Developers Aren’t the Users of Your API

Hang around the API community long enough and you’ll hear about design, developer experience, and ways to appeal to someone integrating with your programming interface. That may lead you to think of developers as the users of your API. While an important audience, developers are a conduit for the actual end users of the software the API supports.

Blindly building an API for developers would side-step the reasons they might want to use it:

– To support a business strategy

– To implement common use cases

– To integrate separate products

Behind each of these are larger questions, more impactful than choosing endpoints and writing documentation. And they uncover the real users of your API.

## Know the Business Strategy Your API Supports

Every API is built with a larger goal in mind. Your business has objectives that your API must support. Slack has leveraged its platform APIs to acquire 12 million daily active users. There are many factors, beyond its API, that have led to Slack’s success. However, the API supports the ways Slack users want its software to operate. Importantly, it’s not focused on how developers want to use Slack, even though Slack invests in its developer experience.

The same plays out for any business building an API, whether for internal or public use. It is crucial to keep the business strategy in mind. As you prepare your API, be sure to answer the [questions behind your API strategy](https://apiacademy.co/2020/06/two-questions-behind-your-api-strategy/) to set a clear goal, then dig into implementation—and later, innovate your common use cases.

## Innovate in Common Use Cases

When developing an API, it’s tempting to prioritize the experience of the programmer using your interface; however, it is the common use cases of the end user that should be your focus.

Let’s say you’re creating an API for your company’s products to be available through online shopping. The developer working with your API will value accurate documentation and intuitiveness, but that is only a conduit for the consumer needs.

For example, no user would take the time to sift through every product available (can you imagine Amazon without searching or filtering?). What users need will impact how you design your API. You will likely provide filters for the catalogue based on criteria of style, size, and fabric. The API enables developers to build what users want.

Time spent at a whiteboard brainstorming the use cases of your consumer must take precedence over the engineering elegance of your design. The more broadly and deeply you consider the ultimate customer, the more powerfully your API will support the business strategy.

## Integrate to Improve User Experience 

Users expect modern applications to connect to all the other apps they use. That means you need to think of your API as being part of a larger ecosystem.

It’s hard to imagine Airbnb, for example, without maps of rentals. That core user experience comes via the Google Maps API. Similarly, Google Maps users might benefit from displaying Airbnb locations alongside hotels. Assuming the companies agreed to this data share, it would likely also be exchanged via API.

Users expect this sort of integration. When you build your API around your business strategy and user needs, you’ll recognize the opportunities. Ensure your API program enables these integrated user experiences to maximize the potential for end users, not just the developers who will deliver it. 

Adam DuVander

Adam DuVander

Adam DuVander is an API veteran, developer communicator, and principal consultant at EveryDeveloper. He was the first editor of ProgrammableWeb, which TechCrunch called “the journal of the API economy,” and is a frequent speaker on developer experience and developer marketing. His work with developer-focused companies helps to better engage their audiences. You can find his technical content on Wired, Zapier, and SendGrid, among many others. Adam lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

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