Top core principles for delivering great APIs
Updated: Sep 10
We know APIs are now new. They’ve served as interfaces that enable applications to communicate with each other for a long time. That has changed over the last few years as companies have realized that APIs can be used as interfaces to their business that allow them to extend their value proposition with partner-delivered capabilities. By doing so they can monetize their digital assets to customers across channels and devices. For example, Expedia opened up their travel booking services to partners through an API to build a revenue stream that contributes $2B in annual revenue.
WHAT NOT TO DO
The API does not fit the needs of its users. This causes developers to start the design, implementation and deployment process all over again which is costly and time-consuming. Worst of all, the existing users will have to be migrated to the new API and that can be a nightmare.
Another common mistake is modeling a system API after internal legacy systems. These systems have complexed data schemas and most likely their business logic has been extended over the years using hard-coded workarounds.
WHAT’S THE INTRINSIC VALUE OF A GREAT API?
A great API is simple to understand and easy to use. This ensures reusability and creates a virtuous cycle where each additional successful implementation leads to more engagement and more contributions from developers who add value to your service.
TIPS TO DELIVER A GREAT API
1. Create a great API user experience
A great user experience allows application developers to easily understand the purpose and functionality of the API, so they can become productive using it. The best way to do this is to get feedback from developers on its usability and functionality along the design process.
2. Fulfill a specific business request
A great API should be optimized to fulfill a specific business request in a specific context. It’s bad practice to model the design after the backend services or applications they expose instead of modeled after the use case they intend to fulfill. It results in poor user experience and ultimately poor adoption.
3. Provide easy access
You find an audience by publishing your API to a portal that allows other developers to easily discover your API. This portal should include the basic tools developers need to learn about your API’s core functionalities.
4. Find your audience and build a community
Your API portal should make it easy for developers to share knowledge with each other and document new uses they discover for your API. This encourages wider use of your API and promotes organic growth.