A Closer Look at API Product Design

21 Dec 2017
by: Pete Clare

When development teams begin to view their digital resources as products it further establishes team autonomy and reduces the need for collaboration-based integration support.

Let’s look at how the key production concepts we covered early apply to the digital world.

Team A decides to productize a Logistics function as an API:

1. Empathy:

  • They define the market for this product as other internal development teams.
  • They attempt to understand the problems and use cases other internal team face related to this capability.

2. Business Value:

  • They clearly & realistically estimate the potential value (revenue, cost avoidance, customer experience, etc.) and costs associated… they choose to move forward convinced of a positive return.

3. CX:

  1. They create a minimal API design that directly targets known pain points in a context agnostic manner. (e.g. they ensure the fact that they have multiple geo-specific service implementations does not leak out to API consumers)
  2. APIs are also designed to fully encapsulate implementation complexity.

4. Intuitive Design:

  1. They provide an extraordinarily consistent API consumer experience. (naming, standards, security, documentation, etc.)
  2. Their APIs leverage well-known standards (like REST) to reduce learning curve.
  3. They document not only the contract but how to use the API, including simple use cases and practical examples of error states.
  4. They also generate language specific SDKs to increase API adoption rates.

5. Cost Efficiency:

  1. Both the API design & documentation is positioned for consumer self-sufficiency
  2. The team treats consumer contacts for integration support as failures and immediately & directly address the usability concerns that led to a support request
  3. The cost of all integration support requests handled by the delivery team is one of their Logistics Product KPIs (costs = hourly cost, inefficiency due to context switching, opportunity costs, etc.)

6. Marketing:

  1. The Logistics API is published to the company internal developer portal. (aka The Marketplace)

7. Instruction:

  1. The minimal yet effective documentation produced is posted to the portal with clear examples of use and a production sandbox that allows consumers to try & experiment freely.

The Marketplace (aka Developer Portal) provides a basis for consumers to discover the availability of digital resources. Through intuitive, consumer-centered design and lightweight yet effective documentation the consuming developer has everything they need to identify, learn, provision access, and use the API without asking for assistance from the API provider.

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