Chuck Freedman | Director, Vertical Insights
June 26, 2013

Present your API as a Product – API Portal Presentation Best Practices

 

Much like everything associated with your company, your API and its portal site are an extension of your content, products or services. The API deserves a worthy home where your API users and customers, your partners and developers, will see a well-supported product and understand why it’s valuable to their business.

Launch with an effective presentation of your API product

Imagine if you come across a product online with no description. Or say you’re interested in buying something, but the company’s site has little more than a logo – or an existing, but empty blog. And if the product is borderline technical, how quickly would you move on if that product has no method of support?

You wouldn’t launch a consumer product site without writing up a product’s description, value and benefits to the consumer. You wouldn’t link to a blog at launch that was empty – or worse, still showed the ‘sample post’. You certainly wouldn’t launch a technical product without offering some method of support, reassuring the consumer they would have a fulfilled experience.

Successful APIs are and should be treated as products. Unfortunately, these experiences map all too well with many API websites. Too often partners and developers visit API portals to find little to no description, no detail of value or examples of use.

The API portal homepage is welcome mat to your API.

No matter how effective your evangelist or business development email was in bringing a partner or developer to your portal, everyone needs to be reminded what your API does. Take those values you listed in your presentation to get executive buy-in for your platform and list them on the front page of your portal.

Communicate the value of your API. What value does it bring to developer’s app? What content, data or services will this API deliver that a partner can’t get on their own for anywhere else.

Applying thought and design to the homepage of your API portal helps. Reflect your company branding, but keep it subtle. Focus on the value of the API, sending a clear message on how partners and developers have benefitted from it, while inspiring others with the value they will find in using it.

Keep your API community updated, frequently.

Like any incredible product, your API is going to build a relationship with its users. Your hope is that users, partners and developers, will become very active with your API. Your API community wants to engage you on many levels.

Quality API Management solutions, like Mashery’s, will include a blog and simple content management interface to easily make new posts. Use these blog posts to frequently communicate with your community. Tell them about new features, planned outages and new app launches.

Keep your community aware of what conferences, events and, of course, hackathons, your team will be attending. Equally valuable to engaging new API users is meeting and supporting your existing community in person. Your blog is a great way to keep everyone updated.

You can extend the reach of posts by maintaining an active Twitter account (usually your companyname_API). This also creates, when possible, a direct channel to your audience, liberated from the stricter PR review process your company’s main accounts may be subject to.

Convey that your biggest effort is supporting your API.

A big turn off to those exploring your API is seeing empty, inactive or deserted support forums and FAQs. Leaving these important aspects of your API portal abandoned tells developers your community is a ghost town. It’s gets worse if posted questions remain unanswered.

As your team is beta testing and ‘dogfooding’ your API, capture those frequent questions, hurdles and trouble spots that come up. Chances are, your initial wave of external API adopters will also experience these issues. At launch, seed both your FAQs and forums with these important topics, detailing how best to solve and get around common issues. Not only does this make early adoption smoother, it shows that your team is ready to support API development.

If resources allow, dedicate one or more engineers to review FAQs, forums, stackoverflow, Twitter and other channels where your community may post issues or questions about your API. Ultimately, your community needs to know that supporting your API is your #1 priority.

At Mashery, we’ve provided hundreds of customers with all the tools to manage their APIs, welcome developers, partners and innovation, and support their valuable communities. In addition, our service teams are here to help you execute the strategies I’ve outlined with expert advice. Managing your API as a product means maintaining a level of quality in your portal and overall program that the API and your community deserve.