Developer Experience: The Key to a Successful API
User experience is the key to adoption. If no one understands how to use your product, they won’t buy it. This is equally true in the world of APIs. Developers are more likely to adopt and stick with a platform or service that they enjoy using. The key to the success of your API, then, is the Developer Experience.
But what is Developer Experience?
Much like for products that target traditional consumers, the usability of your API is key. Thus, the Developer Experience is the aggregate of all experiences a developer has while interacting with your platform. At the intersection of business, technology and UX, your platform’s Developer Experience could make or break your organization’s growth in today’s incredibly competitive technological landscape.
“Good” Developer Experience is all about understanding and catering to your customers’ needs. To do this, you must also understand who your customer is. One mistake that many software organizations make is misunderstanding who their audience is. Your API doesn’t only need to be easy to use for a technical audience, but also for API decision makers, because although they are often less technical, they will decide if their team ultimately adopts your platform.
As your API needs to appeal to technical and non-technical people alike, the entire adoption process for your API should be as straight forward as possible.
Your consumers will seek answers to four questions on their journey from discovery to consumption of your API.
- Why should I use it?
- How do I register?
- Where do I start?
- How do I use it?
The answers to each of these questions should be clear to your users from the outset. For example, discovering your major value points should not be difficult, and registering for your service should require minimal effort and information. You can learn more about how to think about your API Developer Experience in slides 10 through 24 below.
Where API Documentation fits in:
API documentation is crucial in the final stages of your consumer’s journey. These final stages are where your potential users will want to get their hands dirty with your API. But if no one understands how to use your API, they won’t adopt it; therefore, you must ensure that your API documentation is clear and easy to understand regardless of your readership. You want to make sure that after reading your API documentation, developers and decision makers alike have no questions left unanswered. You can ensure this by following a few simple steps:
- List the Fundamentals
- Write for Humans
Never assume that your audience is only developers that are familiar with API or domain jargon! Instead, write in plain English where possible, and provide context clues for any jargon that is absolutely necessary.
- Explain request-response cycles
Don’t leave anything to the imagination of your users. Instead, include your full sample response body, including any errors that could appear. Provide examples and use cases to further clarify plausible scenarios.
- Empower with Experimentation
Experimentation is power! Allow developers to experiment with your API so that they can discover your value proposition before even adopting the API. To do this, provide “Getting Started” guides, SDKs, tutorials and interactive documents and consoles.
If you don’t have the time to write out your API documentation try open source Swagger UI or SwaggerHub that allow you to write your API contract, and auto-generate the documentation.
Want to learn more about Developer Experience and how it can help you and your business? Check out our eBook, API Documentation: The Secret to a Great API Developer Experience, or our very own Keshav Vasudevan’s presentation from ReDev Boston 2017 below: