Want successful APIs? Make developer experience your priority


An expert panel discussion at DeveloperWeek in San Francisco tackled "emergent APIs" and offered practical advice on building API-centric products and services.

Panelists included representatives from PayPal, FitBit, MuleSoft, Stormpath and API Science.

One key point of emphasis was the importance of "DX", or developer experience. It may be tempting to shortcut this aspect of creating APIs, based on the idea that developers are hands-on problem solvers. Panelists noted that successful business focuses on customers, and for APIs, developers *are* the customers

The panel went on to address several aspects of API ecosystems and developer experience:

- API business models.

Panelists offered an important distinction: Exposing data is an API product. Exposing *business logic* is an API-first business model.

- SDKs as 'training wheels'.

PayPal's Jason Harmon said software development kits, or SDKs, are complementary to the company's APIs, helping outside developers get up and running. He said API analytics can show which clients developers are using; they expect SDKs that integrate with their programming frameworks of choice.

- The challenge of API versioning.

Panelists stressed the need to future-proof APIs to the futhest extent possible. Because APIs by definition aim to engage other organizations, changing an entrenched API is hard. It's important to scope for future needs and design accordingly. And changes require a high degree of communication.

Also in API coverage this week, Ronnie Mitra delves into this usability question on Dr. Dobbs. Mitra, who is director of API design at Layer 7 Technology's API Academy, reinforces the DeveloperWeek panel's point, arguing that discoverability and ease of use are more important than actual syntax. (This calling to mind Gene Kim's point: It's a waste of time to build difficult-to-use features--nobody will use them.)

Mitra defines four key interactions for Web APIs:
- Discovery
- Learning
- Invocation
- Analysis

Thinking through these interactions is the key to encouraging API use through effective design.

For more:
- read Programmable Web's panel coverage
- and Mitra's article on Dr. Dobbs

More about APIs:
Level 3 gives enterprises private connection to Microsoft Azure cloud
Evernote: A case study in building your business via API
Multicloud toolkits for avoiding vendor lock-in
Not-so-strange bedfellows: Single sign-on, API management, and good UX