REST API Design Best Practices in Java

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Implementing APIs without focusing on building a clean, scalable, and comprehensible architecture often leads to internal conflicts between team and performance bottlenecks in your Java application. Hence, it becomes easier to pay conscious attention to the API design architecture to avoid future conflicts or reduce the chances of bugs and errors. This is why we need to follow design best practices when using RESTful APIs in Java apps.

When designing custom REST APIs for Java apps, you should ensure that the performance, ease of use, and security aspects are not impacted negatively. Today we will discuss the best practices for optimizing REST API design, including some must-do(s) and don'ts. You can hire a Java developer to take care of these technical hassles so you can focus on business-driven decisions. However, if you would still like to learn about the best practices you should follow when designing REST APIs in Java, let's dive right into it.


Accept and respond using JSON.

Most people feel REST APIs can only return hypertext, but it is false. You can also return JSON for any request and send responses using JSON format. Since JSON is the most used format for transferring data, it can be used by any platform on the front and back end. It is one of the most lightweight, readable, and widely supported formats, which makes it an optimal choice for data exchange. REST APIs are ideally used for internet services and provide greater flexibility than traditional APIs. Hence, you can also choose between XML and HTML or other custom formats to enable interaction through REST APIs.


Use Nouns in place of Verbs

When you use Rest API in Java applications, you work on resources and collections of your Java application. Any action on these resources would be defined by either PUT, GET, POST, PATCH, or DELETE formats. Hence it is advisable to use such nouns to change the resource's state in the Java app place verbs.


Most used nouns and their purpose -

GET: for fetching any record/records from the server

POST: creating a new resource/resources

OPTIONS: fetching all available REST operations

DELETE: deleting the targeted resource

PATCH: for modifying the given record

PUT: updating or replacing any given record


Ensuring proper documentation

Documenting your REST API designing process is very important. It helps teams to gain a sight of reference when the system stops working or performs incorrectly to identify possible bottlenecks, coding gaps, or other problems which can be resolved to fix the problem. Also, proper documentation ensures that future teams can easily understand the ongoing project and start working on it without needing a lengthy onboarding process. You should also attempt to make the documentation easier to understand for non-technical users. Ensure to cover all possible tutorials, guides, and other reliable and accessible features to optimize your REST API design.


Manage API Versioning efficiently.

REST API versioning is an amazing asset as it allows Java developers to make any changes in the data structure or for any specific actions. Most projects require more APIs to manage their daily operations as they increase in size. By managing different API versions, you can control any service's modifications and improvements. Hence you can help your customers slowly migrate to your newer modules, allowing the flexibility to upgrade at their own pace.


Optimize Error Handling

You cannot code in a way that your codebase never runs into errors or bugs. However, you can take proactive measures to better prepare for when your Java project runs into unforeseen errors. Any effective API is supposed to return the accurate HTTP error code to identify which error caused the system to break/interrupt or not perform as intended. You should ensure that you write error-handling messages accurately with an error aspect, message aspect, and detail aspect.


Common Error Handling Codes

400 – Bad Requests

401 Unauthorized

403 – Forbidden

404 – Not Found

500 – Internal Server Error

502 – Bad Gateway

503 – Service Unavailable


Secure your APIs

APIs are a great gateway for integrating third-party services or grabbing data from reliable sources for your Java app. However, it is also a potential gateway for exploiters and attackers to enter and attack your API server. Hence you should ensure that your API follows proper security guidelines for running operations smoothly without compromising sensitive data or the security of your app. You should ensure your REST API in Java design has an HTTP Strict Transport Security policy and the necessary provisions for protecting your app against common exploitation methods like man-in-the-middle, session hijacking, etc.


Cache Data for improving performance

Caching is one of the most underestimated yet robust tools for speeding up your Java app performance and speed. When you use caching, your app doesn't need to extract the data for the same query from scratch repeatedly. You should use caching to implement your REST APIs to reduce resource consumption and improve your app performance. You should also keep an active eye on the data present in the cache. It should only stay in the cache briefly since obsolete or old data could lead to the app running errors and compromising the production environment.


Optimizing Searching and related features

When your database increases in size, managing it can become very difficult. To ensure a secure connection with your API, you need to retrieve only the information requested by the user from the database and pass it back as a response. For this, you need to use a filter that only fetches the demanded request and doesn't access other database files. Doing so optimizes the database operations and bandwidth usage for clients. You should use GET for fetching different data filtering tags like Filtering, Sorting, Paging, Field Selection, and more.


Making use of Resource Nesting Efficiently

Nesting APIs efficiently is an important REST API design consideration in Java for representing hierarchical relationships between different entities. Here are some best nesting practices you should follow -

Determine the relationship between different entities

Use meaningful and consistent URLs

Consider pagination and filtering

Avoid over-nesting or under-nesting

Using HTTP methods and proper query parameters

Establish resource relationships


Final Words

These were some of the best practices to implement for optimizing your REST API design in Java applications. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your Java application works smoothly, is scalable, and is highly secure while being performance oriented. Remember you need to pay attention to technical details like nesting, putting good security practices in place, optimizing performance through pagination and caching, and other such best practices but at the same time, also make sure to properly document the REST API design process, provide proper HTTP error codes and follow other non-technical aspects of Java Rest API design optimization process as well.

If you are a non-technical or a technical firm that needs to optimize its Java app efficiently and urgently, you can hire dedicated developers with expertise in Java development to take care of such optimizations for your project.


Author Bio

Ronak Patel is a CEO and Founder of Aglowid IT Solutions, an ever-emerging Top Web and Mobile Development company with a motto of turning clients into successful businesses. He believes that Client's success is company's success and so that he always makes sure that Aglowid helps their client's business to reach to its true potential with the help of his best team with the standard development process he set up for the company.

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