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What to think about API design?


I recently had a task to add a specific endpoint for a field. It got me down the rabbit hole of exploring different patterns for API design. What constitutes as best practices for design patterns or having a route for a specific use case? How might the needs of the maintainers and consumers of the APIs come into play when building the resources. How do you decide on tradeoffs now and while continuing to incrementally build out the APIs. Read on for some of my learnings!

When it comes to designing APIs for deeply nested data or sensitive data, it is important to carefully consider the structure and organization of the data. An option is to use nested endpoints to retrieve specific subsets of data. In the case of sensitive fields, careful consideration should be taken to not have the data be unnecessarily exposed such as using token generation or a resource like secrets manager in AWS. One approach is to limit the amount of nested data that can be accessed through the API, or to require additional authentication for sensitive data. Additionally, it is important to regularly monitor the API for any unusual activity or security breaches.

Having different opinions or having 1000 different ways to go about it when it comes to designing APIs is expected in cross-functional teams. It is important to take the time to carefully analyze the problem and solution and to ask questions to ensure that the design is both efficient and user-friendly. Rushing to a solution without fully exploring the options can lead to inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the design. Regularly reviewing and updating design practices can also help to ensure that the API remains efficient and relevant over time.

Ultimately, the design of an API should be a collaborative effort between the team who will consume it and the backend team who will maintain it. Both teams should have input in the design process to ensure that the API meets the needs of both parties. While the backend team will likely have a better understanding of the underlying data structures and technical constraints although not always, the team who will consume the API will have a better understanding of the specific use cases and requirements. By working together, both teams can ensure that the API is designed in a way that is both efficient, developer friendly and secure!