What is API Prototyping? Prototyping vs Mocking

What is API Prototyping? Prototyping vs Mocking

API prototyping is the process of building a working model of an API before proceeding with full development. It’s an iterative process that focuses on creating a simplified version of the API to explore functionality, validate concepts, evaluate integration capabilities, and receive early feedback. 

API prototyping enables dev teams to save time and resources early on in the development process and, ideally, cut down on testing workloads and the number of revisions needed further along the development pipeline. 

Mock-first API Prototyping 

Devs often look at API prototyping and API mocking as two distinct processes. They will prototype first and then mock as they move closer to deployment. But, what if we told you that mocking can be done alongside prototyping? 

It’s true. Fundamentally, API mocking is simply using a service like WireMock Cloud to build mock servers for new and existing APIs and receive realistic responses from them — but without any grunt work needed to build infrastructure or the high costs of calling live services. 

Dev teams can utilize mocking services to make mocking a part of the prototyping phase much earlier on in the development pipeline rather than leaving it until the end. Doing so allows teams to iterate better, from initial planning and design through to integration testing. This is what we call mock-first API prototyping, and it enables stronger and faster product development. 

Learn more about API prototyping with WireMock Cloud

How Does API Prototyping Work? An Example

Imagine that you’re developing an e-commerce platform, and one of the core features is a product search API that enables users to search for products based on various criteria. 

Here’s what an API prototyping workflow for this might look like: 

  • Define requirements: Determine the basic requirements of your product search API, such as endpoints, query parameters, and expected response format.
  • Create a prototype server: Your prototype environment should use a lightweight framework suited to rapid development. Implement your mock endpoints. 
  • Generate mock data: Create sample data or use mock data generation libraries to simulate product information. Include variations like product names, descriptions, prices, categories, and availability status.
  • Implement basic functionality: In the prototype server's code, implement functionality for handling API requests—e.g. when a search request is received with query parameters, the server should return mock product data.
  • Test the prototype: Use API testing tools like Postman or cURL to send test requests to the prototype API endpoints. Test various search scenarios. 
  • Gather feedback:  Share the prototype API with stakeholders and gather feedback on design, usability, and functionality. Iterate on the prototype based on feedback to refine the API's features and behavior.
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