API Clients Best Practices


There has been an exponential growth in the market for API clients making it easy for developers to get the best API client that meets their needs when it comes to API development, testing and integration. However, think of a situation where you have a well designed API that is secure, resilient and scalable, and that meets all your needs. Such an API is not expected to fail. Nevertheless, a badly behaving client can overwhelm any API or API gateway and affect your application. So, how do you know which API client will get the work done for you? This article describes Insomnia vs. Postman vs. Paw, which are some of the most common API clients we have today. Let us look at some of the API clients best practices.

HTTP Status Codes

API Clients Best Practices

HTTP status codes are very common and you can get well documented information about them on the internet. However, a better percentage of poor client behavior originates from bad handling of the same HTTP status codes. Here are rules that should be followed when it comes to HTTP status codes for API clients best practices:

  • HTTP 5XX Status Code: This means that the API, server or the gateway needs a break. The API clients can retry but they have to do so carefully. This is because retrying blindly could cause more problems with the API. To avoid any further issues, clients should abort the process in cases where the user is waiting and give them the option of retrying or leaving the request all together. If there is no user waiting, such as for system to system calls and background calls, the client can retry but should only do so using an exponential back off strategy.
  • HTTP 4XX Status Code: This means that the API, server or the gateway is blaming the client for doing something wrong. In such a scenario, you are not supposed to retry the request like it is. You will need to change something such as providing any missing request data before you can try the request again. However, in some cases, you might need to take an out of band action. Such an action might include an access provisioning on the server that helps avoid an HTTP 401 error. When a request is retried without making any change, it ends up putting a lot of load on the gateway infrastructure.

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OAuth Tokens

APIs can be protected using basic, digest or OAuth authentication methods. APIs protected with OAuth requires the client to deal with tokens a lot. To make good use of the tokens, you need to employ these tips;

  • Handling Expired Tokens: A well designed API should return an expires_in field when requesting a new token and return an HTTP 401 error when an expired token is in use.
  • Reuse Tokens: It is advisable to reuse a token to avoid requesting a new token for every API call. Most access tokens are reusable before they expire.

Finally, avoid depending on or making any assumptions when it comes to the content, structure or the size of tokens. These implementation details are made on the server side. If you rely on them, you might end up breaking the API clients inadvertently. With these API client best practices, you can be assured of avoiding any issues that can break the functionality of APIs.

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