10 REST API Error Best Practices

When building a REST API, it's important to consider how you will handle errors. This article provides 10 best practices for error handling in a REST API.

REST APIs are an integral part of modern web development. They are used to provide a consistent interface for clients to interact with a server. However, errors can occur when making requests to a REST API. It is important to handle these errors in a consistent and meaningful way.

In this article, we will discuss 10 best practices for handling errors in a REST API. We will discuss how to properly format error messages, how to use HTTP status codes, and how to log errors for debugging. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your API is robust and reliable.

1. Use HTTP status codes

HTTP status codes are the standard way of communicating errors to clients. They provide a consistent and easy-to-understand way for developers to understand what went wrong with their request. For example, if an API returns a 404 Not Found error code, it’s immediately clear that the requested resource was not found.

Using HTTP status codes also helps ensure that your API is compliant with industry standards. This makes it easier for other developers to integrate with your API, as they can quickly identify any potential issues.

2. Return error details in the response body

When an API request fails, it’s important to provide the user with detailed information about what went wrong. This helps them understand why their request failed and how they can fix it. If you only return a generic error message in the response body, users won’t have enough information to troubleshoot the issue.

By returning detailed error messages in the response body, you give users the information they need to quickly identify and resolve the problem. This makes your API more user-friendly and increases customer satisfaction.

3. Support filtering, sorting, and pagination for collections

Filtering allows users to narrow down the results they receive from an API call, making it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. Sorting helps users organize their data in a way that makes sense to them. And pagination ensures that users don’t get overwhelmed with too much information at once.

By supporting these features, you can make your REST API more user-friendly and efficient. This will help ensure that users have a positive experience when using your API, which is essential for long-term success.

4. Version your API

When you version your API, it allows you to make changes and improvements without breaking existing integrations. This is especially important when dealing with errors because if an error occurs in a new version of the API, but not in the old one, then clients using the old version won’t be able to handle the error properly.

By versioning your API, you can ensure that any changes or updates you make don’t break existing integrations. You can also use versioning to keep track of which versions are supported and which ones aren’t, so you know exactly what kind of errors to expect from each version.

5. Provide a hypermedia-driven API

Hypermedia-driven APIs are designed to provide a more intuitive and user-friendly experience for developers. By providing links to related resources, users can easily navigate the API without having to manually construct URLs or search through documentation. This makes it easier to find what they need quickly and reduces the chances of errors due to incorrect URL construction.

Additionally, hypermedia-driven APIs make it easier to handle errors by providing helpful error messages that include links to relevant documentation. This helps developers understand why an error occurred and how to fix it, reducing the time spent troubleshooting.

6. Allow overriding HTTP method

When a client sends an HTTP request to the server, it includes an HTTP method that specifies what type of action should be taken. For example, GET requests are used for retrieving data from the server, while POST requests are used for creating new resources.

However, if the client is using an older version of the API or has made a mistake in their code, they may send an incorrect HTTP method. In this case, allowing overriding of the HTTP method can help prevent errors and ensure that the correct action is taken. This way, the server can still process the request correctly even if the client sent the wrong HTTP method.

7. Consider HATEOAS

HATEOAS stands for Hypermedia As The Engine Of Application State. It’s a way of providing additional information to the client about what actions they can take next, based on the current state of the application.

For example, if an API call returns an error code, HATEOAS could provide links to documentation or other resources that explain how to resolve the issue. This helps make your API more self-documenting and user friendly. Additionally, it allows clients to quickly find out what their options are without having to search through documentation.

8. Handle Errors with HTTP Status Codes

HTTP status codes are the standard way of communicating errors between a client and server. They provide an easy-to-understand indication of what went wrong, allowing developers to quickly identify and fix issues. For example, if a request fails due to authentication problems, you can return a 401 Unauthorized error code. This makes it easier for clients to understand why their requests failed and how they should go about fixing them.

Additionally, using HTTP status codes helps ensure that your API is consistent with other APIs out there. This makes it easier for developers to use your API since they don’t have to learn a new set of error codes.

9. Include Error Details

When an API call fails, it’s important to provide the user with as much information as possible about what went wrong. This helps them understand why their request failed and how they can fix it. Without this information, users may be left guessing or trying random solutions until something works.

Error details should include a descriptive error message that explains what went wrong, along with any additional context that might help the user resolve the issue. For example, if an API call is missing a required parameter, the error response should explain which parameter is missing and why it’s necessary.

10. Don’t leak information about your server or environment

When an error occurs, the API should return a generic error message that doesn’t reveal any information about the server or environment. This is important because it prevents attackers from using the error messages to gain insight into your system and exploit vulnerabilities.

For example, if an API returns an error message like “Error connecting to database”, this could give an attacker valuable information about the type of database you’re using and potentially allow them to launch an attack against it.

To prevent this, make sure all error messages are generic and don’t contain any sensitive information. Additionally, consider logging detailed error messages in a secure log file for debugging purposes.


10 Swagger Best Practices

Back to Insights

10 C# GetHashCode Best Practices