In 1994, it was considered a radical change to propose permitting self-service at the gas pumps in Japan, and the New York Times reported that “the push… (came) from Japanese big business… trying to cut costs.”
Twenty-five years down the line, self-service is a game-changer and it’s not limited to gas-pumps. It’s everywhere. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) in the banking world have revolutionized how people withdraw and deposit funds. Customers use shopping carts in the store, placing the items they want to buy into the cart and then proceeding to the checkout counter/aisles. Or at buffet-style restaurants, where customers serve their own plates of food from a large, central selection. With a cloud platform, developers can now self-service the IT infrastructure without following a lengthy process.
Self-service is easy to use as it eliminates the middleman
I have a friend named David. He is a very intelligent, enthusiastic and hardworking team player. One day he had a brilliant idea. He shared his idea with the Product Owner. The Product Owner was impressed as he can see the potential of the idea. The Product Owner asked David to do the small POC to showcase the value to the business.
Initially, David estimated two days of work as the data he requires was exposed by a government agency in the form API, and that’s the beginning of David’s journey. David went to the government agency site to get the information on the API. He found a document related to the API, but it was unstructured and did not provide sufficient information about the API. After spending a couple of hours, he understood a little about it. He wanted to play with the API to see whether it met the requirements, but the agency site could not run any test with sample requests and responses.
To test this API, he needed API Keys and he found a link to another 15-page document about the process to request a key. He followed the document and requested the API Keys. Because of poor documentation and lengthy onboarding process, he already wasted so much time and was frustrated. He waited for some time and received an email from the agency.
“Thanks for sending a request for API Keys. Because of a large volume of requests, we may take up to 10 days to generate an API Key.”
READ MORE: Learn how to protect your API Keys.
On the sixth day (after the above email), he received an API Key from the agency. He started testing a sample message against the sandbox, but it was not working. He tried many times but no luck. He raised a case with the support team about the issue. The support team replied to him after three days and said, “The documentation on the website is not up to date and here is the latest document attached to the email. Apologies for the inconvenience caused.” Finally, on the 10th day, he got all the information to test the API, but his morale was down and he was less enthusiastic, less motivated and more frustrated.
How can we help developers create a productive ecosystem? How can developers get the right information which is easy to understand and to the point? How can you enable self-service? How can we make sure the information is always up to date means the documentation is a true reflection of running service? The answer to all these questions is “API Portal.”
An API Portal is a one-stop-shop where developers can find all the information and bridge the gap between API Consumer and API Provider.
With the API Portal, API Consumers can browse, consume, build and test APIs for their application. It gives self-service capabilities that enable developers to self-register the application that uses the APIs and obtains API Key or OAuth or external credentials for their applications.
API Providers can also share training materials like tutorials and how-to, FAQs, articles, forums or blogs not just limited to text but also include multimedia content. And it’s useful to provide an API sandbox so that potential consumers can make sample requests and view responses.
An API Portal should provide an easy onboarding process. There might be different processes based on a different type of API — for example, it may be as simple as signing up using social logins, or it may involve a more complex account creation process involving an approval hierarchy and system updates. In either case, the API Portal should either provide or integrate with a workflow system that can be used to implement different processes for consumer onboarding.
An API Catalog is a key feature that describes what APIs are registered and available for consumption. Application developers can browse these APIs and their associated documentation, and invoke APIs using the built-in test capability.
An API Portal should also describe an API lifecycle information identifying Deprecation policy, Release schedules, Migration processes, Versioning methodology, latest test results, etc. Most of the enterprises use multi-cloud/hybrid deployment architecture which means APIs are hosted on different cloud platforms or some on cloud and some on-premises. It would be great if the API Portal provides a holistic view and shows all the APIs in one place.
To increase ROI from an API, reusability and API adoptions are key driving factors. Adoption and reusability can be achieved by providing quality, consistent customer service to API consumers. API Providers can improve the developer experience by providing many self-service options, should make API performance transparent. Listening to the API heartbeat with real-time monitoring, current API usage, a number of subscribers, average response time, and other insights can act as a huge confidence boost to API Developer.
A poorly designed and implemented portal can be tremendously irritating and may frustrate the developer and could damage the brand image. So, it’s very vital to choose the right API Portal.
In today’s world, experience matters a lot. When we talk about the experience, it’s not only for the customer but also for employees or developers. A better developer experience leads to the innovation of new products/features. So, first impress, delight and nurture your developers (internal and external) which makes them more satisfied, creative, productive and efficient. Ultimately, HAPPY DEVELOPERS makes HAPPY CUSTOMERS.
Read how API Portals fosters engagement and innovation.
- Andrew Pollack (July 14, 1994). “Japan’s Radical Plan: Self-Serve Gas”. NYTimes.com.