IT Brief Australia logo
Technology news for Australia's largest enterprises
Story image

3 tips for building APIs so developers actually use them

By Julia Gabel
Mon 9 Oct 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Harnessing the power of application program interfaces (APIs) is the key to competing in the new era of software.

APIs provide the agility developers and businesses need to iterate and innovate quickly, and they’re everywhere. Businesses all over the world are looking to roll out or even acquire APIs, but if they don’t succeed at winning over developers, those services are not likely to last. 

Businesses release APIs for two primary reasons: 

1. They want to expose their services through an API 2. They release an API that supports an existing product or API

When we talk about APIs, generally we’re speaking of the first category, otherwise known as “REST” APIs, where REST stands for Representational State Transfer.

These are the chief means by which developers access services from any provider. The most important thing to remember is that the developer is the customer.

Developers are the lifeblood of innovation, and developer adoption and retention are crucial to the survival of any API.

Developers can be independent, employed in large enterprises, or building projects in their spare time, but the common thread among them is that they want easy-to-implement, accessible technology to fuel what they want to build. 

Respect the developer

Empowering developers to experiment, innovate, and deploy applications built on your API starts with respecting their time and effort. For example, don’t punish your developers with maintenance windows. Your business can have operating hours, your API cannot.

However, respecting the developer really begins with the documentation. 

Developers want easy-to-read documentation that helps them get up and running instantly.

Copy-and-pasteable quickstarts are crucial to achieve this, and your documentation should feature a variety of quickstarts that are easy to build, including sample applications based on specific use cases. 

Don’t assume you know what languages developers prefer. That’s where Helper Libraries, or software developer kits (SDKs), are critical.

Do the research, and evolve your documentation as developer preferences change. Your goal is to offer Helper Libraries in as many relevant languages as possible, especially the most popular.

The gratification of building an app in a few minutes will encourage developers to keep iterating and experimenting with your API, eventually building powerful applications.

Keep it simple, but powerful

At every step of designing your API, ask yourself, “Can I build a meaningful application in five to 10 minutes?”

Answering this question, and revisiting it often, will help you address a number of issues, especially complexity.  

Complexity is important, but don’t fall into the trap of equating complexity with power. You want developers to build powerful use cases on top of your API, but power shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of simplicity.

Different problems require different tools, but the complexity of those tools should be opt-in. 

Consider Legos. With the same blocks, you can start simple and gradually build to create more complex models. If someone wants to build a car out of Legos, they’re not required to use exactly 1,000 blocks of specific colors and sizes.

The person is free to determine how complex, how powerful, and how extensive that model will be. 

Another note on power: Don’t overpromise on latency - which is the time it takes for your API to respond to a request.

It’s one thing for a sample app with a single request to work immediately; it’s a different matter when an app is making hundreds or thousands of calls per hour. 

Developers need to trust that an app in production will perform the same as it did when it was a prototype. If you overpromise, developers will start to make assumptions on latency that will most certainly cause problems as they scale upward.

Consistency is what’s important. If your API performs the way you claim it performs, developers will trust it to build powerful applications - simple or complex - at global scale.

Iterate early and get feedback

No one gets the perfect API on day one.

Getting feedback early and often from developers will increase the likelihood of producing an API that is useful to them. 

In the early stages of designing your API, write documentation for sample applications for a few important use cases that you intend your API to solve.

Put the first version of the API and the documentation in front of developers and get feedback on how it would feel building those applications.

Make sure you and your API team do the same. 

With your API still in alpha, this initial feedback is extremely important for informing any massive changes you may need to make. Once the API reaches beta, keep in mind that the apps developers are building on top it are also in beta.

Forcing them to make major changes at this point is a great way to disrespect the time and effort they’ve put into working with your technology. 

Even a simple change in behaviour will break whatever they’re building. For example, if you decide in beta to no longer accept a subset of characters in a string where previously you accepted any character, any app that uses those characters will break.

You need to understand even these smallest details of a developer’s journey in working with your API, and the best way to do that is through participation in regular hackathons. 

Internally, your teams will surface potential bugs and incompatibilities while devising new uses for your API. Externally, you can get instant feedback from the developers who will use your API every day.

Hackathons provide valuable insight into what it’s like for your customers - developers - to work with your technology.

The future of your API belongs to the builders

Developers want to be able to solve problems with the power of software, and you want them to include your API in their tool belt. But remember, experimentation is the prerequisite to innovation.

Make building and iterating as easy as possible for developers, and they will adopt your new technology.

They’re the gatekeepers to the future of your platform.

Following the best practices I’ve described will keep your API healthy while empowering your customers to build the next generation of applications.

Article by Angie Bell, director Asia Pacific of Twilio 

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Cybersecurity
Infoblox's State of Security Report spotlights Australian remote work hazards
Attackers exploit weak WiFi, remote endpoints, and the cloud, costing 50% of organisations over $1.3 million in breach damages.
Story image
Wireless
Cradlepoint expands its Cellular Intelligence capabilities
Cradlepoint has announced additional Cellular Intelligence capabilities with its NetCloud service.
Story image
Customer experience
Research unveils precarious customer loyalty for retailers
New research has found customers are reassessing established brand loyalties as their priorities and behaviours shift.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Trading up: It's time to swap core systems for flexible digital applications
This year will see more oranisations planning and commencing high tech renovations that will shake up the way they operate.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Clear Dynamics closes $35M funding round, invests in global growth
The funding is a major milestone and speaks to Clear Dynamics’ vision for AI-enabled ‘composable’ enterprise software, the company states.
Story image
SaaS
Cloudflare launches instant serverless database for dev teams
"Today we’re announcing our first serverless database which we expect will quickly become one of the largest databases in the world."
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Public Cloud
Cloud adoption still a work in progress, NetApp finds
NetApp has announced the results of the annual Cloud Infrastructure Report based on a survey of public cloud business and IT decision makers.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Excel
Could your Excel practices be harming your business?
While Excel has been the de-facto standard for budgeting, planning, and forecasting, is it alone, enough to support organisations in the global marketplace that’s facing rapid changes due to digital transformation?
Story image
Manufacturing
HINDSITE wins Aerospace Xelerated Pitch Challenge with solution to support Boeing
Brisbane-based startup HINDSITE was the winner of the first ever Pitch Challenge organised by Aerospace Xelerated in partnership with Queensland XR Hub. 
Softiron
For every 10PB of storage run on HyperDrive vs. comparable alternatives, an estimated 6,656 tonnes of CO₂ are saved by reduced energy consumption alone over its lifespan. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 1,500 cars off the road for a year.
Link image
Story image
CRM
Zendesk announces new conversational CRM solutions
“The last few years have made it obvious that digital is the front door, convenience is paramount and relationships are anchored in conversations."
Story image
Sisense
Data and analytics could be key to higher selling prices in APAC
Sisense's latest report has found that almost half of data professionals in APAC think customised data and analytics can create better selling prices for their products.
Story image
Sustainability
Power at the edge: the role of data centers in sustainability
The Singaporean moratorium on new data center projects was recently lifted, with one of the conditions being an increased focus on power efficiency and sustainability.
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
SaaS
Atturra partners with Focus HQ to support Aus organisations
Atturra has executed a partnership agreement with Focus HQ, to resell and support the company's Australian developed SaaS-based portfolio management platform.
Story image
Apple
Apple previews new features for users with disabilities
Apple says new software features that offer users with disabilities new tools for navigation, health and communication, are set to come out later this year.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
SAS
New SAS service overcomes subscription fatigue for media companies
SAS has launched SAS 360 Match which helps media companies move towards a AVOD model to generate revenue as subscribers cancel.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS unveils AI experience to improve kids' batting abilities
SAS has created The Batting Lab, an interactive experience using AI, computer vision and IoT analytics to help kids improve their baseball and softball swings.
Story image
Adyen
Adyen expands partnership with Afterpay as BNPL payments increase
Adyen has expanded its partnership with AfterPay allowing more of Adyen’s merchants in more countries worldwide to use the BNPL provider.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implentations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Exabeam
Find out how a behavioural analytics-driven approach can transform security operations with the new Exabeam commissioned Forrester study.
Link image
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Hawaiki Cable
BW Digital completes acquisition of Hawaiki Submarine Cable
BW Digital has completed its full acquisition of Hawaiki Submarine Cable, with all applicable regulatory filings and approvals now received.
Story image
Data Center
Preventing downtime costs and damage with Distributed Infrastructure Management
Distributed Infrastructure Management (DIM) can often be a lifeline for many enterprises that work with highly critical ICT infrastructure and power sources.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
CFOs using digital workers and AI to prevent unnecessary loss
New technology is now allowing CFOs to use digital workers to automate their accounting processes, making it easier for them to avoid unnecessary losses.
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
trust
9/10 Aussies to stop spending if personal data compromised
"Based on the patterns we are seeing among Australian consumers, it is evident that trust in a brand is exceptionally important."
Story image
Telstra
Telstra and Silver Trak Digital delivers 5G to the cinemas
Telstra and Silver Trak Digital say they've launched Australia's fastest and most secure delivery of content over 5G for cinemas.
Story image
Fintech
Airwallex launches new bank feed integration with NetSuite
Airwallex has launched a new bank feed integration with NetSuite, developed in partnership with NetSuite solution partner, Onlineone.
Story image
Telstra
Telstra, Google and Accenture launch 5G AR experience for AFL
Telstra, Google and Accenture are developing a new 5G powered augmented reality (AR) experience at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium for the footy season.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS launches human-focused responsible innovation initiative
SAS has launched a responsible innovation initiative, furthering its commitment to equity and putting people first.
Story image
BeyondTrust
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
Sustainability
Grasping the opportunity to rethink the metrics of a sustainable data centre
A data centre traditionally has two distinct operations teams: the Facility Operations team, and the IT Operations team. Collaboration between them is the key to defining, measuring, and delivering long-term efficiency and sustainability improvements.
Story image
Fortinet
Fortinet's Security Fabric hits new record for integrations
The Fortinet Security Fabric has surpassed 500 technology integrations with more than 300 Fabric-Ready Technology Alliance Partners.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Digital Transformation
The impact of COVID-19 on healthcare environments and care delivery
The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionised the healthcare industry while overcoming staff shortages, social distancing requirements, and lockdowns.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.