Selecting the right API Developer Portal is critical to your business because that’s the only communication channel between you – in the role of the API Product Manager – and the developers using those APIs.
Hence, we all realize the importance of these functionalities:
- good UI
- easy navigation
- collaborative features – community, discussions …
- CMS (Content Management System) – FAQ, articles …
- alerting mechanisms – when the API is down or suffering degraded quality for example
- embedded support, via a support chat widget
- outbound marketing communication tools – newsletter, notification emails
- embedded dashboards for the consuming developers are key as well.
It’s also paramount to choose a Developer Portal that fits your audience needs:
- Private API Portal (aka Internal API Portal): this type of API Developer Portal exposes APIs to internal groups of developers. This means that only developers with an authorized profile in the corporate LDAP will be able to connect to it and access it. The right granularity is also essential to determine which APIs they are allowed to access.
- Partner API Portal: this type of API Developer Portal exposes APIs to strategic partners whom you have a tight relationship with. There is in parallel some human interaction that has strengthened the relationship over time. There is a need for a smooth and easy onboarding process of the partner. Only invited partners will be able to connect to the portal.
- Public API Portal (aka Open API Portal): this type of API Developer Portal is used to let any external developer – freelancer, startup – embedding your APIs into innovative solutions.
Choosing an API Portal is not just about functionalities, it’s also about enterprise-readiness, which means the capacity of the solution to fit into an Enterprise IT environment:
- High availability of the solution (if possible across multiple data centers)
- API-first design, which means that internal APIs to the solution are available to perform similar actions programmatically
- DevOps-ready, offering integration in the DevOps chain that automates API Portal configuration promotion across the different environments.
Before you choose an API Portal, take some time to reflect on your needs and answer those few questions:
- Who are the developers I want to address – are they internal, partners, external startups and freelancers?
- How big is my API Catalog? If I have just a couple of APIs, I might not want the same type of API Portal as if I had dozens.
- Do I need to categorize my APIs into groups on my API Portal?
- Which level of customization do I need in terms of navigation and look and feel?
- Who will be administrating my API Portal?
- Who will be promoting my API Portal? Indeed, there will be an heavy work of marketing promotion to do to promote the API Portal to the right audience.
- Which traffic do I expect – both the average number of daily visits on the API Portal, the average number of registered apps and the average number of API calls.
- Who will be in charge of the online support to the developers visiting the API Portal to create better engagement?
- What is your business model? Do you offer the APIs for free because they allow to get a larger outreach and expand your market share? Do you want to charge a flat fee or propose several pricing plans?
- What is your strategy to retain developers and grow the community?
As you can see, choosing the right API Portal is not just a technical evaluation. To make it a success, you need to think of your business model and the marketing strategy and execution that sustain it.