API Testing Tutorial: A Complete Guide for Beginners

This In-Depth API Testing Tutorial Explains All About API Testing, Web Services and How To Introduce API Testing In Your Organization:

Gain a deep insight into API Testing along with the concept of shift-left testing and web services from this introductory tutorial.

Concepts like Web API, how API works (with real-world example) and how is it different from Web Services are well explained with examples in this tutorial.

=> SCROLL DOWN to see the entire list of 5 In-Depth API Testing Tutorials for Beginners

API Testing

List Of API Testing Tutorials

Tutorial #1: API Testing Tutorial: A Complete Guide For Beginners
Tutorial #2: Web Services Tutorial: Components, Architecture, Types & Examples
Tutorial #3: Top 35 ASP.Net And Web API Interview Questions With Answers
Tutorial #4: POSTMAN Tutorial: API Testing Using POSTMAN
Tutorial #5: Web Services Testing Using Apache HTTP Client


Overview Of Tutorials In This API Testing Series

Tutorial #What You Will Learn
Tutorial_#1: API Testing Tutorial: A Complete Guide For Beginners
This In-Depth API Testing tutorial will explain all about API Testing, and Web Services in detail and also educate you on how to Introduce API Testing in your organization.
Tutorial_#2:Web Services Tutorial: Components, Architecture, Types & Examples
This Web Services tutorial explains the Architecture, Types & Components of Web Services along with Important Terminologies and the Differences between SOAP vs REST.
Tutorial_#3:Top 35 ASP.Net And Web API Interview Questions With Answers
You can explore the list of the most popular frequently asked ASP.Net and Web API Interview Questions with answers & examples for beginners and experienced professionals in this tutorial.
Tutorial_#4:POSTMAN Tutorial: API Testing Using POSTMAN
This step by step tutorial will explain API Testing Using POSTMAN along with the Basics of POSTMAN, its Components and Sample Request & Response in simple terms for your easy understanding.
Tutorial_#5:Web Services Testing Using Apache HTTP Client
This API Tutorial is about performing various CRUD Operations on Web Services and Testing Web Services using Apache HTTP Client

API Testing Tutorial

This section will help you get a basic understanding of Web Services and Web API, which, in turn, will be helpful in understanding the major concepts in the upcoming tutorials in this API Testing series.

API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of all procedures and functions that allow us to create an application by accessing the data or features of the operating system or platforms. Testing of such procedures is known as API Testing.

Shift Left Testing

One of the important types of testing that is being asked nowadays in API Testing Interviews is Shift Left Testing. This type of testing is practiced in almost all projects that follow an Agile Methodology.

Before Shift Left Testing was introduced, software testing came into picture only after the coding was complete and code was delivered to the testers. This practice led to the last minute hustle to meet the deadline and it also hampered the product quality to a great extent.

Apart from that, the efforts made (when defects were reported at the last phase before production) were huge as developers had to go through both the design and coding phase all over again.

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Before Shift Left Testing

Tradional SDLC flow was: Requirement –> Design –> Coding –> Testing.

Disadvantages of Traditional Testing

  • Testing is at extreme right. A lot of costs are incurred when a bug is identified at the last minute.
  • Time consumed in resolving the bug and retesting it before promoting it to production is huge.

Hence, a new idea popped up to shift the testing phase to the left which thereby led to Shift Left Testing.

Suggested Read => Shift Left Testing: A Secret Mantra For Software Success 

Phases Of Left Shift Testing

Phases of Left Shift Testing

Left Shift Testing led to a successful migration from Defect Detection to Defect Prevention. It also helped the software to fail fast and fix all the failures at the earliest.

Web API

In general terms, a Web API can be defined as something that takes the request from a client system to a web server and sends back the response from a web server to a client machine.

How Does an API Work?

Let’s take a very common scenario of booking a flight on www.makemytrip.com, which is an online travel service that aggregates information from multiple airlines. When you go for a flight booking, you enter information like journey date/return date, class, etc. and click on search.

This will show you the price of multiple airlines and their availability. In this case, the application interacts with APIs of multiple airlines and thereby gives access to the airline’s data.

Another example is www.trivago.com which compares and lists down the price, availability, etc. of different hotels from a particular city. This website communicates with APIs of multiple hotels to access the database and lists down the prices and availability from their website.

Thus, a Web API can be defined as “an interface which facilitates the communication between a client machine and the webserver”.

Web Services

Web Services are (like Web API) the services that serve from one machine to another. But the major difference that arises between API and Web Services is that the Web Services uses a network.

It is safe to say that all Web Services are Web APIs but all Web APIs are not Web Services (explained in the latter part of the article). Thus, Web Services are a subset of Web API. Refer to the below diagram to know more about Web API and Web Services.

Web API vs Web Services

Web API vs WEB Services

Web Services vs Web API

Both Web API and Web Services are used to facilitate the communication between the client and the server. The major difference comes only in the way they communicate.

Each of them requires a request body that is acceptable in a specific language, their differences in providing a secure connection, their speed of communicating to the server and responding back to the client, etc.

Differences Between Web Services and Web API is listed below for your reference.

Web Service

  • Web Services generally use XML (Extensible Markup Language), which means they are more secure.
  • Web Services is more secure as both Web Services and APIs provide SSL (Secure Socket Layer) during data transmission, but it also provides WSS (Web Services Security).
  • Web Service is a subset of Web API. For Example, Web Services are based only on three styles of use i.e. SOAP, REST and XML-RPC.
  • Web Services always need a network to operate.
  • Web Services support “One Code different applications”. This means a more generic code is written across different applications.

Web API

  • A Web API generally uses JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), which means Web API is faster.
  • Web API is faster as JSON is light-weighted, unlike XML.
  • Web APIs are the superset of Web Services. For Example, All three styles of Web Services are present in the Web API as well, but apart from that, it uses other styles like JSON – RPC.
  • Web API does not necessarily require a network to operate.
  • Web API may or may not support interoperability depending upon the nature of the system or application.

Introducing API Testing In Your Organization

In our day to day life, all of us are so used to interacting with the Apps with APIs and yet we do not even think about the back-end processes that drive the underlying functionality.

For Example, Let us consider that you are browsing through the products on Amazon.com and you see a product/deal that you really like and you wish to share it with your Facebook network.

The moment you click on the Facebook icon on the share section of the page and enter your Facebook account credentials to share, you are interacting with an API that is seamlessly connecting the Amazon website to Facebook.

Focus Shift to API Testing

Before discussing more on API testing, let’s discuss the reasons for which the API based applications have gained popularity in recent times.

There are several reasons for which organizations are transitioning to API based products and applications. And few of them are enlisted below for your reference.

#1) API based applications are more scalable when compared to traditional applications/software. The rate of code development is faster and the same API can service more requests without any major code or infrastructural changes.

#2) Development teams don’t need to start coding from scratch every time they start working on developing a feature or application. APIs most often reuse existing, repeatable functions, libraries, stored procedures, etc. and hence this process can make them more productive overall.

For Example, If you are a developer working on an e-commerce website and you want to add Amazon as a payment processor – then you do not have to write the code from scratch.

All you need to do is to set up integration between your website and Amazon API using Integration keys and call Amazon API for processing payments during checkout.

#3) APIs allow easy integration with the other systems both for supported standalone applications as well as with API based software products.

For Example, Let us consider that you want to send a shipment from Toronto to New York. You go online, navigate to a well know Freight or Logistics website and enter the required information.

After providing the mandatory information, when you click on Get Rates button – in the back end, this logistics website may be connecting with several carrier and service provider APIs and applications to get the dynamic rates for the origin to destination combination of locations.

Full Spectrum of API Testing

Testing of APIs is not restricted to sending a request to API and analyzing the response for correctness alone. The APIs need to be tested for their performance under different loads for vulnerabilities.

Let’s discuss this in detail.

(i) Functional Testing

Functional testing can be a challenging task due to the lack of a GUI interface.

Let’s see how the functional testing approach for APIs is different from GUI based application and we will also discuss some examples around it.

a) The most obvious difference is that there is no GUI to interact with. Testers who usually do GUI based functional testing find it a little harder to transition into non-GUI application testing when compared to someone who is already familiar with it.

Initially, even before you start testing the API, you will need to test and verify the Authentication process itself. The authentication method will vary from one API to another API and would involve some sort of key or token for authentication.

If you are unable to connect to the API successfully, then further testing cannot proceed. This process can be considered comparable to user authentication in the standard applications where you need valid credentials to log in and use the application.

b) Testing field validations or input data validation is very important during testing APIs. If an actual form-based (GUI) interface was available, then field validations could be implemented in the front end or back end, thereby ensuring that a user is not allowed to enter invalid field values.

For Example, If an application needs the date format to be DD/MM/YYYY, then we can apply this validation on the form collecting information to ensure that the application is receiving and processing a valid date.

This, however, is not the same for API applications. We need to ensure that the API is well written and is able to enforce all these validations, distinguish between valid and invalid data and return the status code and validation error message to the end-user through a response.

c) Testing the correctness of the responses from API for valid and invalid response is crucial indeed. If a status code of 200 (meaning all Okay) is received as a response from test API, but if the response text says an error has been encountered, then this is a defect.

Additionally, if the error message itself is incorrect, then that can be very misleading to the end customer who is trying to integrate with this API.

In the screenshot below, the user has entered invalid weight, which is more than the acceptable 2267 Kgs. The API responds with the error status code and error message. However, the error message incorrectly mentions the weight units as lbs instead of KG. This is a defect that can confuse the end customer.

API Testing - incorrect error message

(ii) Load and Performance Testing

APIs are meant to be scalable by design.

This, in turn, makes Load and Performance Testing essential, especially if the system being designed is expected to be servicing thousands of requests per minute or hour, depending on the requirement. Routinely performing Load and Performance Tests on the API can help benchmark the performance, peak loads and breaking point.

This data is useful while planning to scale up an application. Having this information available will help to support decisions and planning especially if the organization is planning to add more customers, which would mean more incoming requests.

For Example, let’s say that based on the requirements provided, we know that the API that is designed needs to service at least 500 requests per hour and maintain the average response time of less than .01 seconds.

Based on our load and performance tests we found out that as long as API receives less than 500 requests per hour, it is able to maintain SLA for average response time. However, if it receives another 200 requests, then the average response time increases and the breaking point is reached when the incoming request exceeds 1200 per hour.

Usually, it is seen that during the initial design phases, the emphasis is often on the functional aspects of the API. As time goes by, a product starts supporting multiple live clients, that is when the testing for API performance and Load testing comes into the picture in a more routine manner.

(iii) Security Testing

Application Programming Interfaces or APIs are vulnerable and are the easiest access point for malicious hackers who want access to data or gain control of an application.

This can lead any company into legal trouble, where due to a security breach unintended people and/or organizations are able to access client’s data through a venerable API.

Security testing is a specialized branch of testing and should be handled by specialists. The security testing resources can be from within the organization or independent consultants.

Also read =>> What is Pact Contract Testing

How to Introduce API Testing in Your Organization

The process for introducing API testing in any organization is similar to the process used for implementing or rolling out any other testing tool and framework.

The table below summarizes the main steps along with the expected outcome of each step.

PhaseStepExpected Outcome
Tool SelectionGather requirements and identify constraints
Understand the requirements for researching market for appropriate API test tool.
E.g.
What kind of API is being tested - SOAP or REST?
Do we need to hire tester for this role or train existing tester?
What kind of tests will be performed - functional, performance tests etc.
What is the budget for implementation?
Evaluate available toolsCompare available tools and shortlist 1 or 2 tools that best meet the requirements.
Proof of ConceptImplement a subset of tests with the shortlisted tool.
Present findings to stakeholders.
Finalize the tool to be implemented.
ImplementationGetting startedDepending on your choice f tool, you would wither need to install the required tool on a PC, Virtual machine or server.
If tool of choice is subscription based, create required team accounts.
Train the team if required.
Get goingCreate tests
Execute tests
Report defects

Common Challenges And Ways to Mitigate Them

Let us discuss some of the common challenges that QA teams face while trying to implement an API testing framework in an organization.

#1) Choosing the Right Tool

Selecting the correct tool for the job is the most common challenge. There are several API test tools that are available in the market.

It may seem very appealing to implement the latest, most expensive tool available in the market- but if it does not bring the desired results, then that tool is of no use.

Hence, always choose the tool that addresses the ‘must-have’ requirements based on your organizational needs.

Here is a sample tool evaluation matrix for the available API Tools

Tool PricingNotes
Soap UIFree Version available for SoapUI Open Source (Functional testing)* REST, SOAP and other popular API and IoT protocols.

* Included in Free version
SOAP and REST ad-hoc testing
Message Assertion
Drag & Drop Test Creation
Test Logs
Test Configuration
Test from Recordings
Unit Reporting.

* Complete list of features can be found in their website.
PostmanFree Postman App available* Most-used for REST.
* Features can be found in their website.
ParasoftIt’s a paid tool, requires purchasing a license and then requires installation before the tool can be used.* Comprehensive API testing: functional, load, security testing, test data management
vRESTBased on Number of users* Automated REST API Testing.
* Record and replay.
* Removes dependency from frontend and backend using mock APIs.
* Powerful Response Validation.
* Works for test applications deployed on localhost/intranet/internet.
* JIRA Integration, Jenkins Integration Imports from Swagger, Postman.
HttpMaster Express Edition: Free to download
Professional version: Based on Number of users
* Helps in Website testing as well as API testing.
* Other features include an ability to define global parameters, provides the user with an ability to create checks for data response validation by using the large set of validation types that it supports.
RunscopeBased on the number of users and plan types
* For monitoring and testing API’s.
* Can be used for data validation to ensure correct data are returned.
* Contains feature of tracking and notifying in the case of any API transaction failure ( if your application requires payment validation, then this tool can prove to be a good choice ).
LoadFocusBased on the number of users and the plan types* Can be used for API load testing - allows running few tests to find out the number of users an API can support.
* Simple to use - allows running tests within the browser.
PingAPIFree for 1 project (1,000 request)* Beneficial for Automated API Testing and Monitoring.

#2) Missing Test Specifications

As testers, we need to know the expected results to effectively test an application. This is often a challenge, as in order to know the expected results, we need to have clear precise requirements – which is not the case.

For Example, consider the requirements provided below:

“The application should only accept a valid shipping date and all invalid requirements should be rejected”

These requirements are missing key details and are very ambiguous – how are we defining a valid date? What about the format? Are we returning any rejection message to the end-user, etc.?

Example of Clear Requirements:

1) The application should only accept a valid shipping date.

The shipping date is considered valid if it is

  • Not in the past
  • Greater or equal to today’s date
  • Is in acceptable format: DD/MM/YYYY

2) <For all valid shipping dates >

Response Status code = 200
Message: OK

3) The shipping date that does not meet the above criteria should be considered invalid. If a customer sends an invalid shipping date, then it must respond with the following error message(s):

3.1 <If date format is incorrect>

Response Status code NOT 200
Error: The shipping date provided is invalid; please ensure that the date is in DD/MM/YYYY format

3.2 <if date is in past>

Response Status code NOT 200
Error: Provided shipping date is in the past

#3) Learning Curve

As mentioned previously, the approach for API testing is different when compared to the approach followed while testing GUI based applications.

If you are hiring specialists either in-house or consultants for API testing, then the learning curve of the API test approach or the API test tool may be minimal. Any learning curve, in this case, would be associated with acquiring the product or application knowledge.

If an existing team member is assigned to learn API testing, then depending on the tool of choice, the learning curve may be medium to high, along with changing the test approach. The learning curve for the product or application itself may be low-medium depending on whether this tester has tested that application before or not.

#4) Existing Skill Set

This ties in directly with the previous point about the learning curve.

If a tester was transitioning over from GUI based testing, then the tester would need to change the testing approach and learn the new tool or framework as required. E.g. If the API accepts the requests in JSON format, then the tester would need to learn what JSON is, in order to start creating the tests.

Case Study

Task

In order to scale up an existing application, a company wanted to offer a product in API as well as a standard GUI application. QA Team was asked to provide a Test Coverage Plan to ensure that they are ready to accommodate API testing beyond the regular GUI based tests.

Challenges

  • None of the other software products had API based architecture, hence to accommodate testing around this task, the team needs to establish the API test process from scratch. This means that the tools were to be evaluated, shortlisted, finalized and the team had to be trained for the tests.
  • There was no additional budget allocated for acquiring and implementing the tool. This means that the team had to choose a free or open-source API testing tool and someone from the existing team had to be trained to take this task.
  • There were no requirements for API fields and data validation. Requirements were “should work the same as the corresponding GUI application”.

The approach followed by the team to mitigate risks and work around the challenges

  • QA team worked with the project team to identify the following requirements:
    • API type (REST/SOAP ): REST
    • Tests required (Functional, Load, Security): Functional testing only
    • Automated Tests required (Yes/No): Optional for now
    • Test reports (Yes/No): Required
  • QA team did tool evaluation on the available API testing tools based on the must-have requirements. Postman API Tool was finalized as a tool of their choice as it was free, and easy to use as well, thus minimizing the learning curve, and had the potential to automate tests, and came with good inbuilt reports.
  • The same tester who tested the application was trained for using Postman to create initial tests thereby eliminating any product knowledge gaps.
  • To deal with the missing requirements, the project team built the high-level field-level documentation using Swagger. This however left some gaps in terms of acceptable data formats and this was taken up with the project team and the expected formats were agreed on and documented.

Conclusion

API based applications have gained popularity in recent times. These applications are more scalable compared to the traditional applications/software and allow easier integration with the other APIs or applications.

This API Testing tutorial explained all about API Testing, Shift Left Testing, Web Services, and Web API in detail. We also explored the differences between Web Services vs Web API with examples.

In the second part of the tutorial, we discussed the full spectrum of API Testing, how to introduce API Testing in your organization and some common challenges in this process along with solutions for them.

Check out our upcoming tutorial to know more about Web Services along with examples!!

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