Designing great API developer experiences – Part 4

Learn to leverage technology to improve developer experiences.

Matthias Biehl Matthias Biehl

A great developer experience for your APIs does not happen by magic, it takes hard work.

  • In Part 1, I talked about how the functional aspects of APIs must be accompanied by this great experience.
  • In Part 2, I talked about how API consumers should be treated as a new customer segment, which requires its own customer experience.
  • In Part 3, I provided some practical insights into creating developer profiles, finding out about the tasks developers do, and sketching developer journeys.

Here, in the last blog of this series, you will learn how to leverage technology for realizing and operationalizing developer experiences.

A big part of the developer experience will be covered by a developer portal (sometimes also called API portal), an interactive website providing information about the APIs. It includes tutorials, reference documentation, open API specs, example code, try-out functionality, sign-up, and onboarding. The good news is that you don’t have to build any technology from scratch – you can leverage existing developer portals or API portals by configuring and tailoring them according to the needs of your developer personas. 

Create an experience

 To create an experience around the API portal, don’t just use it as a documentation hub. Approach it with a mindset of building a community around your APIs. Allow developers to interact with each other, learn from each other and grow together. Support the developer with example code, test files, use cases, video explanations, even training and events. Request contributions and feedback from the community. Highlight use cases of developers and showcase sample code using the APIs from other developers.

A great portal and an engaging community are fine for getting started, but let’s not forget that elegant and functional design of the APIs in your portfolio is essential to keep developers enthusiastic about using your APIs in the long run. Your API portfolio needs to consist of useful and usable APIs.

Useful APIs solve an important business problem, for which developers need a solution. Usable APIs are easy to use, the are intuitive, understandable and simple. Their design is consistent with other APIs across the portfolio and even across other APIs used in the industry. Consistency in API design is great because it leads to a set of intuitive APIs. Ensuring that APIs are usable and consistent is the task of an API Governance practice. A very valuable tool is the API design style guide, it defines the rules for designing APIs and thus ensures consistency.

We have come full circle in our blog series on developer experience.  Some key takeaways are:

Want to dive deeper into the topic? Check out the video on creating great developer experiences.