What is an API-first Approach to Development?

API-first Approach to Developmen

With the rise of cloud computing, it is no surprise to find organizations building processes around microservices and continuous delivery. In a cloud-based environment, the “traditional” code-first approach toward application development has its share of challenges. Essentially, the code-first approach was fine when implemented for single-framework monolithic systems.

However, this approach is less effective when applied to architectures that use diverse languages, frameworks, and API integrations. Further, tech-based innovations like serverless architecture and edge computing need to focus on an approach that can improve the pace of development. This is the API-first approach to development.

What is the API-first approach and why must development companies adopt it? Let’s discuss.

What is the API-first approach?

As the name suggests, the API-first approach is all about prioritizing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in application development. With this approach, application developers design and implement the API interface before building the rest of the application. Effectively, developers must determine how APIs can satisfy the business requirements before the coding process.

Here are a few points that are central to the API-first approach in application development:

  • Multiple clients will adopt and consume the APIs.
  • Developers can easily integrate products into their projects using APIs.
  • Each new application feature is now an independent service that is available through APIs.
  • For completed APIs, developers can commit the API code using a shared repository.

Why must application development companies adopt the API-first approach? Let’s discuss some reasons next.

5 Reasons why organizations must adopt the API-first approach

There are over 19 million API developers around the globe. With the growing emphasis on API programming, is it worth it for app development companies to adopt the API-first approach? 

Let us discuss how this approach can benefit customers, product development companies, and application developers:

  • Reduces the development cost

Among their biggest benefits, APIs are reusable for different projects and applications. Effectively, product developers no longer must “start from scratch” when building a new product. This can be time-consuming and add to development costs. Reusable components (or microservices) can be released faster in the market. Besides, they can be quickly integrated with any third-party application.

Additionally, development teams can now focus their efforts on building a minimum viable product (MVP). They can simply “plug in” more functionality using pre-built APIs of other microservice components.

  • Increases the speed to market

Product companies can accelerate API-based development using a host of API development tools. For example, tools like SwaggerHub and FastAPI can automatically import API distribution files. With these API development tools, developers no longer need to build an API from scratch. Developers can use API tools to automatically create API SDKs, mock APIs, and documentation.

This can reduce the time-to-market of the final product. An API-first approach also enables developers to add technologies to existing applications without any re-architecting.

  • Improves team coordination

The API-first approach enables the decoupling of dependencies between internal services. This means API development teams can work in parallel and on multiple APIs at the same time. This reduces development time and adds to the improved time-to-market.

Effectively, APIs can be created to serve every business requirement. With the API-first approach, cross-functional teams (including non-technical stakeholders) can be involved with the project work right from the beginning. This improves team coordination and communication, as non-technical users can also provide their inputs and suggestions. 

  • Improves API security

The growing popularity of APIs means that cybercriminals and bad actors also target them. Hackers look to exploit vulnerabilities in every new API released to the market. Going by a Gartner forecast, APIs will be the most common target for online attacks this year. Besides vulnerabilities, hackers can also exploit exposed API endpoints without a secure design.

An API-first approach puts the focus on API security practices right from the beginning of the development phase. This includes strategies like modeling online threats and integrating security frameworks in the native development environment.

  • Improves the developer’s experience

A “positive” developer experience (DX) is by far the biggest benefit of the API-first approach. Most APIs are used or consumed by other developers, which is why DX is so important. APIs with consistent design and documentation provide an exceptional DX, thus leading to more reusability. As more developers are “on board” with API packages, it can increase usage and reduce the learning curve.

The API-first approach ensures that all API-related specifications, designs, and documents are in place from the start. Well-designed APIs mean that developers are under less pressure to reuse the available components.

How do product companies implement the API-first development approach? Let’s discuss next.

How to implement an API-first development approach

Product companies need to plan, coordinate, and enforce the API-first approach in their development projects. Here are some key strategies needed to make the API-first approach successful:

  • Brainstorming

Typically, brainstorming involves identifying the key business services that can be offered through APIs. This highlights the main capabilities of the application component. Further, create use cases for each API along with endpoints for each use case.

  • Determining the API stakeholders

The API-first approach is built around the potential API stakeholders and consumers. Determine the API stakeholders within the organization. Ensure that all stakeholders share a common vision and provide their inputs on the API design. Collaborate consistently with API stakeholders and consumers to ensure that they can easily use the API.

  • Creating the API contract

The API contract document specifies the API coding guideline and best practices that need to be adhered to during the development. Include all APIs in the contract document. Check for consistency in endpoint names, error codes, and URLs in all the APIs.

  • Implementing API governance

API governance enables organizations to enforce API design standards and the desired outcomes. Regular peer reviews help in determining if API developers are following design standards to produce high-quality code.

  • Automating API generation

The final step is to automate the API generation process using API tools. These development tools help in automatically generating APIs for any service. Additionally, build APIs for self-service such that other developers can build applications with these APIs.

In summary, more companies are shifting towards cloud-based application development to release software products faster and capture more markets. An API-first approach reduces the development time and cost, thus enabling faster time-to-market.

This article first appeared at https://www.businessworld.in/article/What-Is-An-API-first-Approach-To-Development-/29-07-2022-439370/

 

https://techgraph.co/tech/how-high-performing-engineering-teams-use-power-trunk-based-development
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