Pro tips for effectively using Docusign APIs

Docusign APIs provide developers with powerful tools to integrate electronic signature functionality into their applications. To ensure a smooth and secure integration process, it's important to follow best practices. This blog post includes some valuable tips on how to use Docusign APIs effectively, including structuring requests, handling errors, and securing your data. Code samples are provided to illustrate the recommended practices.

API basics

Before diving into the APIs, familiarize yourself with the basics of the Docusign platform and its terminologies. Understanding the platform’s core concepts, such as envelopes, recipients, tabs, and templates, will make your interactions with the APIs smoother and more productive.

Use the developer environment

Docusign provides a developer environment for testing your API calls. It's a free non-production environment that allows you to experiment and test your applications without affecting your live data. Always test your integration in the developer environment before deploying it to production.

Leverage available resources

Docusign provides extensive documentation, SDKs, and code examples for the APIs. Make use of these resources to understand how to use the APIs effectively. The Docusign Developer Center is an invaluable resource, offering comprehensive guides and community forums to aid your development process.

Structuring API requests

Organize request parameters

Properly structure your API requests by including necessary parameters, headers, and authentication details as required by the specific API endpoints. Refer to the Docusign API documentation for detailed information on each endpoint.

Leverage composite templates

Take advantage of Docusign template functionality to streamline the creation and sending of documents. Store frequently used document templates and use them to generate new envelopes efficiently.

Composite templates let you define multiple templates that will be combined to create the final envelope. They provide a way to mix server templates, inline templates, PDF forms, and document-specific elements within a single transaction.

Composite templates provide the most flexibility for using templates, as they enable you to:

  • Change a remote recipient to become an embedded recipient. 
  • Change the template's document
  • Set template tab values
  • Combine two or more templates into a single envelope

Here's an example of using composite templates in a POST request to the Envelopes: create endpoint:

POST /restapi/v2.1/accounts/{accountId}/envelopes

    "emailSubject": "Please sign this document",
    "status": "sent",
    "compositeTemplates": [
            "serverTemplates": [
                    "sequence": "1",
                    "templateId": "serverTemplateId1"
            "inlineTemplates": [
                    "sequence": "2",
                    "recipients": {
                        "signers": [
                                "email": "",
                                "name": "John Doe",
                                "recipientId": "1",
                                "roleName": "Signer1"

In the example above, a server template is used to create an envelope.

Error and exception handling

Handle API errors gracefully 

While working with APIs, it's crucial to handle exceptions properly. Docusign provides detailed error responses when API calls fail. These errors are usually returned as a 400 Bad Request HTTP status with a message body containing detailed information about the error.

Here's an example of a Docusign error response:

    "message": "The request contained at least one invalid parameter. No matching clause for..."

In your applications, you should build in error-handling logic that logs these errors and provides meaningful feedback. Here's an example in Python:

import requests
import json
headers = {
    'Authorization': 'Bearer {accessToken}',
    'Content-Type': 'application/json'
    response ='{accountId}/envelopes', headers=headers, data=json.dumps(payload))
except rest_framework.exceptions.APIException as err:
    error_response = response.json()
    print(f"Error occurred: {error_response['errorCode']}")
    print(f"Error message: {error_response['message']}")
    raise SystemExit(err)

In this Python code above, I’m using the requests library to send a POST request to the Docusign API. If the API call fails, an exception is raised, and the error details are extracted from the response.

Retry for transient errors

Transient errors are temporary errors that occur due to issues such as network glitches or timeouts, server overload, DNS issues, or other problems not intrinsic to your application. To identify transient errors, when encountering an API error, check the HTTP status code. If it's one of the temporary error codes (such as 429 Too Many Requests), it's good practice to implement a retry mechanism with exponential backoff (where appropriate) to ensure the request is eventually processed successfully. 

Here's an illustrative Python snippet:

import time
import requests
import json

def send_request(data, max_retries=5):
    headers = {
        'Authorization': 'Bearer {accessToken}',
        'Content-Type': 'application/json'

    url = '{accountId}/envelopes'
    wait_time = 5  # wait time in seconds

    for i in range(max_retries):
            response =, headers=headers, data=json.dumps(data))
            return response.json()
        except requests.exceptions.HTTPError as err:
            if response.status_code in [429, 500, 503]:
                print("Transient error occurred. Retrying...")
                wait_time *= 5  # exponential backoff
                print(f"Error occurred: {response.json()['errorCode']}")
                print(f"Error message: {response.json()['message']}")
                raise SystemExit(err)
    return None


In the above code snippet, the send_request function attempts to send a request to the Docusign API, retrying up to max_retries times if it encounters a transient error. The wait_time between retries doubles after each attempt, thus implementing an exponential backoff strategy.

Data security

  • Protect sensitive information: Safeguard sensitive data, such as API keys, access tokens, or user credentials. Use secure storage methods and avoid hardcoding these credentials in your application's source code. Consider using environment variables or secure credential management systems. Don’t store them in source control such as GitHub!
  • Employ encryption: Encrypt sensitive data at rest and in transit. Utilize industry-standard encryption algorithms and protocols to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of your data.
  • Implement proper access controls: Follow the principle of least privilege. Grant only the necessary permissions and access levels to API credentials and users. Regularly review and update access permissions to mitigate potential security risks.

API rate limits and throttling

  • Respect rate limits: Adhere to the rate limits imposed by the Docusign API to avoid excessive API calls. Consider implementing rate limiting mechanisms within your application to comply with the API's rate limits.
  • Handle rate limit errors: If you encounter rate limit errors, handle them gracefully by implementing appropriate retry and backoff strategies. Exponential backoff can be used to progressively increase the time between retries.

Use webhooks for event notifications (NO POLLING)

  • Instead of polling Docusign’s servers for status updates, use Docusign Connect (webhook notifications). Docusign Connect pushes status notifications to your chosen endpoints, reducing network traffic and ensuring timely updates. Note: webhooks at the envelope level are included with all eSignature plans.
  • If the application is not available on the internet to receive the incoming webhooks, PAAS systems can be used to receive the notifications. See 


By following these best practices, you can use Docusign APIs effectively in your applications. Structuring API requests, handling errors, and securing your data are crucial aspects of a successful integration. Remember to refer to the official Docusign API documentation for detailed specifications and guidelines. Happy integrating with Docusign!

Additional resources

Mohamed Shousha
Mohamed Shousha
Developer Support & Advisory Manager