6 Simple Tips in Designing a User-Friendly API

No matter how well-coded your API may be, it may not see much use if it’s not designed with user-friendliness in mind. This is because new users may not be able to easily engage with the API’s functions or features if it’s not designed to be accommodating to them at the start. This may put them off from adopting the API into their projects, which can be especially true for users who are unfamiliar with your past work or have limited experience with coding in general.

As a developer, you can easily prevent this by keeping usability as a key design principle in all your projects. In fact, there are many tools like those on Stoplight that can help you achieve this. By doing so, you’ll be able to have an easier time creating APIs that can be utilized even by users with limited experience. Moreover, it can also help with increasing your API’s adoption rate.

To help you in this regard, here are some simple tips for you to get inspiration from when designing a user-friendly API.

  1. Test your API thoroughly. One of the steps in making a user friendly API is to ensure that your final product is as finished and as polished as you can make it. This means constantly exposing your API to rigorous testing to see if it works, how well it works, and what can stop it from working. Doing so will contribute to a more positive experience for your users while engaging with your API’s features. Moreover, regular testing also helps you root out the bugs and security flaws that can make adopting your API a hassle. This contributes even more to your API’s user friendliness. So, make sure not to skip out on performing all the tests necessary to get your API ready for public release, along with choosing a comprehensive API testing tool with which to perform those tests.
  2. Design your API to have a clear and singular purpose. As soon as the planning phase of your latest API project begins, try to keep in mind that your API should have a clear and focused design, one that solves a particular problem and nothing else. This makes your API that much easier to define and its purpose clear and understandable, especially to new users.
  3. Invest in having proper API documentation. Another way to make your API as user-friendly as possible is to craft its documentation in such a way that it is comprehensive, detailed, and easy to understand. Having helpful and readable documentation will make your API more welcoming to new users, especially those who may be unfamiliar with your work or even API in general. What’s more, it will also cut down instances of your community constantly filling your inbox with questions about your code.
  4. Provide adequate support. While clear and adequate API documentation can answer many user questions about your code, there will always come a time when someone will have an issue with your code that will require your assistance. As such, it’s best to keep yourself available to provide the technical support that your users need. Sometimes, it may not even be about how your API works, but rather a user finding a part of your documentation unclear or someone trying to report a bug.   
  5. Use widely accepted terminology and technology. When building your API from the ground up, it’s best to employ technologies, terminologies, and naming conventions that have been widely accepted as the standard in the global coding community. Doing so cuts down on any confusion and prevents your users from having to re-learn and memorize a new vocabulary and framework on top of getting accustomed to your API.
  6. Consider making an SDK along with your API documentation. You can also provide an SDK, or Software Developer Kit, alongside API documentation to give users an easier time in adopting your API. An SDK is a contained package that has all the information a developer or user needs to begin using your API in their projects. If your API’s documentation can be considered its user manual, then its SDK is its demo or tutorial video that also supplies your user with their starter toolkit. Providing an SDK can go a long way towards making your API more accommodating to new users.
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Keep your community of users in mind when coding your APIs

When developing an API, it’s easy to get carried away, especially if you believe that your project will benefit the global coding community as a whole. With that said, if you neglect to keep user friendliness in mind when planning and designing your API, it may end up being underutilized due to your new users having too much difficulty in engaging its features. Keep the above-listed tips in mind to help your API more accommodating and inclusive to all users.