The benefits of the API economy have been well established over the years, and today APIs are the go-to medium for unlocking your organization’s data and capabilities to grow business. But to maximize the value between the end user and the API provider, you need a strong developer community.
If you’re not in the 1% of organizations where developers flock with no effort on your part, you will need to attract them. How do you do this? The answer is by treating your developers as your customers and creating a great developer experience (DevEx).
Developer portals are the storefronts of your organization, and it is where developer interactions happen most. Creating a great developer experience starts here.
However, the “build it and they will come” principle rarely applies to developer portals (as your organization might have painfully experienced). If you want to avoid having tumbleweeds rolling through your portal, you must design it for a great DevEx. This up to the API product manager, who is managing the relationship between API providers and developers to create a resourceful portal.
The success of your API program lies in having useful applications created using the APIs in your portal. The API product managers must ensure that developers have everything they need in the portal to create those applications.
If you are looking to create a developer API portal with excellent DevEx, the following points can help, whether your developers are external or internal.
Keys to improving DevEx in your portal
1. Customize the experience
First impressions are very important, and the portal will be where your developers will see your API portfolio first. You would want to reflect your brand identity in your portal by customizing it with your brand look.
But in the case of developer portals, customization is more than just pretty pictures and colors. You should create custom pages to cater to your developers. These could be tutorials, blogs, how to guides, best practice guides, or anything that might help your developers create great applications and stay engaged with what you provide. Deliver content that helps them create high-quality applications quickly and let them know what’s in the roadmap – this will keep them coming to your portal.
2. Provide detailed documentation
Year over year, survey after survey, developers say that the biggest hurdle to API adoption is lack of good documentation. To learn about your API, see what resources you provide, what methods they can call, what response codes they will get; developers need detailed documentation with sample requests and responses.
The presentation of the documentation is also very important. A user-friendly, interactive interface – where they can click on a resource and see its description, associated methods, and sample responses – will reduce the time to first API call tremendously, and that’s what matters most to developers. They don’t have any time to waste.
3. Make testing it easy
Something that goes hand-in-hand with good documentation is the ability to try an API out. It should be seamless so that a developer can quickly see if a particular API is indeed what they are looking for. Your portal should include an embedded try out functionality to let them play around with your APIs and quickly decide whether it works for them.
4. Interact with them
Developers are never too shy to give feedback or ask questions. That’s why your portal should also be a collaboration tool to let them interact with you as the API provider, and other developers. You should be responsive to what they have to say. They always have valuable opinion to make their jobs easier and your API portfolio better.
5. Reach out for early feedback
As I mentioned before, developers love being heard, and having them engaged early in the development of an API creates developer loyalty. They also love creating innovative applications. Those are reasons why hackathons and beta programs are great ways to create a loyal and engaged developer base.
Hackathons encourage developers build new applications with your APIs, applications that maybe even you hadn’t imagined. It is a great way to discover new revenue streams and find out ways to grow your business.
Beta programs on the other hand, help you get your developers involved early in the development process. They let you find out things that work and don’t work in your test APIs which helps optimizing your investment.
While designing your developer portal, you should consider the ability to run these programs to increase engagement.
6. Clearly state SLAs and charges
The greatest value that you can generate from an API program is by opening up your data and capabilities for new applications that grow your core business. However, some organizations are also interested in generating direct revenue through API monetization. You might be interested in charging your external developers, or cross charge between different business units of your organization. There is even the use case that you might want to pay your developers for driving traffic to you through their applications. The terms and conditions for these transactions, their service level agreements (SLAs) and their charges should be clearly stated where they subscribe to those APIs for transparency.
7. Never compromise on the quality of your APIs
Ensuring the highest level of quality shouldn’t go without mention for DevEx in this article, even though it is not directly related to your portal. Extensively testing your APIs to make sure that they are bug-free and securing them to give your developers piece of mind that their applications will not be a victim of malicious activity is essential to developer experience and goes hand-in-hand with a great portal interface. It is easy to lose your developers with one bad experience so make sure that your APIs are top-notch when it comes to quality and API security.
Happy developer = happy provider
Creating a large, satisfied developer community through a great developer experience should be the top of mind for successful API programs. After all, developers are the ones writing applications that will attract end users who generate activity and revenue for your data and capabilities.
Listen to your developers and design your portal to satisfy their needs. Don’t forget, once you get them engaged with your APIs in your portal through a great DevEx, they will become more productive creators and happy customers that you won’t lose easily.