This is how easy it is to create a REST API

March 08, 2018 0 Comments

This is how easy it is to create a REST API

 

 

Learn how to create semantic REST API real quick using Python Flask

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

I was learning PHP back then, where I was taught to write codes that combine both front-end presentation and back-end logic together in the same code base. It was simple, sweet, quick to implement and no issues until I stumbled across a fairly complicated project, where the front-end is so complex that I have to separate it with the back-end in order to keep my head on it. This is where I learnt about the advantages of separation of concerns, client — server architecture, HTTP methods as well as RESTful architecture.

I started to research on frameworks and tools that can help me in achieving the separation of front-end and back-end development. I went with Flask as I knew a little of Python already and begin writing a REST API with it, and immediately fall in love with it.

Flask is a microframework based on Werkzeug, Jinja2 and good intentions, and before you ask: It’s BSD licensed!
 — Flask Official Website

Microframework refers to a light-weight web application framework in contrast to full-stack frameworks. That means Flask gives only what you need essentially to create a back-end server but provides the flexibility to install any extensions to support features like database interfacing, authentication, encryption, CSRF protection and so on.

To begin with, we will need to install the required library and dependencies, we will be using Flask-RESTful, an extension for Flask which enables rapid development of REST API with minimal setup. 
Note that Flask-RESTful requires Python version 2.6, 2.7, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 or 3.6.

pip install flask-restful

Install one of these API testing tool:

  • Postman — This tool basically allows you to test your API endpoints, observe the responses. You can go even further to create scripts and do automated testing.
  • Insomnia — An open source alternative to Postman. It comes with all the basic features you will need for API endpoints testing, and a better design IMO.

We will be creating a RESTful API that is used to store users details, which will have CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) functions, allowing us to create new user, get details of existing user, update details of existing user and delete existing user.

Let’s begin by importing the required module and setting up the Flask-RESTful application:

Note: We are importing “Flask” , “Api” and “Resource” with capital letter initials, it signifies that a class is being imported. reqparse is Flask-RESTful request parsing interface which will be used later on. Then we create an app using “Flask” class, “name” is a Python special variable which gives Python file a unique name, in this case, we are telling the app to run in this specific place.

Next, we will create a lists of users using Python data structures which are lists and dictionaries to simulate a data store:

Note: This method is used since this article is focusing in creating API, but in actual condition, the data store is usually a database.

Now we will begin creating our API endpoints by defining a User resource class. Four functions which correspond to four HTTP request method will be defined and implemented:

One of the good quality of a REST API is that it follows standard HTTP method to indicate the intended action to be performed.

The get method is used to retrieve a particular user details by specifying the name:

We will traverse through our users list to search for the user, if the name specified matched with one of the user in users list, we will return the user, along with 200 OK, else return a user not found message with 404 Not Found. Another characteristic of a well designed REST API is that it uses standard HTTP response status code to indicate whether a request is being processed successfully or not.

The post method is used to create a new user:

We will create a parser by using reqparse we imported earlier, add the age and occupation arguments to the parser, then store the parsed arguments in a variable, args (the arguments will come from request body in the form of form-data, JSON or XML). If a user with same name already exists, the API will return a message along with 400 Bad Request, else we will create the user by appending it to users list and return the user along with 201 Created.

The put method is used to update details of user, or create a new one if it is not existed yet.

If the user already exist, we will update his/her details with the parsed arguments and return the user along with 200 OK, else we will create and return the user along with 201 Created.

The delete method is used to delete user that is no longer relevant:

By specifying users as a variable in global scope, we update the users list using list comprehension to create a list without the name specified (simulating delete), then return a message along with 200 OK.

Finally, we have done implementing all the methods in our User resource, we will add the resource to our API and specify its route, then run our Flask application:

Note: 
<string:name> indicates that it is a variable part in the route which accepts any name. 
To specify Flask to run in debug mode enables it to reload automatically when code is updated and give us helpful warning messages if something went wrong. It is useful in development setting, but should never be used in production setting.

Save the file as app.py and run it:

python app.py
* Restarting with stat
* Debugger is active!
* Debugger PIN: XXX-XXX-XXX
* Running on http://127.0.0.1:5000/

The complete code is available here.

Now we have our REST API up and running, so it is time to test it using one of the tools I recommended in the beginning.

Example of creating a new user named Thomas in Insomnia

Thanks for reading this article, hopefully by now you have an idea on how to write a RESTful API rapidly using Flask, as well as adhere to some existing standards to design a high quality RESTful API.

If you think this tutorial was helpful, please tap the clap button 👏 several times to show your support! Your encouragement will definitely be my motivation to write more article or tutorial like this. 😉


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