How to handle errors and exceptions in your REST APIs?



REST APIs are the de facto standard for communicating with software applications. They’re easy to understand, easy to implement, and very flexible. But despite their many advantages, they can also be tricky to deal with because they don’t have a strict format or a clear way of handling exceptions. In this post I’ll show you how to handle errors and exceptions in your REST APIs so that your developers will be less likely to run into problems with them when consuming your API.

Error messages

You should make sure that the message is human readable and specific to the error. If possible, include an error code and link to your documentation in your response body.

You should use the same response body for all error codes. For example, if your API returns a 5xx status code for all errors and 2xx status codes for success, you should include a message that reads “Error:” followed by a description of the problem.

Error codes

The most important thing to do when handling errors and exceptions is to communicate the issue of the error, so that your developers can fix the problem. You should use error codes to let them know what went wrong, and how they can fix it.

Error codes should be descriptive but concise; you don’t want them taking up too much space in logs or emails. They also need to be consistent across services so that the same error doesn’t mean different things in different places (e.g., “403” could mean “forbidden” or “not found”). Finally, make sure all errors have easy-to-find documentation explaining what they mean and how developers should respond when they see one appear in their logs–you don’t want there being any confusion about what went wrong!

Error representations

When an error occurs, the server should return an HTTP status code and a message that describes what went wrong. The response body can contain additional information such as a stack trace or details about how to fix the problem.

An error representation is an object that represents errors in your REST API. It contains all of this information plus any extra data you want to include about your errors (like ID numbers).

Make sure your APIs let developers know they did something wrong

As a developer, you want to know when you’ve done something wrong. What’s more, you also want to know why and how to fix it. The best REST APIs let developers know exactly where they went wrong by providing specific error messages that give them enough information to correct their mistake.

These errors should be short and sweet–no one likes reading long blocks of text in response from an API call! In addition, all errors should be consistent across all versions of an API (e.g., version 1 vs 2). This way, if a newer version has changed something about how it handles certain situations (e.g., adding another parameter), developers won’t have any surprises when they start using that new version; all the same rules apply across versions so there’s no confusion about what needs changing when upgrading your app’s codebase


The key to handling errors and exceptions in your REST APIs is to make sure that developers know when something has gone wrong. You should use error messages, error codes, and representations of errors in ways that are appropriate for your specific situation.


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