Visible APIs get reused, not reinvented

  April 04, 2023

SmartBear API Technical Evangelist Frank Kilcommins dropped by the Stack Overflow Podcast to talk about all about the API lifecycle and how API specifications can help developers understand your APIs. Read on to learn more about what he touched on during his visit.  

APIs fuel innovation in every industry and provide everyone access to new capabilities. However, that doesn’t mean you can throw an API out there and expect it to succeed. Visibility is critical for any API to be successful – but how do you make sure your API is visible?  

Focus on good API design 

API consumers want to benefit from quickly finding and discovering APIs, and API providers need to create a portfolio for them to browse and interact with. Consumers of these APIs can be developers, product managers, or even business analysts.  

This process sounds simple but has proven to be a challenge across all of these personas. API providers must focus on the API design, ensuring it’s usable and accessible. The experience of onboarding to get access to the API and exploring the surface area is also crucial. Once an API consumer finds and interacts with an API, they instantly want to understand its value and limitations. Is the API easy to use? Does the API meet their business requirements? Is it easier to build themselves? 

If the API is quickly and easily evaluated, the API consumer will observe that integrating pre-built APIs will accelerate their software development lifecycle, save time and resources, and limit errors.  

Improve discoverability 

Adopting a design-first approach when delivering APIs allows developers to use the specifications that are already out there and assert the quality of the API.  

To do this, leveraging tools that understand common specifications that are out there, like SmartBear’s SwaggerHub, can unlock a standardized style guide for how your APIs should be represented during the design process. From there, teams can start building a catalog of APIs to make it easy to discover based on different attributes and business value offerings.  

This will ensure that they’re going to be used across the organization. If an API is not used, then it's not bringing any value. And if it's not bringing any value, it's useless.   

Understand the importance of the API 

When looking at the API lifecycle as a whole, it is important to understand the strategic vision within the organization for what problem is being solved with building certain APIs.  

You take that problem into the ideation phase, bring it into a design, and collaborate to gain feedback on whether the API solves the original business need. Again, working with a tool like SwaggerHub allows teams to collaborate on the API design with different stakeholders, using different specifications (Swagger, OpenAPI, AsyncAPI). 

 The output of the collaborative effort unlocks other teams to start their work on developing the API, testing it, and eventually deploying it.  

API exploration 

Once an API is deployed, API providers want users to find its value, and API consumers want to discover valuable APIs. To understand the API value, users need a tool that is focused on exploring without friction. 

SmartBear’s new tool, SwaggerHub Explore, immediately visualizes API data to understand the capabilities and limitations the API offers all in one place, before investing in API integration. The new free tool supports multi-protocol APIs, including Kafka-oriented event-driven endpoints and Restful APIs. 

To use the API most effectively, you must understand how the API behaves. SwaggerHub Explore is an easy-to-use interface that will instantly provide value to your API toolkit. 

The bottom line

API discovery and exploration is a process that takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. As you work to create an API economy in your organization, you need to be able to find, explore, and manage APIs across their lifecycle. This will help ensure they’re successful and can deliver value to users on both sides of the equation: developers who want access to new services and operators who need data feeds from across their organization or industry sector.  

Listen to the episode to hear more of what Frank had to say: 

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