How to Build a RESTful API for Your Mobile App (A Step-by-Step Guide)?

Want to learn how to build a RESTful API for your mobile app? You’ve landed on the perfect spot. Well, it’s no surprise that APIs have become the most vital part of mobile app development in recent times. 

Any app running on our phone today needs to connect and communicate with a plethora of other apps over the internet to operate properly. And, for that APIs play an important role. 

Well, if you don’t hold enough experience in API development, then creating one might seem a daunting task to you. 

But, don’t worry. The article explains everything about RESTful API and how to implement one for your business. 

So, let’s dig deep and discuss everything in detail” 

What is API?

Before we discuss RESTful API, let’s covers the basics first: 

API stands for Application Programming Interface. In simplest terms, it allows developers to access a third-party app or platform. 

To understand this well, check any app running on your phone now, it might be using Facebook API, which is the most widely used API by iOS and Android app developers. Another popular example is Paypal API which most apps today use for easy payments. 

If you are an app developer, you might not require another introduction for APIs. As you will be already using them to build an app. Popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. offer their APIs which you can use for accessing their different functions. 

What is a RESTful API? 

RESTful API

So, the next thing in your mind would be RESTful API, right? 

REST stands for Representational State Transfer. Back in 2000, Roy Fielding first came up with the idea of REST APIs. 

Essentially, a RESTful API uses HTTP requests for data handling and works on the architectural style principles. Why it’s so popular for creating web services is because of its ability to build on top of already existing systems. 

Before you being RESTful API development, you might obtain a good knowledge of:

  • Web services
  • Data transfer protocols 
  • URL mapping 
  • Networking concepts 

Features That Makes RESTful API Different

A RESTful app uses HTTP primarily for communication, but in case of mobile apps its HTTPS, Why? It’s more secure because of the secure socket layer.

A RESTful API is cacheable. This means clients can store all API responses within a cache, The result is better performance. 

RESTful APIs are also known as RESTful web services as they work upon HTTP protocols and REST principles. 

As you know RESTful APIs work upon client-server architecture. But the interesting part is both are independent of each other, the front end component is client while the back end is the server in this arrangement. 

During request transfer, data is not stored on the server. The session ends at the client’s side while the data stay stateless. 

API versioning becomes important in the case of mobile apps to handle both new and legacy user requests.

How to Build a RESTful API?

To integrate APIs into a mobile app, you have two options: build-it-yourself and integrate with an existing API. 

Integrating existing APIs is the easier and time-saving option. But, if you want high security and customization, prefer building an API on your own. 

To start API development from scratch, follow the below steps: 

Choose A Common Architecture 

If you decide on building API on your own, the ideal option is to use “common architecture.” Its a general starting point for most API developers to fast pace development. Having a common architecture ensures fast updates and easy modifications. 

Four popular API architectures include: 

API architectures

Hypermedia is popular for web app development while event-driven and pragmatic suits mobile apps mostly. Gaming apps, cloud-based apps, and video chat apps work best with event-driven architecture. 

Prefer Layered Components 

To increase your API effectiveness, layered components are recommended. Below is an example: 

API Components

You can see how different layers interact with each other. The security layer is most important for protecting sensitive business information. You don’t want data backed to be accessed by anyone. The caching layer stays close to the rim of your API architecture and stores common requests. Keeping the representation layer friendly for developers is vital too without hindering backend performance. Lastly, include an orchestration layer to combine data from multiple APIs. 

Select the Reliable Server and Database 

Servers as vital as API architecture. Make sure the server you choose keeps the costs low for users when it comes to network data consumption. Also, it should help users save battery life on their devices. If you store data remotely on a server or other devices, it will also ensure the smooth running of apps along with seamless data syncing across all user devices. 

The decision of choosing a database should be taken according to the design of your app. Some of the popular options include MySQL, MariaDB, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, etc. 

Apply Robust Security Measures 

Secure users and business data are important as an API developer. If you need proof, check the huge dump in Facebook share prices between 25th and 26th July 2018 due to the Cambridge Analytics data privacy scandal.  

Any technology security loophole in API can cost your millions of dollars. So, while building API for mobile apps, use HTTPS protocol, strong password encryption methods, and authentication frameworks like OAuth 2.0. Also when exchanging sensitive data, follow standards like OpenID Connect, TLS, and OAuth 2.0, instead of your own custom security controls of APIs. 

Document the Entire Process 

Finally, keep track of the API development work you’re doing to stay organized and to keep everyone on the same page. It also helps you track the current API state and ensure easy future updates. 

Another reason to document your API progress is to make it open for other developers. A solid documentation guide helps other developers make use of your API without getting into the trouble of knowing how it works and how to implement it. 

Useful Tools for RESTful API Implementation

You must use the right set of tools while building APIs for mobile apps to enable web services. Start with a solid project tracking tool. You can also use tools for documentation, testing, and debugging. Some of the popular API development tools are listed below: 

Project Management: Trello is an excellent SaaS-based software tool for project collaboration and tracking, Just visit its official website to use it for REST API development projects. 

Development Tools: Having a good development environment is vital to building a reliable API. Choose among tools like Slate, Apiary, etc. Slate allows you to write code in multiple languages and is user friendly too. Whereas Apiary lets you build beautiful design components. 

Testing Tools: The choice of testing tools depends upon the programming language you use while building APIs. If coding in Java, “REST-assured” is recommended. Another good option includes Chakram, a REST API testing framework base on Node.js  

Documentation Tools: Use Swagger for API project documentation. It supports many languages and is an ideal choice to store vital project information (error codes, success messages. etc.) over a longer period. 

Hosting Tools: Choosing a good hosting solution is vital for your mobile app, apart from building an API. Consider Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud, Digital Ocean, and Rackspace for the same. 

Summing Up!

APIs are designed to aid the mobile app development while ensuring captivating user experiences, Gone are the days of isolated apps and unconnected experiences. Utilize backend APIs or creating your own from scratch to give a boost to your app functionality. 

Now that you know the process of getting started with APIs, execute your project plans with diligence. Also, get help from expert app developers if you need to.

Drop us a line for all your API development needs.

 

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