"Words are super powerful, and APIs are the most stripped-down-to-just-words thing you can have. It's a collection of structured words that many will use and consume. So, you want to make sure they're inclusive and correct,"
—Shanae Chapman, Founder of Nerdy Diva.
This week on the API Intersection podcast, we spoke with Shanae Chapman, senior UX researcher at HashiCorp and founder of Nerdy Diva, which focuses on inclusive design and empowering the next generation of designers and developers with knowledge and resources to succeed in a technology career and make for a long-lasting, community impact.
When it comes to creating a more inclusive API program, Shanae stresses that you should "start with the highest impact, high-priority, high-traffic systems and tools first and then work your way down. It takes time, so have grace with yourself and your teams. As long as you are making progress towards a goal, it matters in the end."
1. Including Inclusive Language in your Development & Documentation
"Some of the terms that I include in the Designing Anti-racism workshop are the terms blacklists, whitelists, masters, and slaves. We see those terms all the time when we talk about dependencies … and especially with APIs integrating different systems," shares Shanae.
One of the ways Shanae encourages developer teams to create a better system of inclusion is by ensuring that they are utilizing inclusive language throughout the API development and documentation process. Understand what outdated programming terms may be hiding within your API program and updating them will help create a more inclusive culture for your external consumers and your internal developers. For more tips on inclusive documentation, check out our recent blog.
"I encourage people who come to our workshops to consider how those terms impact your teams and end-users who consume your documentation, style guides, and code. Understand what that says about your business and your values," shares Shanae. Shanae's team is currently working on an inclusive tech glossary of terms that can be used as a resource for program leaders looking to advance their programs. We will share that resource when it becomes available.
2. Creating More Accessible Designs
"Checking the color contrast is a good starting point. Some online checkers from the Work Consortium of Accessibility Guidelines have some free checkers you can use to see if you're creating accessible designs," shares Shanae.
Creating accessible designs is another way to have a more inclusive API program that will stand the test of time. Always include an additional round of checks to understand your API text, ensure there is alt text on all images, and that the colors used include those with a visual or color impairment.
"Also, in some of the designer tools, such as Sketch, there are some plugins that you can add to have some accessibility checking of your text, backgrounds, and design systems. Hopefully, you're also collaborating with your development team on your designs as well for a final accessibility check," shares Shanae.
3. Following Relevant API Inclusivity Leaders
"I would also suggest following some of the leaders in this space who are doing anti-racism and diversity, equity, inclusion, work and technology on LinkedIn," shares Shanae.
When in doubt, learn and absorb from the rest of the developer community and the technology leaders, paving the way towards a more inclusive tomorrow.
Two of Shanae's favorite leaders in the space that she recommends are Annie-Jane Baptiste, a head of product, inclusion, & equity at Google, and Madison Butler, Chief People Officer at Grav. And of course, following and subscribing to the Nerdy Diva newsletter is another great way to consume additional resources on creating a more inclusive tech culture.
There are also great insights on this topic from a variety of global experts in the space in our latest ebook, "The API Roadmap: Secrets to Strategy Success from Industry Leaders" (see Chapter 7 on the Finding Business Success chapter for more inclusivity tips).
"Just being in the community of the folks who care about this work just to get some of that information and that influence and that can be a way to keep the conversation going. And note, this entire process is more of a marathon than a sprint!" shares Shanae.
This is an important topic and one that we want to ensure we get right as our own company continues to grow. As you start to craft the foundational aspects of your API program, please apply these tips to make sure it's an inclusive one. As always, subscribe to the API Design blog or our podcast for more insights.