Implementing an application programming interface designed to work with text messages is easy. Doing a good job of said implementation is much more difficult, which is why it helps to follow a concrete list of best practices that can guide every decision that arises during the design process. Jotting a few things down now can make the rest of the journey much easier.
Only Collect Enough Information to Get the Job Done
Since APIs are so efficient at collecting information, asking the user to enter as much of it as possible can be extremely tempting. This is an excellent way to end up with a massive, high-pressure stream of unneeded data. To avoid this problem, it’s generally best to only ask for information that’s absolutely needed to accomplish whatever task the user needs. All it takes to send a text is the recipient’s phone number and the body of the message itself.
When designing or deploying a new text message API, make the parameter structure as tight as possible. This can speed things along while reducing the chance that users might get confused about what types of data a particular API exposes. Specialists who need custom-tailored API calls will generally want to work with something separate from the systems in use by everyone else in an organization. Segmenting everyone into different clusters is also a good way to ensure that APIs are only ever used in the safest way possible.
Make Things Difficult to Misuse
Consider every possible scenario where someone could misuse a texting API before it gets released into the wild. Bad actors are only one example of a group of people who could make calls in an unsafe fashion. Automation scripts will often continue to execute their last command repeatedly if they fail to receive any further input.
This can quickly clutter up the parameter input line of any API connected to the publicly switched telephone network. Regular users may occasionally make mistakes that could have dire consequences if protections aren’t implemented to stop them.
Spammers are perhaps the most egregious offenders since they actively look for unguarded short message service APIs to hijack. Most calls should be made through basic thread-safe functions to ensure minor hiccups, memory leaks and buffer overflows don’t quickly escalate into arbitrary code execution. Put digital guardrails in place to enforce this requirement. Marketers won’t want to rate limit their broadcasting protocols. Still, it might be a good idea to do so in order to prevent a spammer from taking over an otherwise legitimate contact list and sending messages out to every single phone number on it.
Document Everything in the Stack
Even the most secure system still has to be able to explain itself. Coders seldom understand even their own algorithms if they’re not properly documented. A good rule of thumb is to write at least one comment line for every single line of code used when compiling an API. Considering that the SMS and multimedia message service protocols are already so lavishly documented by wireless carriers, coders who find themselves working in this space are luckier than those who have to write something more esoteric, like low-level hardware drivers.
Variable dictionaries are a good idea for any situation where multiple parameters must be passed to an API simultaneously. Making variable names reasonable to begin with is an excellent way to avoid confusion. Labels should always be descriptive and give someone reading the code an idea about what each section does.
Section headers should be very descriptive, especially when working with a language that requires splitting different program parts up into specific areas. With so many premade texting APIs coming onto the market, however, this advice may not be as important today as it was when the wireless web was first
No two use cases are ever truly alike, so developers will want to take each scenario as it comes. Don’t try to shoehorn special circumstances into the rules governing standard software architectures. Creating something new when making an API is often the best way to deal with a sticky situation.