms where you can seek help when you are stuck! This would be one of the most difficult APIs to use for your project.
The truth is that you will have a lot of problems using such an API. Chances are also very high that your project would fail even before you get everything running as expected. You, therefore, need to look at the support you have with the API you choose to use.
For instance, does the API have an active community or support forums where you can interact with other users? Does the API provider respond to questions from the API users? These are some of the questions you need to answer before settling on any API.
Even though you will get many APIs for free, some API providers charge users for API usage. API pricing is a tricky issue, and you need to ensure that you are getting everything that you pay for. Do not always go for cheap APIs because you might end up paying more in the long run.
If you look at all the factors discussed in this article when choosing an API for your project, you can be assured of getting an API that meets all your requirements.