6 Best Practices to Design Javascript Coding Challenges with APIs

API coding challenges

Before we begin, let me share a bit about our journey.

At Amadeus for Developers, we offer travel data and services to developers across the world through REST APIs. Thanks to HackerEarth’s platform, we recently hosted the Hack the Journey/Coding India Edition DevOps coding challenge and we invited all developers from India to participate. Since India is one of our main markets, our goal was to allow developers to explore our travel APIs and challenge their knowledge of travel solutions. We designed both theoretical and backend coding challenges, but in this article, we will focus only on the coding part.

The coding challenges were a combination of algorithmic problems and travel technologies. We asked developers to use data from the Amadeus for Developers REST APIs and our SDKs to solve them.

In this article, we will share with you the best practices to build successful Javascript coding challenges with APIs, based on our experience hosting such challenges for global developers.

Use these 6 best practices to design Javascript coding challenges

Let’s explore the 6 best practices that you need for designing Javascript coding challenges for developers:

Steps to Design Javascript Coding Challenges

#1—Define your objective

An essential first step is to define your objectives. When you have that clear in mind, you can build challenges to meet your goals. Some common objectives could be:

  • Hiring: many companies use coding challenges as part of the recruitment process to identify and evaluate the technical skills of potential candidates.
  • Awareness: companies build coding challenges to bring awareness to the developer community about their product.
  • Testing your product: Javascript coding challenges are a great way to allow developers to play with your product. That can bring you valuable feedback and future ideas to improve your product roadmap.

#2—Choose the programming language

One of the key decisions you have to make when you build Javascript coding challenges: which programming language the participants will be required to use. There are several factors to take into consideration in order to identify the most fitting ones:

  • Top languages: by choosing one of the top languages in the market such as Python, JavaScript, etc. you will attract a larger number of participants.
  • Company-used languages: if your goal is hiring, you might want to evaluate the participants’ coding skills in  your company’s programming languages
  • Your familiarity with the language: make sure you are familiar with the language you offer the challenge. That will help you build challenges that fit the language and also better understand the submitted solutions.

For example, in our case, we designed both a Python and Node coding challenge since these are languages we use on a daily basis, but are also the top-used languages for our SDKs. Developers were able to choose to participate in one of these.

Also read: Top 10 Programming Languages of the Future

#3—Define the challenge

The challenge definition is one of the most crucial steps when it comes to the event’s success. Below are some points to consider:

  • Difficulty level: By providing developers with some warm-up tasks and later on more challenging ones, you give them the opportunity to understand your APIs gradually. Make sure you find the right balance. To ensure the Javascript coding challenges are at the level you are thinking of, it could be useful to ask a colleague to solve them. This will give you an idea of how much time and effort is required to complete the tasks, and allow you to adjust the difficulty accordingly.
  • Static data: Define challenges that the APIs always return the same data. This will help you to evaluate the solution’s correctness with the unit tests. Since that’s not easy to guarantee, you can build some sandbox environments with static data and coordinate with your API development teams to ensure that the data is not refreshed during the event.

#4—Maximize the efficiency of SDKs

If you provide SDKs as part of your API, you want developers to focus on the challenge solution and use your SDK efficiently, so we would suggest the followings:

  • Set up the environment: pre-install the SDKs so developers won’t spend time and effort preparing the environment.
  • Make docs accessible: to make it easy for developers to make their first API call, consider giving them the necessary resources during the challenge.

#5—Ensure API stability

Ensuring the stability of your APIs is essential to let developers solve the given challenges. Here are some points to consider:

  • Check API stability: If there are any known to you instabilities (eg. backend refresh on specific days) try to avoid the event on these days. If this is not possible, inform the participants about these times to avoid potential disruptions.
  • Rate limits: don’t forget to consider the API rate limits when you design the Javascript coding challenges. Provide the participants with the necessary documentation or even some helper functions to help them focus on the challenge solution.

Even if instability affects some solutions, it’s not the end of the world. If the developers have hardcoded their solution, make sure you verify their algorithm and any comments they might have left to prove that they were going to arrive at the correct answers despite the instability.

#6—Conduct unit tests

The unit tests are critical to evaluate the submissions and help you find the winners. Some best practices for the unit tests are:

  • Validate API usage: in order to validate that developers indeed used your API to solve the challenge, write some unit tests to identify the usage of an API key. Also in the file that developers are going to write the code, you can pre-define some variables that are expected to add the API key and secret.
  • Hide unit test files: this will ensure that developers won’t be able to know what are the expected solutions. Just a tip, it is possible for participants to get through the logs of the unit tests, and in that case, make sure you encrypt them.

Also read: How to Create a Great Take-Home Coding Test?

Create Javascript coding challenges with HackerEarth

To sum up, it’s crucial to carefully consider several factors when creating challenges that require developers to use APIs to reach the problem solution. By following best practices such as ensuring API stability, building the right unit tests, and providing necessary resources, you can create successful Javascript coding challenges that allow developers to explore and test their knowledge of your APIs. Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask HackerEarth for support and advice. Thanks to them, we were able to solve many of our doubts and build a successful coding challenge together.

We hope that these tips will be useful for your own journey.

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