Swagger is a framework for describing your API using a common language that everyone can understand. Think of it as a blueprint for a house. You can use whatever building materials you like, but you can’t step outside the parameters of the blueprint.

There are other available frameworks that have gained some popularity, such as RAML, APIBlueprint, and Summation. But Swagger provides more benefits than just helping create clear documentation.

It’s comprehensible for developers and non-developers. Product managers, partners, and even potential clients can have input into the design of your API, because they can see it clearly mapped out in this friendly UI.
It’s human readable and machine readable. This means that not only can this be shared with your team internally, but the same documentation can be used to automate API-dependent processes.
It’s easily adjustable. This makes it great for testing and debugging API problems.

These three benefits not only make developers’ lives easier, but they make the API more consumable. Any API that adheres to the Swagger spec is easy to read, easy to iterate, and easy to consume. That’s why huge companies like Netflix, Akana, and Yelp have already jumped on the Swagger train.

The rise of design-first API

With this blueprint in mind, there are two main ways to take advantage of Swagger:

Top-down approach, or design-first. This means you’re using Swagger to design your API before you’ve written any actual code.
Bottom-up approach, or code-first. This means you’ve already written the code for your API, and you’ll be using Swagger to document your API.

In the early days, it was popular for APIs to be created code-first. This is much easier because you can make adjustments as you go, and it fits nicely into an Agile delivery process. But because you’re not thinking about the design, this can make for an API that’s difficult to understand and document.

The push for clear, easy-to-read documentation has popularized the design-first approach. Not only can more people have input on your documentation, but it actually results in cleaner code. You’re forced to think simpler, more concise, and easy-to-follow.

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