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What is API automation and how to get started

The image shows a person working on API test automation using a laptop and testing the same on a tablet at the same time.

For many industries, the adoption of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) is no longer an option – it is a must.

For example, a recent study by McKinsey & Company noted that 88 percent of respondents to their global survey on APIs in banking revealed that they believe APIs have become more important over the past two years. Another 81 percent think programming interfaces are a priority for business and IT functions. APIs have become so important that large banks are launching API programs and allocating about 14 percent of their IT budget to APIs on average.

What is driving the adoption of APIs? There are many factors including increasing demand for digital solutions from customers, growing number of different technology stacks, and complicated and time-consuming integration of IT platforms.

With APIs and API automation poised to continue growing, in this blog we dive into some of the common questions around API automation, its benefits, tools and best practices.

What are APIs and common APIs ?

APIs are sets of rules and protocols that allow different software applications to communicate and interact with each other. APIs can be categorized into several types based on their communication protocols, data formats, and usage including:

  • Web APIs (HTTP APIs) use the HTTP protocol to communicate over the web. They are typically RESTful APIs, which use standard HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) to interact with resources.
  • Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) APIs use XML as their message format and typically run over HTTP or SMTP. They are more rigid and formal in structure compared to RESTful APIs.
  • JSON-RPC and XML-RPC APIs are used for simple, stateless remote procedure calls (RPC) using JSON or XML as the data interchange format.
  • GraphQL APIs allow developers to use a query language to request the data they need. It is more flexible than traditional REST APIs by enabling clients to specify the structure of the response.
  • WebSocket APIs enable real-time, full-duplex communication between clients and servers over a single, long-lived connection. They are suitable for applications requiring continuous data exchange.
  • Library/API Wrappers provide a higher-level interface to interact with specific libraries or services. They simplify complex functionality and make it easier for developers to integrate with the underlying service.
  • Hardware APIs allows developers to interact with hardware devices, like graphics cards, printers, and sensors.
  • Operating System APIs allow software applications to interact with the underlying operating system, like file systems, networking, and system services.
  • Database APIs allow data retrieval, insertion, and modification from databases.
  • Third-party APIs allows developers to integrate their services into third-party applications, like social media APIs, payment gateways, and mapping APIs.

Examples of application-specific APIs include:

  • Google Maps API for geolocation, mapping, and location-based services
  • Facebook Graph API to retrieve user data, and interact with the Facebook ecosystem
  • GitHub API to manage repositories, issues, pull requests, and other GitHub functionalities programmatically
  • Stripe API for integrating online payments into applications
  • Twilio API to enable SMS, voice, and messaging functionalities
  • YouTube Data API to access video search, uploads, comments, and user information
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) APIs to interact with its various cloud services, including storage, computing, databases, and more
  • Microsoft Azure APIs to access Microsoft cloud services, such as Azure Blob Storage, and Azure Cognitive Services
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP) APIs to interact with Google cloud services.
  • OpenAI API to access language models and AI capabilities to integrate natural language processing into applications.

What is API automation ?

API automation is the process of automating the testing and execution of APIs and is critical in software development as it ensures that different systems can exchange data and perform various functionalities seamlessly.

Also Read: A Complete Guide to Automate UI Testing

Benefits of automating testing of APIs

Since manual testing of APIs can be time-consuming and error-prone,API automation offers many benefits including faster and cost-effective verification of new features and bug fixes, better test coverage and lower maintenance costs.

API automation can be used for functional testing, validation testing, UI/visual testing, security testing, lead testing, runtime and error detection, penetration testing, fuzz testing, regression testing and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD).

How to test APIs ?

To get started with API testing, first review the API documentation thoroughly to understand its endpoints, parameters, request/response formats, authentication methods, and any other relevant details.Based on the documentation and requirements, create a list of test scenarios that cover the API's functionality comprehensively and include positive test cases (valid inputs) and negative test cases (invalid inputs, error responses).

Once you have a dedicated test environment that mimics the production environment and selected appropriate tools for API testing (see popular API automation testing tools section), you are ready to start testing the APIs which should include:

  • Verifying that each API endpoint works as expected, adhering to the defined functionality.
  • Testing the API with different types of valid and invalid inputs to check how it handles them.
  • Ensuring that the API returns appropriate error messages and status codes when encountering errors or exceptions.
  • Validating the API's security mechanisms such as authentication tokens, API keys, and permissions.
  • Checking if the data returned by the API is accurate, consistent, and matches the expected format (i.e.verifying the API request and responses schema)
  • Verifying how the API handles pagination or rate-limiting
  • Validating API functionality after system upgrades with pre and post response comparison
  • Ensuring mandatory values and tags exist on API responses.

Other areas to test include

  • Performance testing to evaluate how the API handles a significant number of requests, checking for response times and potential bottlenecks.
  • Interoperability testing to ensure seamless communication between systems.
  • Security testing to identify and fix vulnerabilities in the API.
  • Documentation testing to ensure that API functionality is accurately described in the documentation.

Popular API automation testing tools

Using an API testing tool offers several advantages that streamline the process of testing APIs and ensure the reliability and functionality of the API implementation. Some common API testing tool includes:

  • Postman: A widely-used tool for creating and running test cases.
  • Swagger (OpenAPI): A toolset for designing, building, documenting and testing APIs.
  • REST Assured: A Java-based library specifically designed for testing RESTful APIs.
  • JUnit or TestNG: General-purpose framework for API testing in Java.
  • py test: A testing framework for Python that can be utilized for API automation.
  • BotzAutomation: A scalable and enterprise-wide tool that uses no-code automation testing of APIs, enterprise applications, files, databases and more.

Why use BotzAutomation for API testing?

BotzAutomation offers several API testing capabilities including:

  • RESTful API Testing to test all JSON and XML-based web apps, including GET, PUT, POST, PATCH and DELETE methods.
  • SOAP API Testing to test how the system creates, retrieves, updates or deletes records and custom objects from a server.
  • GraphQL API Testing to ensure that the schemas, queries, and mutations created between front-end systems and backend APIs operate as expected.

Features and benefits of the solution include:

  • Support for multiple API types reduces the need to purchase and maintain multiple automation tools
  • No-Code/Low-Code approach makes API automation testing easy to create and maintain
  • API Recorder allows conversion of API specifications into automatable test cases
  • Orchestrated executions apply rules and conditions, and execute APIs on dependent mode without manual intervention
  • Monitor API execution status and logs in real time.
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