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API documentation

High-quality API documentation

High-quality API documentation gives developers confidence in the API, the service and the brand, whether they are just considering the API or actually trying to use it.

By understanding what the API can do, developers use more functionality and get more from adopting the service.

Providing clear, accurate and useful API documentation, and making it easy to find, can be one of the most powerful ways to promote an API.

Software developer help

Complete and accurate documentation can be the most important factor for developers when using an API. It is often considered more important than service availability or response time. So if developers don’t know what an API can do, or how to use it correctly, it doesn’t matter how great the service is, it’s going to be too tough to implement.

API documentation is the ‘Marketing’ for an API

If the API is a key part of a product strategy rather than just a feature, the most effective way to promote the API to the people who will be using it – the developers – is to provide clear, accurate and useful documentation.

API documentation supports successful adoption of an API

APIs can have a steep learning curve. In addition, getting to grips with the basic concepts of an API quickly so the developer can then start exploring the API is essential to its successful adoption. High-quality API documentation supports developers through this initial phase, thereby supporting successful adoption of the API.

Freemium and other tiered pricing models are typically the most popular ways of charging for APIs. Getting developers over the initial learning curve builds confidence in the services and commitment to pay.

By understanding the full capability of the API, developers use more functionality and therefore further increase adoption of the service.

What does high-quality API documentation look like?

Developers are consumers too, and like consumers they appreciate simple, well-designed, and easy-to-use products.

Developers expect to be able to find the information they need to get things done, and they often have the API documentation open all day as a reference. Therefore the most useful format is likely to be clearly structured and searchable web pages, that are efficiently updated and maintained.

When 3di helps create and improve API documentation, some of our considerations are:

  • Getting started – provide the details and concepts necessary for a developer to get up and running, and in a position to start exploring and solving problems.
  • Reference – this is the detailed list of the functions of the API and might include the end points, parameters, error codes, and code examples.
  • Tutorials – these are instructions on achieving specific tasks within the service.
  • Examples – help the developers imagine scenarios that get the best from the service, and bridge the gap between conceptual possibilities and real-world applications.
  • Relationships with other content – how to ensure you can efficiently reuse and maintain the wider set of content about your product.
  • Security – how to balance making the API documentation support your marketing and keeping commercially sensitive content secure.

How 3di can help you

We combine the principles of efficient software development with our experience of making complex information clear. In practice, this means we establish some consistent frameworks, focus on the most important content, and ensure that the ability to create clear and accurate content becomes easy for both in-house and outsourced resources.

In summary, 3di help you ensure that you have the tools, processes and dedicated resource to produce and maintain high-quality API documentation:

  • Information design to ensure efficiency is built in to the process
  • Content creation to take the pressure off your resources
  • Content distribution to ensure developers have easy access to the information they need
  • Continuous improvement with 3di’s commitment to innovation
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