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Research and Innovation

Building the API Economy: How a Developer Portal with a Differentiated User Experience Creates Value

 
September 6, 2017

2017 is the year of the API economy. If you are an enterprise CXO looking to create new business models, APIs can help you do just that. Using a developer portal and deploying multiple APIs to integrate diverse platforms, apps and data, makes it easier to create new sources of value. US retailer Walgreens, for instance, has deployed a well thought out API strategy that allows developers to plug into services for prescription refills and transfers. The company’s prescription refill API drives one prescription refill every second from mobile devices.

So, what makes companies like Walgreens so successful with their API strategies? What are the best practices that can help build such strategies? You might have heard a lot about enterprise best practices for the API strategy focused on the business model, hosting and management, testing, or monitoring. But, what most organizations tend to overlook is the importance of providing a differentiated developer experience on the developer portal when trying to build a robust API economy.

Why create a developer-centric portal

The developer portal is your platform to help internal, external, and partner developers discover your organizations APIs that are relevant to them. This makes a library of APIs an integral part of your enterprise’s overall brand architecture that comprises enterprise content, products, and services. Any information shared through this channel is effective only when aligned with your enterprise strategy and branding, yet customized to meet the expectations of target developers.
The success of your efforts in building an economy around your company’s APIs depends upon how well you communicate the value of your organization’s APIs. A developer friendly portal also makes it easier for developers to understand how to use your APIs. As APIs are self-service products, developers expect proper documentation and learning content. Sample codes in multiple programming languages, use cases, tutorials, and SDKs are all helpful in this regard. When your portal provides API output in multiple formats such as JSON and XML, it becomes that much easier for developers to use endpoints that provide output in the desired format.

An optimized developer portal also thoroughly explains standard and custom header requirements as well as any specific parameters that need to be passed on in an API request. Detailed explanations of the security and authentication model used as well as how developers can retrieve access codes can be quite useful for developers. Since APIs are typically offered in different tiers with different pricing, providing clear information about the value that can be gained in each tier helps avoid potential issues and disputes. Using analytics to recommend changes to the developers’ API subscription tier, based on how the developer’s application uses an API, enhances user experience and wins you developer appreciation.

How to offer a unique and differentiated developer experience

Multiple channels for information and developer support, including live chat, ticketing, and in-built community forums reduce loss of productivity and ensure a differentiated experience. Mechanisms to provide feedback and feature requests are also integral to the developer experience. In this respect, it’s important to set expectations from developers in a forthright manner. This means answering questions such as: Are developers required to submit their developed solutions to you? Is there any approval mechanism to verify and certify developed apps? Are there any integrated app stores for developers to host their applications?

By ensuring regular API updates on changes to existing APIs and planned releases, you can keep the developer community active and help developers make informed decisions. Disseminating information about conferences, events, and hackathons, that your enterprise teams conduct or plan to attend, creates a vibrant developer community. Motivating developers to support new members get up to speed with API-related work and encouraging them to blog about their API experience also helps keep the community active.

Using the developer portal to drive new revenue streams

A developer portal that provides a differentiated user experience ensures wider usage of your API products by developers, bringing in additional revenue for your enterprise. The portal’s self-service model reduces support costs for providing APIs, while API-based app development enables agile app development and reduces time-to-market for products.

In essence, the developer portal is a critical tool to improve developer satisfaction with your enterprise’s API services. A differentiated user experience helps increase your brand value by turning developers into enterprise API ambassadors. Using analytics, you can identify active developers to recognize and reward them to further increase API adoption. Wider adoption of APIs, in turn, helps create a variety of applications and solutions, moving heavy users into the long tail of API for greater value generation.

To learn more about building an API strategy, read my paper Accelerating Enterprise API Programs for Digital Transformation

G Suresh Kumar is the Technology Head of TCS’ APPhonics API Management Program. He has over 21 years of work experience in Managing Innovation Labs, Large Account Management, Wireless Technologies, Mobile Infrastructure Marketing, as well as solutions based on Emerging Technologies. Emerging Technologies is an area of prime interest to Suresh, who loves to motivate young people within the organization to take up challenging project assignments in this sphere. Reading and catching up with updates on new and innovative developments is yet another area of interest. Suresh enjoys making connections with people whose interests lie in exploring Emerging Technologies.