API has been here since the first computer programs were written and it emerged on the web around 2000. Since then, it has evolved largely over the years due to the rapid technological advancements and it now plays a key role in designing new digital channels.
According to analyst Craig Burton, the count of open APIs is expected to reach 30,000 by 2016, while the “dark APIs” may witness a 5 times growth rate of open APIs. There is a great possibility that, in the near future, “everyone and everything [will be] API enabled” according to Burton’s projection.
Because of the immense potential API comes with, many enterprises today focus on creating it to quickly deliver one to the market. However, the reality is that a large number of them are unable to deliver expected business results and fail. The reason is simply the lack of strategy and planning.
Just like building a house needs a blueprint in place, so too do API creation. Until the foundation is strong, needless to say, all your efforts and investments will most likely be in vain. So, in this article, we define seven steps to building an effective API blueprint that will result in success.
Let’s take a look at them.
- Define Your Business Objectives
Every action you do has a reason or objective behind it, right? This holds true for API creation as well.
You need to identify the business needs that could be addressed by APIs. Once you realize the landscape of opportunity, consider how addressing each of these opportunities can have an impact on your business.
Once you’re done with the strategy formulation, the next important step is “why” you want to do it. Define your business objectives by identifying the tangible results you expect to drive by launching the API.
It could be new market penetration, the extension of capability through partners, new revenue sources or channels, or even the introduction of a new product. No matter what objectives you have, make sure it is highly measurable.
- Define Your Business Model
This is the next crucial step. Now that you have defined the business objectives of the API development program, you need to consider how to make money from it or how developers will engage with your API? This is where the business model comes in.
You may want to charge users for using your API or you can make it freely available with direct or indirect monetization opportunities or you can even pay the developers to use it. No matter what your monetization and revenue generation strategy are, you must first define it.
- Design Your API
After defining the API development program objective and business model, it’s time to design the API. This should be done before you start developing the API.
Working on the design before the development phase will reduce the cost and time involved in identifying issues later in the process which might require rework on both the design and the implementation.
The first question you need to ask yourself is who you are designing it for? If it’s for developers, you need to figure out what they expect your API to perform and how they might use it. You should focus on designing an API that will provide a great user experience.
Any minor change in the API after this has been developed can break an application that uses it. So, it is advisable that you should only move to the next step once you’re sure that you’ve nailed the right design.
- Define Your API Usage Policy
After designing the API, the next step is to define policies on how it can be used after deployment. The policies should address the following questions:
- – Who are authorized to use the API?
- – How will users be authorized and authenticated?
- – How much traffic can users consume?
By having a proper API usage policy in place, you can control unauthorized access and limit unnecessary user consumption that may affect API performance based on your custom requirements.
- Focus on Engaging Developers
The success of your API depends on how well you can engage the developers to drive adoption. The best way to do this is by developing and publishing a portal where the developers can find your API.
During the design phase, if you publish the draft API to the developer portal, it can get some much-needed early feedback which will help you produce an impeccable final product. Once the API is developed, it can be published for discovery and use.
Here are a couple of components your developer portal should include:
- – API keys registration process and how to get started
- – Interactive documentation, including the API functionality, data formats, supported verbs and code samples
- – List of error codes and responses
- – Forums and FAQs
- – API status details
- Monitor the API Performance
When an API moves to runtime deployment, it is critically important to identify any issues quickly and monitoring the usage and performance.
The API needs to be monitored at both the operational and the business levels. Metrics, like response time, uptime and API status, can be used for operational monitoring. Yet, API consumption by geography, traffic by API consumer and API consumption by platform are some important business metrics you can implement.
These metrics will help you easily track the progress of your API program and calculate the ROIs so that you can optimize it for the right users if improvement is needed and drive increased usage.
- Measure the API Impact
You can have a good strategy in place, have a compelling design, have a security system and monitoring metrics in place, but if you do not measure or review the success of your API program, you will never know if you’re on the right path.
This should not be a technical analysis. It should rather be a review of whether the objectives and goals of the API development program have been met.
This will help you to identify whether the user adoption you expected is met and whether the adoption is driving the revenue you expected. If the current API performance doesn’t satisfy your objectives, then you may need to rework or adjust your API accordingly so you need to continually review your API to ensure it still serves your business needs.
So, do you plan to develop an API? What does your blueprint look like? Have you addressed the aforementioned points in your API development program? Would you like to add any other important point here? Please leave your comments and questions if any below and thanks for reading!