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API Testing Guide: Improve Your Development Cycle

Jake Beck
June 26, 2024 | 12 min read
API Testing with Blackbird

API development is a complex process due to two main reasons: (1) the number of variables and people involved in creating an API and (2) the process of building and improving your APIs never ends. At a quick glance, the steps within building an API include the design and plan of your API, coding your API to implement endpoints, authentication, and best-practice optimizations, all while ensuring high availability and scalability of your API infrastructure. All these steps have intricacies of their own, meaning a good portion of your time will be spent testing optimization updates and new versions you want to deploy in the API testing stage of the API lifecycle.

So, what is API testing? How can you effectively incorporate it into your API development lifecycle to accelerate your development process and deliver an efficient and secure API?

What is API testing?

API testing is the stage in the API lifecycle that evaluates an API's functionality, reliability, performance, and security, targeting the application's business logic layer.

The primary goals of API testing are:

1. Verifying the API's functionality: Ensuring that the API endpoints respond correctly to different requests, validating the accuracy and completeness of the response data, and checking the handling of edge cases and error scenarios.

2. Assessing the reliability and stability of the API: Testing the API's ability to handle various load conditions, verifying the API's behavior under different network conditions, and ensuring graceful handling of failures and error recovery.

3. Evaluating the performance of the API: Measuring response times and latency, identifying performance bottlenecks and optimizing the API, and conducting load testing to determine the API's scalability.

4. Identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities: Testing for common security issues such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and authentication flaws, ensuring proper authentication and authorization mechanisms are in place, and validating the security of data transmission and storage.

5. Verifying adherence to an API contract: Ensuring that the API follows the defined contract and documentation, checking compliance and the API's compatibility with different clients.

6. The goal in the API testing stage is to allow teams to identify and fix issues early in the development lifecycle to ensure higher-quality code deploys to production.

6 Common Testing Techniques

1. Contract Testing: Verifying that the API adheres to its specified contract or specification, ensuring backward compatibility and detecting any breaking changes.

2. Parameterized Testing: Testing the API with different input values and combinations to cover various scenarios, including valid inputs, edge cases, and invalid or unexpected inputs.

3. Negative Testing: Verifying how the API handles invalid or malformed requests, such as missing required parameters, incorrect data types, or invalid authentication tokens.

4. Production-Readiness Testing: Testing your API under load.

5. Performance Testing: Assessing the API's behavior under various load conditions, measuring response times, throughput, and resource utilization to identify performance bottlenecks.

6. Security Testing: Identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in the API by testing for common security risks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and insecure data transmission.

What are the benefits of API testing?

Impact of API Testing for End-Users

Reliability and Stability: The core benefit is improved reliability and stability of your API, resulting in a high quality user-experience. Thorough API testing ensures your API functions correctly under various conditions and scenarios, reducing change-failure rate and improving up-time. By simulating different load levels, network conditions, and edge cases, you can assess the API's ability to handle real-world situations. Testing the API's error handling, fault tolerance, and recovery mechanisms helps improve your system's overall reliability and stability.

Thoroughly testing the API layer ensures your application's functionality works as expected. API testing helps identify and fix performance bottlenecks, reducing response times and improving your system's responsiveness. A well-tested and optimized API contributes to a better user experience, as users can interact with your application seamlessly without encountering errors or slowdowns.

Impact of API Testing for Business

Reduced Costs and Accelerated Time-to-Market: Identifying and resolving issues early reduces the overall development and maintenance costs. It allows for faster development cycles and shorter time to market, as it enables parallel development and catches issues before they propagate to later stages. By ensuring the quality and reliability of your API, you can avoid costly post-release fixes and maintain a positive reputation among your users

Impact of API Testing for Developer Experience

Confidently Send Highest Quality Code to Prod: API testing allows you to identify and catch bugs, errors, and inconsistencies early in development. Testing the API layer independently of the user interface can uncover functionality, performance, security, and reliability issues. Detecting and fixing issues early reduces the cost and effort required to address them later in the development cycle. You can also design and execute comprehensive test cases that cover various scenarios, input combinations, and edge cases. It complements other testing techniques, such as unit testing and integration testing, ensuring that different layers of your application are thoroughly tested.

API testing is an integral part of the development process. It helps you deliver high-quality, reliable, and secure APIs that meet your users' needs and contribute to the success of your software system.

Advanced API Testing Features and Techniques

A good API testing tool should accelerate your team's API development of high quality code by making the development process increasingly simple, standardized, and intuitive for testing. Below are a few feature categories to consider when reviewing your options

Base Level API Testing Features

  • Automated Testing Capabilities: The tool should support the creation and execution of automated API tests. It should allow you to define test cases, set up assertions, and validate API responses automatically. Automated testing helps reduce manual effort, improves test efficiency, and enables faster feedback cycles.
  • Test Scenario Management: The tool should provide features for effectively organizing and managing test scenarios. It should allow you to group related test cases, create test suites, and define dependencies between tests. Effective test scenario management helps ensure comprehensive test coverage and facilitates the execution of specific test subsets.
  • Integration with CI/CD Pipelines: The tool should integrate seamlessly with continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. It should allow you to trigger API tests automatically as part of your build and deployment processes. Integration with CI/CD pipelines ensures that API tests are executed regularly and helps catch issues early in the development cycle.

Advanced API Testing Features

Support for Multiple Protocols: The tool should support API protocols such as REST, gRPC, GraphQL, and WebSocket. It should allow you to easily create and execute tests for different API architectures and communication styles.

Mocking and Virtualization: The tool should provide mocking capabilities to simulate API endpoints and responses. This allows developers to write and test code without being dependent on the backend services, enhancing productivity and enabling parallel development of frontend and backend components. By mocking API endpoints, developers can work on their respective parts simultaneously, speeding up the overall development process and improving team productivity.

You can run manual API tests. However, this is unlikely to be feasible with large teams and multiple endpoints. Instead, an ecosystem is built around advanced API testing techniques to help teams test efficiently and deploy robust APIs.

The advanced techniques revolve around test automation. Automated API testing frameworks streamline and accelerate your testing process. Tools like Blackbird allow developers to create and execute automated API test cases. For instance, an automated test case for a POST endpoint might look like this:

// Example using the Postman API testing tool
pm.test("Create a new user", function () {
var jsonData = {
"name": "John Doe",
"email": "john@example.com"
};
pm.sendRequest({
url: "https://api.example.com/users",
method: "POST",
header: {
"Content-Type": "application/json"
},
body: JSON.stringify(jsonData)
}, function (err, res) {
pm.expect(res.code).to.eql(201); // Assert that the response status code is 201 (Created)
pm.expect(res.json().name).to.eql("John Doe"); // Assert that the response body contains the expected name
pm.expect(res.json().email).to.eql("john@example.com"); // Assert that the response body contains the expected email
});
});

In this example, the automated test case sends a POST request to the /users endpoint with a JSON payload containing the user's name and email. It then asserts that the response status code is 201 (Created) and that the response body contains the expected name and email.

Debugging: A good tool should also offer robust debugging capabilities to help developers test and debug their APIs effectively. It should allow testing APIs against production-like data and traffic before deployment, saving cloud staging environment costs and decreasing development time. The tool should enable developers to quickly iterate on code changes by running and testing their code in a production-like environment without fully deploying it.

Advanced debugging features should let developers connect their local development environment directly to a remote testing environment, enabling real-time inspection and troubleshooting of issues. This helps debug applications more effectively by providing direct access to the testing environment.

The tool should also provide features to isolate the development and production environments. This reduces the risk of unintended consequences from experimental code changes impacting the live system.

API Testing With Blackbird

The right API testing tool is crucial for developing high-quality, reliable, and performant APIs. A tool with advanced features such as comprehensive protocol support, automated testing capabilities, robust assertion and validation, integration with CI/CD pipelines, and extensive reporting can significantly enhance your process.

Blackbird, Ambassador's new API development platform, aims to simplify and accelerate the way developers create and test APIs. With powerful mocking, debugging, and environment management capabilities, Blackbird empowers developers to build better APIs faster.

Try Blackbird, New API Development Platform

f you want to create a better developer experience that leads to higher-quality APIs, we invite you to explore Blackbird.