As discussed in our previous post on API Management Fundamentals, the success of an API initiative is dependent on much more than developing great APIs. One of the most important components of a successful API program is diligent monitoring and measurement.
Performance metrics—such as the number of downloads, uptime, and amount of use—help gauge the success of your API with hard numbers. They can alert you to problems from the outset. For example, you may notice a steep drop in data flow that can indicate a bug in the API.
The metrics may also help pinpoint misuse of the API, such as excessive requests for certain data. Ideally, you will provide unique API tokens for users, which will identify who is making calls to your API. An API Management platform can provide these insights and capabilities.
While this is all very important information, the primary focus of these metrics is on trends and usage patterns. These metrics don’t help to determine precisely how to improve APIs for users, fix the problems they may be encountering, or identify the functionality they would like to see. Without a means to capture this feedback from users, the success of the API program may be hindered, and companies miss out on tremendous opportunities.
Create a Developer Community
To gain these valuable insights, some companies have created developer communities. In these communities, API consumers share issues, use cases, and even code samples for other developers to use when integrating your API into their systems.
As with any product or service, those consuming it know it very well. How they use it is important, but their suggestions and feedback are even more critical for successful API management. The application developers using your API will drive its success and turning them into valued community members benefits your company and developers. The developers will be able to access support from their peers as well as your company, and your API will gain wider reach.
To facilitate this type of developer community, companies have established portals that provide a number of capabilities:
- Make it easy for API consumers to share knowledge with each other
- Provide a place for developers to share new use cases for APIs
- Enable developers share tips as well as code samples to make the most of your API
- Offer a forum for developers to share problems and resolutions
The portal you create will be one of the most important ways to determine how to best manage your API. When developers share technical issues, you’ll be able to address them faster. It will provide valuable insight into how your API is being used in real-life use cases, and what improvements should be made. This feedback will assist with improving the current API as well as future APIs.
Your API developer community will also provide a valuable channel for you to communicate the improvements in new releases of your API. And it will allow you to note who is using each version of the API, helping to inform the developer of an upgrade path.
All of this can help to drive increased adoption. The wider the reach of your API, the faster bugs and issues will be identified and communicated. You’ll be able to correct and improve upon your API in subsequent releases even faster.
Act Quickly on Feedback
Acting promptly on developer feedback is critical. Within your organization, agile processes that allow for rapid API development, testing, and deployment can help to push out updates faster based on the community feedback. If your organization is new to APIs, consider leveraging agile principles to ensure updates can be deployed rapidly to users—particularly if security is at stake. Develop clear processes for managing API taxonomy, version control, documentation, and common platforms and processes.
Involve Governance and Compliance
Even with feedback processes, monitoring, and security in place, you’ll still need to address governance and compliance concerns. Involve your legal and risk management teams to ensure no intellectual property is being misused. These teams can also help ensure that future versions do not open up the organization to IP loss, and can assist with developing SLAs and managing risks.
We'll continue to explore API Management best practices in future posts.
In the meantime, if you would like to learn more on this topic, check out the MuleSoft ebook, "Secrets of a Great API – API Best Practices.”
About the Author
Lori Angalich is the VP of Marketing at Lightwell. She loves exploring new technologies and business models, learning how things work, solving problems, and developing new ideas with others. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an MBA in Marketing, and she enjoys applying her knowledge from both each and every day. Lori has a passion for travel, art, wine, music, wildlife (including her two dogs, who are a bit on the "wild side"), and most of all, creating great memories with her family.