[Video] How to Provide a Great Developer Experience with Your API

  November 10, 2016

“The easier your API is to integrate with, the more likely people are to use it.” This was a simple, but crucial idea that Matt Bernier, Developer Experience Product Manager at SendGrid, presented when speaking on SmartBear’s Expert Panel: Developing an API Strategy for 2017. The panel brought together a number of experts from across the API space to discuss the challenges and opportunities for organizations developing an API strategy. In his role, Matt is responsible for making the life easier for those using the SendGrid API and the different open source projects his team supports. Prior to the expert panel at SmartBear HQ, we had the chance to sit down with Matt to ask him about creating a great developer experience. Watch the video below to see what he had to say:

What actually goes into creating an API that people want to integrate with?

For Matt and his team, this starts right from the planning phase of the API lifecycle: “We have best laid plans, and the second you give it to a customer, you find out how crappy your plans are. For us, with developer experience, it’s about putting whatever we think is a good idea to paper and testing that before we ever commit it to code. Because if we can take that design and show you, the developer, what we’re thinking the first thing you’re going to do is say is “that right there…fix that right there” and it’s going to be the thing we never looked at.”

Listening to your end consumers

From Matt’s perspective, providing a great developer experience to your API’s end users, requires that you actually listen and get feedback from the people using your API. “We’ll actually do the design first and then sit down with that design with a customer and ask what’s your use case? What are you actually trying to do with this endpoint? What are you doing in your business? Why are you doing that? And really try to understand that and let it influence what we’re giving you as the customer. And also, taking that a step further with the libraries we provide and the documentation we provide. Making sure those are meeting the use cases people need within their own business.”

Adopting a developer mindset

By collecting feedback, directly from SendGrid API consumers, Matt and his team aren’t just able to build a better API, they are able to more effectively put themselves in the shoes of the developers using the API. “The biggest thing is to try to think like a developer. Sometimes you have people who have no idea how to think like a developer. We sit down with our customers and we talk to them about what they want to do. And ask why they are doing that thing? And how do they want to integrate with us? And we figure out a best way forward so it works for them and for us.” By taking the time to collect user feedback and adopt a developer mindset, Matt says that his team is able to build a relationship that is critical to the success of their API programs. “It’s really about having that relationship with our customers to make sure we are meeting them where they are instead of making decisions for them. It’s about the developer experience. It’s not just let’s get an API out and figure it out. It’s let’s make sure we get a product out that they want to and can use going forward.” Have additional advice for providing a great developer experience? Share your ideas in the comments below.