Monday, July 22, 2024

How to Create a REST API with Django and DRF (Django REST Framework)

Last Updated on October 10, 2023


As we explore “How to Create a REST API with Django and DRF” developers can save time and effort in setting up the basic structure of an API.

Django REST Framework (DRF) is an extension of Django that simplifies the creation of REST APIs.

It offers features like serialization, authentication, and permission handling, making it easier to build, maintain, and test APIs.

These tools provide a standardized approach to API development, ensuring consistency and adherence to best practices.

Additionally, Django and DRF offer a wide range of third-party libraries and integrations, allowing developers to expand and customize their APIs as needed.

The robust community support and extensive documentation make it easier for developers to find solutions to challenges and keep their APIs up-to-date.

In fact, Django and DRF are invaluable tools for building REST APIs.

They simplify the development process, provide essential features, and enable scalability, making them a preferred choice for many developers.

Overview of Django and DRF

Explanation of Django framework

Django is a high-level Python web framework that follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern.

It provides developers with a convenient way to build web applications rapidly and efficiently.

Introduction to Django REST Framework (DRF)

Django REST Framework (DRF) is a powerful and flexible toolkit for building Web APIs.

It is built on top of Django and provides a set of reusable components for simplifying API development.

Benefits of using Django and DRF for REST API development

  1. Robustness: Django and DRF offer a solid foundation for building scalable and maintainable REST APIs.

    They provide features such as authentication, serialization, and middleware that enhance the overall robustness of the APIs.

  2. Productivity: Django’s philosophy and DRF’s components let developers focus on their API’s business logic, saving time and effort.

    This significantly speeds up development time.

  3. Authentication and Authorization: Django and DRF provide various out-of-the-box authentication methods: tokens, sessions, and OAuth support.

    They also provide fine-grained permission systems for controlling access to API endpoints.

  4. Serialization: DRF provides a powerful serialization engine that allows easy conversion between Python objects and various data formats, such as JSON, XML, or YAML.

    This simplifies data manipulation and makes it easier to work with different clients.

  5. Testing and Documentation: Django and DRF promote best practices for testing and documentation.

    These tools assist in writing tests and auto-generating API documentation from code comments, enhancing API quality and maintainability.

  6. Community and Ecosystem: Django and DRF have a large and vibrant community.

    Many resources, tutorials, and third-party packages are available to solve common issues and expand API functionality.

Read: Using JWT for Secure REST API Authentication: A Guide

Setting up the Development Environment

Installing Python and Django

To create a REST API with Django and DRF, we first need to install Python and Django.

Python can be downloaded from the official Python website and should be installed on the development machine.

Django can be installed using Python’s package manager, pip, by running the command:

pip install Django

Installing Django REST Framework

Next, we need to install Django REST Framework (DRF) to build the REST API. DRF can also be installed using pip:

pip install djangorestframework

Creating a new Django project

Once Django is installed, we can create a new Django project using the following command:

django-admin startproject project_name

This will create a new Django project with the specified name.

Configuring the Django project settings

After creating the Django project, we need to configure its settings.

Open the file in the project directory and make the following changes:

  1. Set the database connection details based on your database setup.

  2. Add ‘rest_framework’ and ‘project_name’ (the name of your project) to the INSTALLED_APPS list.

Here is an example of the modified file:

'default': {
'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.sqlite3',
'NAME': BASE_DIR / 'db.sqlite3',


Save the changes to the file.

Creating the API Models

Designing the database models

When creating a REST API with Django and DRF, designing the database models is an essential step.

These models define the structure of the data that will be stored in the API.

Creating the Django models for the API

Once the database models have been designed, the next step is to create the corresponding Django models.

Django provides a powerful Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) system that simplifies this process.

Defining relationships between models (if necessary)

In some cases, the API models may have relationships with each other. This could be a one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many relationship.

Django’s ORM allows these relationships to be defined easily.

Generating migrations and applying them to the database

  1. After the models and relationships have been defined, it’s time to generate migrations.

  2. Migrations are Django’s way of managing changes to the database schema over time.

  3. They allow for easy deployment of changes without losing existing data.

  4. Once the migrations have been generated, they need to be applied to the database.

  5. Django provides a command-line interface for running migrations, which automatically updates the database schema to match the defined models.

Overall, creating the API models is a crucial step in building a REST API with Django and DRF.

It involves designing the database models, creating the Django models, defining relationships between models (if necessary), and applying migrations to the database.

These steps ensure a well-structured API that can handle data efficiently.

Read: Why Some Professionals Are Learning to Code for Free

Serializers and Views

In this section, we will explore the concepts of serializers and views in Django REST Framework (DRF).

Introduction to serializers in DRF

Serializers convert complex data like querysets and model instances into Python data for easy rendering into JSON or XML.

DRF provides a rich set of built-in serializers that allow us to quickly serialize and deserialize data.

These serializers also provide validation and deserialization capabilities.

Creating serializers for the API models

Creating serializers in DRF is a straightforward process.

  1. We first need to define a serializer class that inherits from the Serializer class provided by DRF.

  2. Within the serializer class, we define the fields that need to be serialized or deserialized.

  3. These fields can be model fields or additional fields that we define.

  4. We can also specify various options like read-only fields, field validation, and nested serialization.

Implementing views with class-based views in DRF

DRF provides class-based views that allow us to define the behavior of the views using class-based syntax instead of function-based syntax.

We can create views by subclassing the appropriate DRF view class, such as APIView or ViewSet.

These classes provide methods that handle HTTP methods like GET, POST, PUT, etc.

Class-based views promote organization and reusability by defining common behavior in superclass views that specific views can inherit.

Mapping serializers with views

  1. Once we have defined our serializers and views, we need to map them together to create a functioning API.

  2. We can do this by defining URL patterns that associate specific URLs with the view classes.

  3. These URL patterns can include parameters to pass data to the views.

  4. Views use serializers for request handling, data processing, validation, and response generation.

In short, serializers and views are essential components of building REST APIs with Django and DRF.

Serializers allow us to convert complex data types into native Python data types for serialization and deserialization.

Meanwhile, views define the behavior of the API by using class-based syntax and mapping them with URL patterns.

By understanding and utilizing these concepts effectively, we can create powerful and robust REST APIs with ease.

URL Configurations

Defining URL patterns for the API endpoints

Start by creating a new file called in your project’s main directory.

Import the necessary functions and classes from the Django Rest Framework:

from django.urls import path

Define a list of URL patterns that will map to your API endpoints:

urlpatterns = [
path('api/endpoint1/', views.Endpoint1View.as_view(), name='endpoint1'),
path('api/endpoint2/', views.Endpoint2View.as_view(), name='endpoint2'),

Make sure to replace Endpoint1View and Endpoint2View with the actual views for your endpoints.

Creating URLs for various HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE)

Inside your file, you can define multiple URL patterns for the same endpoint.

The different patterns will map to different HTTP methods, such as GET, POST, PUT, DELETE.

For example:

urlpatterns = [
path('api/endpoint/', views.EndpointView.as_view(), name='endpoint'),
path('api/endpoint//', views.EndpointDetailView.as_view(), name='endpoint_detail'),

In this example, the first pattern handles the GET and POST methods, while the second pattern handles the PUT and DELETE methods.

Handling URL parameters and query parameters

To handle URL parameters, you can include them in your URL patterns using angle brackets.

For example:

urlpatterns = [
path('api/endpoint//', views.EndpointDetailView.as_view(), name='endpoint_detail'),

In this example, the <int:pk> is a URL parameter that will match an integer value and pass it as a parameter to the view.

To handle query parameters, you can access them in your view using the request object.

For example:

def get(self, request):
query_param = request.GET.get('param_name')

In this example, the param_name is the name of the query parameter passed in the URL.

In essence, Django and DRF URL configurations help define URL patterns for API endpoints, handle various HTTP methods, and manage parameters effectively.

This gives you the flexibility to design your API’s URL structure and handle different types of requests effectively.

Read: Optimizing REST APIs: Caching, Pagination, and Throttling

How to Create a REST API with Django and DRF (Django REST Framework)

Testing the API

Testing is an essential part of developing a REST API with Django and DRF.

It ensures that the API is functioning correctly and that any changes or updates to the code do not break its functionality.

In this section, we will explore different methods of testing the API.

Using Django’s built-in test framework

  1. Django provides a powerful and easy-to-use test framework that allows us to write comprehensive tests for our API.

  2. This framework includes various tools and utilities that simplify the testing process.

  3. To start testing the API, we need to create test classes that inherit from Django’s TestCase class.

  4. These classes contain test methods that verify the behavior and functionality of different API endpoints.

  5. We can simulate requests to these endpoints and check the responses using the test client provided by Django.

Writing unit tests for API endpoints

Unit tests are an integral part of testing an API. They allow us to test individual components or functions to ensure they are working as expected.

When writing unit tests for API endpoints, we can test things like authentication, data validation, and response format.

To write unit tests for API endpoints, we can use the test client and the various methods provided by Django’s test framework.

We can simulate GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE requests and check the responses to ensure they match our expectations.

We can also test edge cases and error handling to ensure the API behaves correctly in different scenarios.

Running tests and verifying API functionality

  1. Once we have written the unit tests for our API endpoints, we need to run them to verify the functionality of the API.

  2. Django’s test framework provides a command-line tool that allows us to run all the tests in our project or specific tests based on their tags or names.

  3. When running the tests, Django will create a test database and populate it with test data.

  4. It will then execute the test methods defined in our test classes and display the results.

  5. We can see whether the tests pass or fail, and if they fail, we can inspect the failures to identify the issues.

  6. Verifying the API functionality through tests not only ensures that the API works correctly but also acts as a form of documentation for other developers.

  7. Tests provide clear examples of how the API should be used and can help identify issues early in the development process.

Basically, testing the API is crucial for ensuring its functionality, stability, and reliability.

Using Django’s built-in test framework and writing unit tests for API endpoints allows us to thoroughly test the API and catch any potential issues.

Running tests and verifying the API’s functionality helps maintain the quality of the API and provides a solid foundation for further development.

Authentication and Permissions

Implementing token-based authentication in DRF

  1. To implement token-based authentication in Django REST Framework (DRF), we need to install the djangorestframework_simplejwt package.

  2. This package provides a JSON Web Token (JWT) authentication backend for DRF.

  3. We can use JWTs to authenticate users and secure our API endpoints.

  4. After installing the package, we need to configure it in our Django project’s settings.

  5. We can specify the token expiration time, refresh token settings, and other parameters.

Configuring authentication classes for API views

  1. In DRF, authentication classes are used to determine the authentication method for API views.

  2. We can configure authentication classes in the DRF settings or directly in the API view.

  3. Common authentication classes include TokenAuthentication and SessionAuthentication.

  4. We can also create custom authentication classes based on our project’s requirements.

Setting up permissions for different user roles

  1. DRF provides a flexible permission system to control access to API endpoints based on user roles.

  2. We can define permissions at the project level, the view level, or even at the object level.

  3. Common permission classes include IsAuthenticated, AllowAny, and IsAdminUser.

  4. We can also create custom permission classes to meet our specific authorization needs.

Testing authentication and authorization of API endpoints

  1. Once we have implemented token-based authentication and set up permissions, we need to test them.

  2. We can use tools like cURL, Postman, or Django’s test framework to test our API endpoints.

  3. We need to ensure that unauthenticated users are denied access to protected endpoints.

  4. There is also a need to verify that users with different roles have appropriate access permissions.

  5. Proper testing helps ensure the security and integrity of our API.

Authentication and permissions are crucial aspects of building secure and robust APIs using Django and DRF.

By utilizing token-based authentication, configuring authentication classes, defining permissions, and rigorous testing, we secure our API from unauthorized access.

Read: Using Imperative Programming: Real-world Examples

Additional Features and Considerations

Pagination for large data sets

When dealing with large data sets, it is important to implement pagination in your REST API using Django and DRF.

Pagination allows you to split the response into smaller, manageable chunks, making it easier for clients to handle the data.

Filtering and searching data in API endpoints

Django and DRF provide powerful filtering and searching capabilities for API endpoints. You can filter data based on specific criteria or search for specific values in the data.

This allows clients to retrieve only the information they need.

Adding validation and error handling

Validating input data and handling errors are crucial aspects of building a robust REST API.

Django and DRF come with built-in validation mechanisms that ensure the data sent by clients is valid and handles errors gracefully, providing informative error messages.

Handling file uploads in the API

DRF has excellent support for handling file uploads in your REST API.

You can define endpoints for file uploads, enabling clients to send files for operations like storage or association.

Optimizing performance for high-traffic APIs

  1. For high-traffic APIs, optimizing performance is crucial to ensure smooth and efficient operation.

  2. Django and DRF optimize performance with caching, database indexing, and background tasks for time-intensive operations.

  3. By utilizing these additional features and considerations in your Django and DRF REST API, you can enhance its functionality, performance, and user experience.


Throughout this blog section, we have explored how to create a REST API with Django and DRF.

We have seen the step-by-step process of setting up the project and creating models, serializers, views, and URLs.

We have also learned about authentication, permissions, and filtering.

By following this guide, you should now have a solid understanding of designing and implementing REST APIs using Django and DRF.

Creating a REST API is a fundamental skill for developers, and Django and DRF provide a powerful toolset for achieving this.

To further enhance your knowledge and skills, I encourage you to explore additional features of Django, such as authentication using OAuth, pagination, and versioning.

Additionally, practice building different types of endpoints and integrating them with frontend frameworks like React or Angular.

Django and DRF are an excellent combination for developing REST APIs. They provide a robust and scalable solution for building high-quality web services.

With Django’s batteries-included philosophy and DRF’s comprehensive toolkit, developers can rapidly create efficient and secure APIs.

Whether for small projects or large enterprises, Django and DRF offer the flexibility and extensibility needed for API development.

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