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Why You Need To Focus on Improving Your API Docs

Whether they realize it or not, these days every company is a technology company. Companies that embrace this can offer developers opportunities to connect and interact with their services through public APIs. For teams building developer tools, accessible and easy to use APIs should be a core part of their business.

Successful developer-focused companies make it easy to build on their services, and engage directly with developer communities to continuously improve and innovate. A key first step is to build out robust developer documentation. Sites packed with helpful content like quick start guides, code examples, tutorials, and coding playgrounds. For those companies with the best developer experience, these will be part of a larger developer portal.

API documentation as a cornerstone of growth

Good developer documentation can attract and help onboard new developers onto your platform, and it can also serve as a vital part of customer acquisition and conversion.

Think about the top three audiences using your documentation:

Sales

For potential customers, approachable API docs help developers imagine implementation. The docs provide a reference to how your service works and how it can help them. It also offers a valuable resource for your sales team to get prospects to convert.

New developers to your platform

Nearly all first-time users of an API rely on docs to get started. If the docs aren’t useful, it’s unlikely they’ll reach out. On the other hand, if they are able to utilize your API on their own, you have a chance to convert them into paying customers.

Troubleshooting

When developers get stuck, good documentation can help them get back to building on top of your platform. Great docs are a pillar of reducing customer churn.

How much time will a developer spend evaluating an API?

Not long, developers give up on an API with mediocre documentation almost immediately. You have to grab their attention and walk them through the first steps in just a few short minutes. Ori Pekelman, in his 3:30:3 rule of APIs, stresses the need to get new developers onboarded quickly or lose them to another solution.

Pekelman’s API 3:30:3 rule states you only get:
  • 3 seconds for a developer to understand the purpose of your  API from your homepage

  • 30 seconds to identify an entry point

  • 3 minutes to create an account, call the system, and use the result

Be careful. You will lose potential customers if you’re unable to get new developers smoothly through these steps. Recognize the impact your API documentation has on your company’s success and communicate their importance. Everyone on your team should consider good documentation a critical part of driving sales and onboarding new customers.


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Brennan Angel headshot
by Brennan Angel

September 21, 2018