What is an API Portal and How Does It Create Value for Your Company?

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by Jack Kelly|Vice President of Business Development

Business awareness of the value of an API developer community and the contribution of their API portals to fostering that community is growing. A well-designed API portal doesn't just provide a gateway to a company's API. It also offers an opportunity to attract and build a community around these offerings by aggregating documentation, SDKs, an environment for testing and exploring, search capabilities, and more into one convenient place. 
 

Developers have grown past simple task-based workflows, closing support tickets and adding features requests. They are now a source of business insight and value-add to the entire organization. When developers have access to the tools they need to innovate, an API can spark creativity and innovation beyond what may have originally been envisioned. 
 

API portals form part of the required innovation toolset. However, many organizations currently struggle to gather enough exposure for their portals or to get buy-in among their internal development teams. Attracting internal developers may seem like less work than reaching public API developers you know little about or partner APIs, but the fact is that many of the same principles apply. In this article, we’ll delve into what an API portal is, what it can do to help nurture a community of developers, and how to figure out if you need an API portal.

What is a API Portal?

An API portal is a part of the experience API consumers will have as they explore and utilize your organization’s API offerings. Some of these offerings are gated, especially in regulated industries with portals targeting internal developers; while others are publicly available for a wider developer community to interact with.

At a basic level, portals provide a single and manageable place for API reference documentation, sample code, and SDKs. Consolidating these features into one access point simplifies the organization of API products and enables easier version management. Recommended use cases for APIs can be documented and highlighted, and faceted search with filtering and hierarchical categorization of API assets can be provided through cataloging.

Portals also provide API exploration and environments for developers to start testing and experimenting and to make mock API calls through a sandbox functionality. Limited endpoints that don’t require credentials can be offered to avoid friction caused by authentication as developers explore integrating resources into their client code.

Advanced analytics and easy visualization of key metrics, such as status pages showing performance and up time of the various API offerings, are common features. Advanced registration workflows, and tools to allow for tiered access and API product groupings, can be provided. And future planning can allow the portal to provide access for purchasing API products and packages tailored for different levels of functionality and traffic overhead.

API Portal Benefits

A well-designed portal should drive awareness and understanding of your company’s API offerings. Developers should find easy access to information that answers what the API is designed to do and the business assets it exposes, the terms for using it, how they can get started with using the API, and the benefits of doing so.

On-Boarding New Developers

Developers new to your API offerings need on-boarding, either through a well thought out and organized process or by having the burden placed on them to discover the information they need to use the resources. Portals can simplify the onboarding of internal and external API customers and remove that burden from prospective users. 

Documentation and Playgrounds for Developers

Copy-and-paste working code examples, easy-to-try code sandboxes, and detailed guides give developers instant gratification in their quest to build their own innovative products. Chatbots can be provided  to provide conversational API documentation, and integrate with work environments like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Community Building

Portals can function as innovation hubs that help developers discuss their ideas and provide easy ways for developers to get in touch with the API team. They can include app galleries to showcase creations built off of the offered APIs. Knowledge bases and discussion forums are common components included in a portal. And they allow Increased engagement with your developer community through regular communication and new offerings highlighted where they’re likely to be seen.

An effective portal provides a great developer experience that conveys a company’s true value proposition for all API customers. It does this by recognizing what developer needs are, why they choose to use or reject a particular offering, and creating a central, easy-to-manage place to meet those needs and highlight the reasons why your API offerings solve real problems for developers.

API Portal Examples

Allstate Roadside Services introduced a new acronym to the world in 2017 with the release of their Rescue as a Service (RaaS) API. Developers can access the RaaS API through their own products to request roadside assistance (e.g. Tow, Tire-change, Lockout, Fuel) and track the real-time status/location of the rescuer, and provides a monetization model for developers (memberships and per-use costs).

Allstate chose to deploy a state of the art API portal based on the Drupal content platform, Google Cloud Apigee’s API management platform, and Pantheon WebOps hosting. Allstate has surveyed over four hundred developers on their experience with the platform, and believes that they have built an industry best of class API portal experience, closely aligned with its overall API offerings program. Allstate now offers over twenty Roadside applications consuming the Rescue API as white labeled products available to partners.

How to Know If You Need an API Portal

An API portal is a good solution if your organization has these challenges:

  • Internal developers are often struggling with manual approval processes, missing documentation, and potential security risks.
  • Separate internal departments each building their own API that provide the same function.
  • A number of smaller data sets that could be combined to limit the need for multiple authentication keys to be managed.
  • Managing security updates and version control of API offerings.
  • If you are making significant investment in research, development, and staffing to support API customers, both internal and external.

What Type of API Portal is Right for Your Organization?

There are a lot of decisions to be made when deciding how to best construct your API portal. Whether it be focused on your internal team or external partners and customers, taking the time to understand not only the needs of your organization but also the necessary features, security and platforms available must be considered. 

A great first step is to check out our Developer Portal Buyer’s Guide that will walk you through The Developer Portal buyer’s guide will ensure you are asking the right questions and considering the right requirements. This Buyer’s Guide is the product of over 100 API projects across multiple industries and will provide clarity on how to maximize API adoption for your company.

Topics discussed include:

  • API Strategy
  • Security
  • Single Sign On (SSO)
  • Governance
  • User Experience
  • API Documentation
  • Monitoring and Reporting
  • And more…

Ease of access for developers with great documentation and easily accessible help from inside the organization and user community will help you create the growth and innovation necessary to move your API first digital transformation forward. 

Accelerate Your API Program with APIBoost

APIBoost is an advanced full-feature API portal platform that is ready to be tailored to your needs. It’s the foundation for a great API portal, helping devs reach your API easily and get started quick and easy. APIBoost offers powerful formatting and presentation for your API documentation, a Try it Out developer sandbox, and flexible zones for marketing messaging. APIBoost supports API management integrations and is Google Apigee ready out of the box. The platform supports multiple API documentation formats including WSDL, manual documentation uploads, and an easy to use admin area for managing both large and small offerings.

Learn how APIBoost can help you.

 

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