Atul Phadnis | Senior Product Manager
July 01, 2013

Presenting your API as a Product – Designing your API for Data Exchanges

 

An avalanche of data is being exchanged 24/7 between people, places, and things.

It is impractical to rationalize the impact of these data-exchanges without having a model to use in discussing the what’s, the how’s, and most importantly, the why’s.

What’s:  Data allows for the exchange of ideas and desires across time and space

How’s: If Apps grant wishes, then data, and the APIs they flow through, are the magic fairy dust that brings wishes to reality.

Why’s: to communicate and influence the process by which people assign value and relevance to data to avoid being dismissed as noise

In this post, I am going to present a framework for thinking about your data and to outline why APIs should be aware of the ways that people interact with the data.

Environmental Awareness and Data Processing

The human mind is an amazing piece of computational machinery, sifting through near-infinite quantities of sensory stimulus at any given moment to identify what is truly valuable and relevant. If you want an example of how this works, try taking a walk outside and just listen to the ambient sights, sounds, and colors that present themselves to you.

This process of assigning value and relevance to stimulus (which will be referred to as AVR for short) is relatively unconscious and I claim that any data supplied by a mobile application or web-experience must communicate within the context of how a person’s immediate environment could be effected.

A person’s immediate environment can be thought of as being comprised of the following three constituent states as illustrated in Figure 1.

Fig1

The sequence of steps to describe how humans process incoming data can then be related back to this environment definition and are illustrated in Figure 2.

Fig2

I claim that most mobile apps or web-experiences can be mapped to how they exchange data to communicate changes to any or all of the environmental states in the hopes to optimize the AVR process within the minds of their downstream users.

Let’s look at some examples to illustrate what I mean across some common business models:

Movie Ticketing and Box Office Site: provides data aimed at communicating how a geospatial state change at specific times in the future could positively improve your emotional state.

Mapping of AVR-influencing features to data exchanges

  • Find Theatres Near Me: Exchange data back to the API to communicate my current geospatial state to display theatre locations within my vicinity (high value).
  • Inline display of reviews: Exchange data in the form of responses to sorting options related to the to the emotional states of other viewers at some time in the past a.k.a. reviews.
  • Seat selection: Exchange data in the form of seating chart selections to communicate my desired geospatial state at some time in the future within the theatre environment. Display corresponding theatre show times with seat’s available at these specific geospatial locations. (high relevance)
  • Ticket purchasing: Exchange data back to the API to communicate my desire to take action by purchasing tickets within the app experience.

Travel Booking Site: provides data aimed at communicating how a geospatial state change could positively improve your emotional state at some time in the future.

Mapping of AVR-influencing features to data exchanges

  • Fastest Route: Exchange data back to the API to communicate my current geospatial state and my geospatial state at some time in the future. Display routes that minimize the total travel time. (high value)
  • Activities: Exchange data in the form of responses to filter options related to the types of activities available within the vicinity of a geospatial location. Display corresponding locations that specialize in activity1 and activity2. (high relevance)
  • Weather: Exchange data back to the API to communicate my future geospatial state to display locations predicted temperature values within my indicated range.
  • Travel Purchasing: Exchange data back to the API to communicate my desire to take action by purchasing travel within the web experience.

Reinforce the relationship

To be successful at providing APIs that support amazing mobile-app and web experiences, you should be cognizant of the trends in the aggregate results of your downstream audience’s AVR processing to capture their desires to take action.

Allow for your APIs to leverage how users communicate their environment effectively. Allow for your APIs to refine what data is presented to users continuously. Allow for your APIs to support final decision making by users within the context of your partner’s downstream app or web experience. Allow for your API Product Managers to learn about the trends of data requests to make richer data sets available when most appropriate. These are all great ways to reinforce the relationship between your API products, your partner mobile-app or web experience developers, and your downstream users in this 24/7 data-exchange world.