I sign up for a lot of APIs, and when I encounter a frictionless on-boarding process, I feel the need to showcase, and help everyone understand how important it is to make the process as easy as possible. I'm still amazed at how many new APIs make this really, really hard. I will write a separate story after this about how not to on-board with an API, but for now lets take a look at a kick-ass example.
This example comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 3D Print Exchange API. When it comes to signing up for API access, the only thing that can make this easier is providing an API for the process, but for right from the home page you can signup for an API key.
Once I provide my first name, last name, email, and optionally some details on how I will use the APIs, I am given my API key. I don’t have to click again to find my API key, and I’m given an example API call, complete with my API key.
My first click gives me the instant gratification I am looking for via a simple API call, resulting in an example JSON response. I do not have to work to find my key or figure out how to make my first API call, it is all given to me immediately.
I'm up and running with the NIH 3D Print Exchange API in two clicks. I don't have to fill out a long form, wait for access, or work to find my keys, and fumble with how to make my first API call. To reenforce this, I look in my email inbox, and there is an email providing my API keys again, along with the link to make my first API call.
Like I said above, the only thing that would make that easier, is for all of this to be a series of API calls, which would make the on-boarding process programmatic. Eventually I could see this being essential, but for now I'm happy to see them not only standardizing API on-boarding across federal agencies, but making it as dead simple as you possibly can.
I'm a big fan of frictionless API on-boarding, and I applaud NIH and 18F for their work on the NIH 3D Print Exchange API. I will keep an eye on future releases, for more stories on healthy patterns I'm seeing in API deployment in the federal government.
Update: I'm aware I left my keys in these pics, it was easier to reset them, then to blurr them out, and I think it helps with point. ;-)