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Analyze the JSON response

Last updated: Jan 01, 2019

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JSON is the most common format for responses from REST APIs. Let’s look at the JSON response for the OpenWeatherMap weather endpoint in more depth, distinguishing between arrays and objects in JSON.

JSON response from OpenWeatherMap weather endpoint

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. It’s the most common way REST APIs return information. Although some APIs return information in both JSON and XML, if you’re trying to parse through the response and render it on a web page, JSON fits much better into the existing JavaScript + HTML + CSS technology that powers most web pages. With JavaScript, you can easily parse through the JSON and integrate it into your web content.

The unminified response from the OpenWeatherMap weather endpoint looks like this:

  "coord": {
    "lon": -121.96,
    "lat": 37.35
  "weather": [
      "id": 801,
      "main": "Clouds",
      "description": "few clouds",
      "icon": "02d"
  "base": "stations",
  "main": {
    "temp": 70.14,
    "pressure": 1012,
    "humidity": 33,
    "temp_min": 62.6,
    "temp_max": 75.2
  "visibility": 16093,
  "wind": {
    "speed": 14.99,
    "deg": 330
  "clouds": {
    "all": 20
  "dt": 1522619760,
  "sys": {
    "type": 1,
    "id": 479,
    "message": 0.0058,
    "country": "US",
    "sunrise": 1522590707,
    "sunset": 1522636288
  "id": 420006397,
  "name": "Santa Clara",
  "cod": 200

We’ll analyze the information structures within JSON responses in the following sections.

JSON objects are key-value pairs

JSON has two types of basic structures: objects and arrays. An object is a collection of key-value pairs, surrounded by curly braces:

  "key1": "value1",
  "key2": "value2"

The key-value pairs are each put into double quotation marks when both are strings. If the value is an integer (a whole number) or Boolean (true or false value), omit the quotation marks around the value. Each key-value pair is separated from the next by a comma.

JSON arrays are lists of items

An array is a list of items, surrounded by brackets:

["first", "second", "third"]

The list of items can contain strings, numbers, booleans, arrays, or other objects. With integers or booleans, you don’t use quotation marks.


[1, 2, 3]


[true, false, true]

Including objects in arrays, and arrays in objects

JSON can mix up objects and arrays inside each other. You can have an array of objects:


Here’s an example with values:


And objects can contain arrays in the value part of the key-value pair:

"children": ["Avery","Callie","lucy","Molly"],
"hobbies": ["swimming","biking","drawing","horseplaying"]

Just remember, objects are enclosed by curly braces { } and contain key-value pairs. Sometimes those values are arrays. Arrays are lists and are enclosed by square brackets [ ]. It’s common for arrays to contain lists of objects, and for objects to contain arrays.

It’s important to understand the difference between objects and arrays because it determines how you access and display the information. Later exercises with dot notation will require you to understand this difference.

Examine the weather response

Look at the response from the weather endpoint of the OpenWeatherMap weather API. Where are the objects? Where are the arrays? Which objects are nested? Which values are booleans versus strings?

More information

For more information on understanding the structure of JSON, see

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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