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Sorry Your API Effort Falls A Little Short For The APIs I Cover

I get a lot of emails from companies asking me to look at their APIs. Too many for a one person operation like me to consider. I have to be picky about the APIs I’m taking a look at, and over time I’ve developed a set of criteria for determining how much energy I will invest in an API. Usually within about 2-3 minutes I can tell if it is an API I will be diving in deeper, or I will just be walking away and moving on with my work.

The first thing that turns me off of an API is that it just isn’t interesting. I’ll land on the page and I can tell what it does, but it just doesn’t interest me. It doesn’t offer any value, or it is in a category that I’m just not eager to be thinking about and showcasing in my work. If an API doesn’t deliver value, and stand out as being interesting beyond the hundreds of other APIs I see each week, I’m just not going to stop and take notice. Sorry, it might be to others–don’t just take my opinion.

The next thing that keeps me from going deeper is I can’t tell what an API does. I’m always amazed at how much head scratching, clicking and reading I will do before I ever figure out what an API does. I’m pretty hard headed, so sometimes its me, but other times I’m just stuck at figuring out what is going on under the hood. Usually after about 3-5 minutes of struggling to understand what is happening, I will just walk away. It is unlikely that other folks will be investing more time than that, and the API will not last long in my experience.

After that, the biggest crime I see companies and organizations make is that they just do not invest enough into a dedicated portal, and the other supporting resources for their API. If someone sends me a link to their API and it is in the help or knowledge base section of their website, I know that they don’t really care about it, and won’t be investing much more into it. APIs shouldn’t be a side project for companies in 2017, they should be front and center, in their own dedicated portal, with a prominent link off the website navigation.

I try to always respond to emails I get from folks letting them know their API efforts fall short of what I’m expecting to see. I feel bad raining on their parade, but the bar is pretty high in 2017. Your API needs to stand out, deliver value, and be something you are investing in. Maybe my response will light the fire under your API operations, and at least get you reading my blog some more, and learning about what other API providers are doing. Then you can take some of what you’ve learned back to your organization and get to work building a first class API operation.