Best Practices for REST API Designs


Chavinda Rashmika

29 August,2023 • 11 mins read

Designing robust and well-structured APIs has become crucial for building scalable and efficient software systems. Representational State Transfer (REST) has emerged as a popular architectural style for creating web APIs due to its simplicity, scalability, and widespread adoption.

Why is an API Design so important?

Developers find it difficult and time-consuming to integrate/consume APIs due to poor designs with little to no documentation. This leads to developers abandoning existing services, and possibly duplicating functionality. This frustration can simply be avoided by following key principles and guidelines when designing APIs. REST APIs are the face of any service, and therefore they should:

  1. Be easy to understand so that integration is straightforward.
  2. Be well documented, so that semantic behaviors are understood, not just syntactics.
  3. Follow accepted standards such as HTTP.

Let’s explore the best practices to follow when developing RESTful APIs!

How to design reliable, robust, and user-friendly REST APIs?

  1. Adhere to REST Principles
  2. To ensure a true RESTful API, it is essential to adhere to the core principles of REST. These principles include using the HTTP protocol as the underlying communication mechanism, leveraging standard HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) for performing operations, and utilizing resource-based URLs to represent entities. By following these principles, you enhance the consistency and predictability of your API.

    Let’s consider a proper usage of HTTP in the context of making a GET request to retrieve information!

    Let’s assume that the followingAPI endpoint enables retrieving user information:{user_id}.

    • To retrieve information about the user with the ID ‘12345’ from a user database using an API via HTTP GET request: GET /users/12345 HTTP/1.1
    • After sending the GET request, the server would respond with an HTTP response containing the information about the user:
      HTTP/1.1 200 OK
      Content-Type: application/json
      "id": 12345,
      "name": "John Doe",
      "email": "",
      "age": 30
  3. Design Resource-Oriented APIs
  4. REST APIs are built around resources that represent entities in your system. Design your API to be resource-oriented, where each resource should have a unique URL and be accessible via a combination of HTTP methods. Use nouns to represent resources rather than verbs and ensure that URLs are hierarchical and reflect the relationships between resources.

    • A sample good resource name: /products/12345
      Why? This resource name is clear and descriptive. It follows a consistent pattern and uses a meaningful identifier (12345) to refer to a specific product. It also uses a plural noun (products) to indicate that it's dealing with a collection of products.
    • A sample bad resource name: /getProdInfo
      Why? This resource name is not very descriptive and lacks context. It uses an abbreviation (Prod) that might not be immediately clear to everyone. Additionally, the use of "get" in the resource name is redundant because the HTTP method (e.g., GET) already implies that you are retrieving information. A more meaningful and clear resource name would be preferable.
  5. Use HTTP Verbs Correctly
  6. HTTP verbs play a crucial role in REST API design as given below:

    • GET: Use GET for retrieving a resource or a collection of resources. Avoid using GET for operations that modify data. It is recommended to use the appropriate HTTP status codes to indicate the outcome of each request.
      Example: To retrieve information about a user with ID 12345: GET /users/12345
    • POST: Use POST for creating new resources.
      Example: To create a new user:
      POST /users
      Body: { "name": "Alice", "email": "" }
    • PUT: Use PUT for updating existing resources.
      Example:To update the details of an existing user with ID 54321:
      PUT /users/54321
      Body: { "name": "Bob", "email": "" }
    • DELETE: Use DELETE for deleting resources.
      Example: To delete a product with ID 67890:
      DELETE /products/67890
  7. Implement Versioning
  8. As APIs evolve over time, it is important to implement versioning to maintain backward compatibility and provide a stable interface for clients. You may adopt following methods to indicate the API version:

    • Embedding the version number in the API URL.
      Example:Let’s consider the following URL:
      In this URL:
      • https:// indicates the protocol used for communication, which is HTTPS.
      • is the domain name of the server hosting the API.
      • /v1/ represents the version of the API being used. Here, v1 indicates the first version of the API.
      • /users/12345 is the path that specifies the resource you want to access. In this case, it is user with the ID 12345.
    • Using custom headers to indicate the desired version.

    When deprecating an API, make sure to clearly communicate it to the corresponding users proactively and provide a migration path for a smooth transition.

  9. Follow Consistent Error Handling
  10. Design a consistent error handling mechanism to provide meaningful and standardized error responses to clients. Use appropriate HTTP status codes such as 400 for bad requests, 404 for resource not found, and 500 for server errors, along with informative error messages in the response body. Consistency in error responses simplifies troubleshooting and enhances the developer experience.

  11. Optimize Resource Pagination
  12. When dealing with large collections of resources, provide support for pagination to improve performance and reduce the payload size. Use query parameters such as page, limit, to control the number of results returned per page and include links to navigate through the paginated results. Additionally, consider implementing filtering, sorting, and searching capabilities to enhance usability.

  13. Implement Proper Security Measures
  14. API security is of paramount importance. Apply appropriate authentication and authorization mechanisms to protect your API from unauthorized access and data breaches. Use standard protocols like OAuth 2.0 for authentication and authorization. Employ HTTPS for secure communication.Enforce access control based on user roles and permissions.

  15. Provide Comprehensive Documentation
  16. Thorough and up-to-date documentation is crucial for developers to understand and consume your APIs effectively. Document each resource, endpoint, and their corresponding request/response formats. Include sample API requests and responses, provide code snippets in multiple programming languages, and offer interactive API exploration tools to facilitate API discovery and usage.

  17. Support HATEOAS
  18. Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State (HATEOAS) enables API clients to navigate and interact with resources dynamically by including hypermedia links in responses. By implementing HATEOAS, you create a self-describing API, reducing coupling between the client and server and enabling clients to evolve independently.

  19. Perform Proper Testing
  20. Thoroughly test your API to ensure its reliability, functionality, and performance. Write automated tests for both positive and negative scenarios, including edge cases and error handling. Use tools like Postman or cURL to manually test your API and validate its behavior. Additionally, consider implementing API monitoring and logging to detect and troubleshoot issues proactively.

    Designing a well-structured and thoughtfully crafted RESTful APIs is essential for building scalable, interoperable, and user-friendly software systems. By adhering to the key principles and guidelines mentioned above, you can create REST APIs that are consistent, intuitive, and easy to consume.

How to use Xapi to follow best practices for REST API design?

Xapi presents a suite of forward-thinking tools characterized by full OpenAPI compliance. Xapi thus encompasses a collection of visually engaging tools that empower developers to create APIs that adhere to standards, all while offering a live preview functionality to visualize the API designs.

The intuitive editor fosters effortless identification of crucial API components, requiring minimal effort.

The availability of reusable, shared components significantly economize time. Sharable API models that act as API blueprints enable reusability. Utilizing these sharable API models when creating new APIs expedites the API design and development process, effectively mitigating errors.

Moreover, the platform facilitates the concurrent incorporation of API enhancements, along with the seamless integration of features, improvements, and bug fixes, supported by robust conflict resolution procedures.

Embark on your journey with Xapi by Signing Up now and initiate the designing of impeccable APIs.


Chavinda Rashmika

Business Analyst at X-Venture.