Innovate Faster with API Discoverability

  April 25, 2023

More than 90% of developers use APIs regularly, according to Slashdata, with most (69%) using third-party APIs. At the same time, many businesses are recognizing the value of building API ecosystems. For instance, Expedia generates over 90% of its revenue from APIs, enabling third-party websites to book flights, cars, and hotels through its platform.

With a growing number of APIs to choose from, discoverability is critical for the success of data-driven businesses. The best APIs are visible, searchable, and accessible to developers. Ultimately, successful adoption often comes down to a great developer experience.

This article will examine why API discoverability matters and how to maximize your API's adoption and success.

What is API Discoverability?

API discoverability refers to the ability of developers and other users to find and access the APIs they need for their projects. For example, internal developers might work on a different application or microservice and need your data. Or external developers could work on applications that could become potential customers for your data or services.

The core components of API discoverability include:

  • Visibility – Many developers discover third-party APIs in marketplaces, catalogs or portals, and integrators (e.g., Zapier). Including your APIs in these places can maximize visibility and increase the chances of discovery.
  • Documentation – Intuitive and easy-to-understand documentation enables internal and external developers to search and understand your API. As a result, they can more readily discover it, if it contains functionality or data they require.
  • Definitions – OpenAPI and other machine-readable API definitions can help developers quickly generate SDKs and test cases to see if an API meets their requirements. These capabilities can help accelerate adoption and avoid missed opportunities.

API Discoverability for Consumers

API consumers often plan or build applications requiring external data. For example, an internal marketing platform may need shopping cart data to track conversions. Or an external travel app may want to integrate with an online travel agency (OTA) to enable users to book flights, cars, and hotels without leaving their platform.

In addition, external APIs might integrate capabilities and services. For example, a shipping API might provide consumer-facing information (e.g., a tracking code) and also handle fulfillment and other backend processes.

API Discoverability for Providers

API providers typically have existing data they want to provide to external consumers. For instance, your previously mentioned shopping cart may need to provide internal data for marketing, business intelligence, and other areas. Or the OTA may leverage an API to sell travel-related services rather than relying exclusively on its own site.

How to Improve API Discoverability

API discoverability is crucial because it allows developers and other users to find and access the APIs they need for projects. Without discoverability and visibility, APIs often languish without widespread adoption, leading to wasted time, frustration, and even lost business opportunities.

Efficient API discoverability enables innovation and collaboration among developers, making it easy to incorporate third-party APIs and build more compelling user experiences. At the same time, businesses can unlock the value of their data and create new revenue opportunities for their stakeholders and value for their customers.

Building a Solid Foundation

Standardization and documentation are essential starting points for building discoverable APIs. Using OpenAPI standards, API providers can build robust and standardized endpoints that consumers can quickly analyze with auto-generated documentation or try out with auto-generated mocks, stubs, and SDKs.

At the same time, Swagger can help build interactive and intuitive documentation, making it easier for developers to understand its features and how it works. Swagger also keeps the documentation up-to-date, eliminating the frustration of outdated documentation. As a result, developers can quickly understand and use your API.

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SwaggerHub Explore makes API exploration a breeze. Source: SmartBear

SwaggerHub Explore also makes it easy for API consumers to instantly see how an API behaves in the real world. By sending requests and analyzing the response, it's easy to discover the capabilities and limitations of endpoints and identify APIs that fit your development requirements to integrate faster than ever.

Scale with a Developer Portal

Developer portals provide a convenient and scalable way to manage API consumers. Rather than requiring each potential customer to request a key, these portals automatically provision API keys and enable developers to track their usage, define their plans, and accomplish other tasks, like accessing custom documentation or support.

Fortunately, the OpenAPI specification can help jumpstart building a developer portal. For example, you can efficiently inventory APIs and endpoints, as well as auto-generate SDKs and documentation. And for internal teams, you can enable anyone to quickly find APIs, access documentation, and even re-use API definitions between projects within a single tool.

Invest in Marketing Your API

The mantra "build it and they will come" doesn't always work. In reality, "overnight success" comes after significant behind-the-scenes efforts. Similarly, building a successful API requires a solid foundation and a well-thought-out marketing campaign. These campaigns help raise awareness and start the conversation among developers.

Some market efforts to consider include:

  • Libraries & Sample Apps – It's easier to integrate an API with a well-maintained client-side SDK. And if there's a sample app that relates to the app you're building, it's even easier to build. So, it's worth considering providing libraries and SDKs for your API – an easy task using tools like SwaggerHub.
  • API Marketplaces – Many developers look for APIs in marketplaces, where they can filter options by various criteria. Including your API in these marketplaces can maximize the odds of developers coming across your API. When adding your API, be sure to use the rights tags and keywords to maximize visibility.
  • Community Engagement – Sponsoring hackathons and other community engagement activities can help raise awareness of your API and cultivate a positive image within the development community.
  • Search Engine Optimization – Search engine optimization involves writing sales and documentation copy that ranks highly in search engines for relevant keywords. For example, an OTA’s API should rank highly for keywords like "flight booking API."

The Bottom Line

API discoverability enables developers to innovate faster by giving them easy access to a wide range of APIs. Using these APIs, developers can save time and focus on building higher-level solutions to challenging problems. They can also add new capabilities that may not be feasible with in-house resources.

If you're a developer looking for a way to explore APIs quickly, SwaggerHub Explore makes the process seamless. And if you're an API provider, SwaggerHub provides the tools and resources you need to build and scale APIs that exceed developer expectations.