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Best Practices
Learn tips & tricks to build high quality integrations quickly

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Best Practices – Lesson 1

5 must-do tasks for any new API integration

You’re building a new app — awesome! Having already stubbed out core functionality, you’re ready to tackle the API integration aspects of the app. You know the external product or service your app needs to integrate with, but…now what???

Starting a new API integration can be confusing and anxiety-provoking challenging. Let’s kick off this Best Practices series by learning the 5 must-do tasks that’ll get your new API integration moving in the right direction.

Task #1: Find the Dev Center

First, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 — go straight to the Dev Center (sometimes referred to as a “Dev Portal”) for the product that you’ll be integrating with. That’s where you’ll find information about everything from Developer accounts, to getting started, to SDKs, to code samples, to API documentation, to support — sometimes even interactive tools you can use to test API calls.

You can usually find a Dev Center via a simple Google search for “[product name] developer center” or “[product name] dev portal” — where [product name] is the name of the product you’ll be integrating with. Bookmark that site — you’ll be using its developer resources a lot as you build your API integration.

The following screenshot shows the AWS Developer Center.

AWS developer center screenshot

Task #2: Create a Developer Account

A Developer account (or “Dev account”) is a free account that you can use to build and test an API integration in a sandbox outside of a system’s production environment. If you’re building an API integration, you’re going to want one. Within the Dev Center, look for a link or button labeled “Developer Account” or “Create an Account” or “Register” or “Developer Program” or something similar and follow that path to create a dev account.

The following screenshot from the Microsoft 365 Dev Center shows an invitation to join the Dev Program.

Microsoft Developer Program - Join Now

Task #3: Learn about API Authentication

Somewhere in the API documentation (discoverable via the Dev Center), you’ll find information about Authentication. Since most APIs don’t allow anonymous requests, knowing how to properly authenticate your app’s API requests is important. Read through the authentication docs to identify which auth scenario(s) are relevant to your app. If you need to generate an API access token, follow instructions in the docs to do so now.

The following screenshot from the Smartsheet API docs shows information about authentication.

Smartsheet API docs - auth info

Task #4: Learn about SDKs (client libraries)

Previously in Developer Resources, we learned that using an SDK (client library) can save you a lot of time and effort, compared to writing all your code from scratch. Explore the API docs and/or Dev Center to determine if there’s an SDK available for your language of choice. If you don’t see any info about SDKs, try a quick Google search for “[product name] [language] SDK” –for example: DocuSign Python SDK.

Find an SDK for your language of choice? Awesome! Follow instructions to install the SDK so that it’s ready for use when the time comes.

The following screenshot from the Google Cloud Dev Center shows information about Google Cloud SDKs.

Google Cloud SDKs info

Task #5: Learn about developer tools

While you’re exploring the Dev Center, keep an eye out for info about developer tools that are available for the API. For example, maybe there’s a Postman collection available that’ll let you easily explore API requests and responses (like the one DocuSign has published). Or maybe there’s another type of tool that provides similar functionality — like the Graph Explorer, which you can use to explore Microsoft Graph APIs. If a company’s created a tool to make learning & using their API easier, it’s worth learning about!

The following screenshot from the Microsoft Graph Dev Center shows info about their Graph Explorer tool.

Get started with Microsoft Graph Explorer

So there you have it…

…the 5 must-do tasks that’ll get your new API integration moving in the right direction:

  1. Find the Dev Center.
  2. Create a Developer Account.
  3. Learn about API Authentication.
  4. Learn about SDKs (client libraries).
  5. Learn about developer tools.

After completing these tasks, you’re ready to begin mapping out the details of your API integration. In the next post, we’ll discuss some best practices for doing just that. But first — a quick knowledge check:

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Further reading: This site provides the level of technical detail required to understand and use REST APIs in most situations. If you'd like to geek out on these topics further, the internet is full of more in-depth resources!