How Is an API Developer Portal Different From API Documentation?

An application programming interface (API) is a computing interface that allows different applications to communicate. It determines the types of calls and requests that can be made between systems, how various data formats should be used, standards to follow, and more. APIs can allow your website to communicate directly with websites owned by third parties, for example. They can also allow systems you’re running in your organization to communicate and share data. Integrations like this are a huge part of digital transformation, and more companies are looking to integrate their solutions to make the management of big data easier.

API documentation is essentially creating a user manual that explains the functions of the API and all the tools you’ll need to work with it. Standardized description formats have made it easier to automate the process, so developers can easily create and update descriptions. Documentation is a great resource, and it’s helped increase awareness of APIs and improve adoption rates, but it’s just one of the resources available in an API portal.

What is an API portal?

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An API developer portal is basically a bridge that forms a connection between producers (creators of APIs) and the consumers (developers who work with APIs). The portal lets developers sign up to use APIs and receive all release notes and updates about them. Portals also generate user keys, provide access to the correct users, and provide education about each interface’s functionality and how to integrate with existing systems.

A portal is a kind of like a storefront for APIs. It’s the one-stop-shop where developers can learn about and search for whatever products they need. While API providers’ goal is naturally to sell their products, a great developer portal will offer a way for customers to test an API before buying or signing up for it. Developers are generally used to test products to ensure the systems they’re already running will work with them, and testing allows them to send request calls to each one and record the time to respond and other useful information.

Why Should You Use a Developer Portal?

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The developers’ benefits are pretty clear, and developers can even use FAQ sections and discussion boards to get further assistance from third parties offering APIs. You may be wondering if there are any benefits for providers beyond encouraging adoption. There are several.

Business leaders can use the portal to determine how your APIs are helping your business in each area. They can use this information to reach out to potential partners to showcase how they can help them. Similarly, your marketing department can use the data when speaking to other organizations to showcase the value your interfaces bring. Your technical writers can also improve their documentation by exploring everything available in the portal. Lastly, all of your approved employees should be able to access the developer portal to better understand everything on offer and improve their customer service.

Design Considerations

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Of course, before designing a good developer portal, you’ll need to create APIs worthy of it. These days often involve using REST APIs since they use open standards and aren’t bound to any specific implementation style. Much like starting a business, you’ll need to determine the target audience for your interfaces and come up with ways that they can solve your client’s problems better than existing resources. Once you have your products, you can place them all in one catalog in your portal.

Ultimately, documentation and portals are excellent resources for developers looking for new APIs, but portals have more comprehensive offerings.

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