Not all APIs are created equal – some are better than others. In fact, says ProgrammableWeb’s Adam DuVander, the not not-so-secret truth about APIs is that “creating a great one is really, really hard.”
As we know, APIs are becoming increasingly important assets to the business in and of themselves. A successful API is more than piece of code. When you view your API as a product or a way to add additional value to other parties, it can be an enabler of your business strategy. Part of the magic of APIs is that creative developers find ways to extend companies’ footprint in new fields and customer experiences. The New Zealand Post is a great example of a struggling business using APIs to invigorate its business strategy. If the API is well designed and easy to use, this can be an enormous benefit and opportunity, turning your service into a platform that can grow in many ways.
But businesses won’t be able to realize that value if their APIs are poorly designed. Pitfalls of mediocre API design include a failure to meet business objectives; a lack of developers willing to invest the time working with them, cutting off any additional value they provide; and a mismatch between API and audience, which can again lead to developers not being interested in using them. What was supposed to bring value can actually add a cost to the business in development time, additional time fixing the API, and lost opportunity.
With respect to Adam DuVander, we believe it isn’t that hard to design a great API as long as certain principles are followed. Without further ado, here are the four secrets to a great API:
- Design for a great user experience
- Optimize for a particular use case
- Provide easy access
- Build a community
APIs truly are transforming business, but the only way they can be effective is if they are designed well, with particular users and outcomes in mind. Delivering a successful API program that achieves desired business objectives requires a systematic approach to designing and managing APIs. If you follow best practices, great APIs aren’t difficult to develop.