Developer API Integration
The API World Conference and Expo revealed some common pain points developers are running into when they use or integrate an API on their digital web. These pain points are poor communication, inadequate guidance for using the API, poor or non-existent documentation, and rigid API design approaches.
- Developers need a proper channel of communication to update them of any changes in the API when integrating or using it on their digital web or mobile solution.
- This can include providing them with an updated changelog to all notable changes made to the API in order to correlate new problems with these changes.
- CEO John Musser of API Science, an API analysis service provider, claims that poor communication skills constitute a pain point for making APIs beneficial to developers.
- According to the expert, this primarily occurs when developers are not kept informed or via infrequent communications. Developers "will get annoyed when their application stops working for no apparent reason if the API is forked or changed without proper notification."
- Developers should have elaborate guidance on how the API works in order to install or integrate it into their digital web and mobile solutions.
- The details can include a fast sign-up process and a quick-start guide or tutorials illustrating all the actions required to implement the most common use cases for the API.
- According to Musser, developers frequently encounter APIs that are not user-friendly as a result of inadequate guidance for integration. For example, the APIs may fail "to include a getting started guide, SDKs, code samples or tutorials, while in other cases, it may be difficult to find a key for getting started," making it all too difficult for developers to use the API.
Poor or Non-Existent Documentation
- API documentation is a technical content deliverable, containing all the details to efficiently integrate the API to a digital web or mobile solution.
- API documentation is foremost for a great Developer Experience (DX). DX is defined as "the aggregate experience of the developer when discovering, learning to use, and finally integrating with an API."
- The API World Conference and Expo revealed that one of the key pain points for developers is poorly documented APIs. Poor documentation "can hinder the adoption of an API by developers in creating new value with the API" and cost them in terms of lost productivity as they are bound to use the source code to understand the API.
Rigid API Design Approaches
- API design refers to "the process of developing application programming interfaces that expose data and application functionality for use by developers and users."
- Some API designs are flexible for any frequent use cases but may be rigid to exclude other less frequent use cases, thereby limiting innovation.
- For example, developers might have difficulties leveraging an API that uses HTML programming language to code. According to Gareth Jones, API Architect for Microsoft OneNote, this approach works, but developers will find it "difficult to reference tables from HTML or tokens in the text."
- Additionally, experienced developers using MIME format, "an older specification for adding attachments to email messages," find it flexible, but others "keep running into problems with the custom code written to process MIME messages."
- Security has been highlighted as one of the leading concerns for developers, according to a recent report published by Cloud Elements.
- The most widely accepted API security authentication is OAuth, unfortunately, "many APIs out there today are relying on Basic Auth (17%), or some custom implementation of API Key & Secret (33%)."
- OAuth enables end users account information "to be used by third-party services without exposing the user's account credentials to the third party."
What Developers Want
- Developers want APIs that are easy to deal with and simple to integrate or install into their digital web and mobile solutions.
- Kevin Kohut, an API expert from Accenture, claims that "developers do not want to be hassled with complex registration processes or have to learn the provider’s business process in order to use APIs."
- The director of API Strategies at MuleSoft, Sumit Sharma, collaborates this by stating, "good APIs are a joy to use, and bad APIs are downright frustrating and annoying."
- Developers also want "RESTful APIs that adhere to standards, usable examples of real use cases for an API, easy discovery of what the APIs do, and a simple monetization model."
- The developer evangelist at Philips Hue, Kevin Toms, stresses that developers are highly attracted to APIs that have proper documentation online, good provision of tools, and provide a proper channel of communication.
- Event-driven integration is an integration that's spurred by an event in one system that triggers a different event in another system.
- The State of API Integration 2018 Survey reveals that developers are highly interested in adopting event-driven integrations.
- The benefit being that developers can "process a large amount of streaming of events that work better and with ease."
- An example of an event-driven integration technology that's gaining momentum with developers as the protocol and pattern of choice for integrating APIs is the WebSockets standard. Eighty-two percent of developers indicate they prefer WebSockets standard, although only 29% of APIs support this technology.
Customizable API Platforms
- A survey of 400 API enthusiasts on API integration reveals that users, including developers, "are also looking for an API that fits their specific needs."
- Therefore, this has increased the need for API mediation as integration can’t be "one size fits all."
- API mediation is a "solution for enriching or personalizing interactions between distributed application and service components."
The research team searched through credible media sites and developer forums for the needs that developers have when they install/integrate an API to their digital web and mobile solutions. However, these sources did not reveal the exact things developers need but provided challenges, advantages, and pain points of installing APIs into web solutions. Additionally, some of these sources discussed, briefly, what developers want when they interact with a provider's API. Hence, the team determined to provide these as helpful insights as triangulation for the needs the developers have when they install APIs.