Can you check all the boxes?
In December, we shared our thoughts on 2022 API industry trends. In that post, we talked about looking back reflectively to enable moving forward more successfully. We’re now following up, as promised, with a to-do list for your API programs in the new year.
First of all, let’s be clear that we don’t expect you’ll be able to check off every single one of these tasks. It is a list of themes and suggestions for you to pick and choose from to deliver the most value for your API programs in 2023.
These to-dos are organized around our three 2023 overarching API trends: a focus on people, maximizing business value, and a move back to basics. A good approach might be to set one goal from each of the three. Our suggestions are meant to be practical and actionable. Ideally, they will inspire measurable improvements without long-term resource commitments. What can you get done this year?
✅ One: Focus on People
Design thinking starts with empathy, not because it’s a buzzword but because it works. When you begin your design processes with an empathetic view of the people building and using your products, you are positioned to create products they want to use. That, in turn, drives higher customer retention and lower support costs.
It’s not a one-time process, though—getting from empathy to long-term product growth takes time, structure, and effort. While we have plenty of resources to offer if you want to start a complete redesign of your API programs, this to-do list is focused on some smaller ways to improve the developer experience!
- Use new team members to get a fresh perspective. Ask new technical hires to create a “pain points” journal during their first week on the job. This might include installing and setting up your client-side tools, as well as getting started with internal tools. You may identify some obvious areas for improvement.
- Update your documentation. Creating docs that are empathetic to users is a relatively low-cost way to improve the developer experience. Here are a few ideas for improvements::
- Create a customer journey map for someone using your docs for the first time. List the assumptions your current docs make about their knowledge and experience. Identify resources you can create or link to help users who may need more background.
- Use “emotional personas” to highlight content that needs a refresh. Create an ad hoc team of people with different communication and learning styles to discuss how they react to your existing docs and what they would like to see added.
- Use a tool or checklist to screen your docs for exclusionary or biased language. Most commercial tools are optimized for screening job descriptions, but even Google Docs and Microsoft Word have built-in “inclusiveness” checks that can help you get started.
- Hold listening sessions with API customers. These should be information-gathering conversations, not solutions- or sales-focused discussions. Learn as much as you can about how users are experiencing your API products right now. Review the feedback later with an eye towards creating holistic improvements—empathy with one user is an opportunity to make improvements that will help many others, so a quick fix targeting one customer is not the point!
✅ Two: Prioritize Revenue Potential
In our personal lives, we prioritize based on our individual values, such as health, financial security, or time with family. For a business, “value” is typically measured in profitability. Cutting costs may be an important part of that—but supporting new revenue streams may be the most compelling reason to invest in APIs.
In 2023, we’d encourage you to look at your API program as a resource that can feed future growth.
- Invest in product versions that support teams and enterprise-level resource sharing. Professional development teams will pay to use tools they trust.
- Create “retail” API tools. Self-serve products can provide cost-effective access to premium resources and create revenue streams from a new customer base.
- Identify revenue-related data in your APIs. Build enhanced features around this data and ensure you have documentation that highlights profitable use cases.
- Factor in revenue impact. When proposing a new feature or project, include revenue potential in the factors you consider. Recognize that APIs can be revenue generators, not just cost centers or data dumps.
- Showcase your product’s revenue potential. Promote content that includes detailed examples of how your product will contribute to your customer’s bottom line. Technical stories that show the concrete impact of specific features are compelling for developers and executives.
✅ Three: Get Back to Basics
APIs represent cutting-edge technical thinking and rapid innovation, but they also function in and with traditional businesses. Many principles that have shaped the industry for hundreds of years are equally relevant for API-first companies. The themes were going to look at are building resiliency, maintaining a focus on core competencies, managing safety and security, and cultivating healthy collaboration.
As we said above, your API products are produced by people, for people, and the fundamentals of a healthy API program are really about creating a safe, productive environment focused on their needs. Returning to some tried-and-true business basics is a great way to reset for a new year.
Focus on your core competencies:
- Could you generate lists of your most frequently accessed endpoints, most common support search terms, and most-accessed documentation from 2022?
- Are all of these getting some kind of investment in 2023?
- If you are making big investments not related to these core features, do you have a clear justification that relates to your core use cases and features?
Build a safer API workplace:
- Ask your security teams to evaluate patterns of human error that are leading to vulnerability for your API programs. Collaborate to develop education and “safety net” practices to address common problems. (More on API security design here).
- The LastPass incident at the end of 2022 highlighted the importance of robust password-management practices and 2FA. Evaluate your practices and implement a plan to increase password security.
- Audit your vendors and dependencies for vulnerabilities. Ask dev teams to come up with a plan to move to current versions and keep security fixes up to date.
Make Communication Central.
- Look for versions of trusted tools that facilitate collaboration, like Stoplight Teams or Stoplight’s Discussion tools. Remote work can challenge traditional communication models, but there are tools that help.
- As your API programs have grown, your group of stakeholders has changed. Evaluate your processes for collecting feedback to ensure all stakeholders are included.
As the new year starts, don’t feel bad about putting “do it all” plans on hold if you need to. Shoring up the foundation of your API efforts now will give you breathing room and foster success. These steps help position you for more efficient and effective delivery of high-quality APIs anchored in design-first principles. Tackling even some of this to-do list puts you on track for a more robust API program in 2023!