The concept of design is easy to grasp. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s an “act of forming a plan for later execution.” Design is a common thread which holds together art, programming, architecture, and many, many more professions.
On the surface, API design isn’t any different than any other form of design out there. However, people don’t pay it too much attention. Let’s face it – writing code for other developers isn’t as important as some other aspects of app development.
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Why Developers Pay No Attention to API Design?
While some developers don’t like to bother with API design, the matter of the fact is, API design is pretty important. For starters, the libraries we create expose our features and functionality to developers all across the world. And you’ll agree that this as important as user experience.
Despite all of the challenges, it’s actually possible to narrow down API design to a few basic design principles. Before talk about the principles, let’s see how APIs can help you and you fellow developers.
The Challenges that Come with API Design
You already know that a single API can save you a ton of time during the development process. A poorly designed API will only waste a developer’s time. And wasted time for developers always translates into wasted financial opportunities.
Every API out there has been created to extract basic functionality and allow you to add certain features to your program without writing a line of code. Basically, APIs are created to save developers’ time. If you decide to design an API for the first time, you can’t just slap it together.
That will leave your colleagues wondering should they even bother with one of your APIs ever again.
A good API needs to make things easier for developers and make the app they are working on much better. That’s why you need to work on it carefully, use good API documentation software, and give enough examples of API implementation.
But the API won’t only help other developers. It will help you build a good reputation in the online community and establish you as a serious developer who pays attention to everything he works on. With that in mind, move on to the four API design principles…
We’re sure that you’ll agree that software doesn’t really have the same visual qualities as pictures, paintings, or even buildings. However, developers have a tendency to use the same adjectives to describe a piece of software as they do for physical objects.
You can often hear a developer calling a piece of software “stunning” and “elegant.” If you feel like it’s alright to describe software in terms you use for physical and visual media, then it’s fair to use the principles of those media formats to inform your API design.
Therefore, we’re going to introduce four popular principles from the world of art and apply them to the world APIs:
Proportion, of course, is a measurement of the quantity and size of single elements within a single art piece. But that doesn’t mean that a good API is small or large – proportionality is all about size relative to the purpose. That means, the metaphorical size of your API should match the scope of its capability.
In the art world, unity represents the concept of a particular art piece. The creator brings everything together and makes a coherent whole. For an API designer, the unity is applied through the use of unifying elements in one library.
Next up, we have balance – the arrangement of multiple components that ensure that no single part of the piece overpowers the rest. In order to create a balanced API, you need to ensure that all components feel like they belong together.
Finally, we have emphasis. This principle represents the use of contrast that makes that particular piece stand out from the crowd and serves as a focal point of the piece. When it comes to APIs, the focal point should be the main method that anchors your library.
API Design Shouldn’t is ignored!
By applying the principles we listed above, you’ll be able to design a useful API that will help a good number of people in the developer community build their apps easily. More importantly, it will allow you to display your abilities to the world and boost your reputation.
We hope you found our article interesting and useful. And if you have any additional questions about API design, leave a comment below and we’ll respond as soon as possible.