What your company doesn't understand about APIs

If you have a website or sell software with a UI, you probably have someone design the user experience. They might be on your staff or you might contract out to an “agency.” If they’re on staff, they’re a vaguely artsy person. They talk about information architecure and user experience. They mention design principles and they’ve read classic books like Don’t Make Me Think. They pull in graphic artists. They might do AB testing and you probably iterate on the wireframes they produce. They might be a little bit hipster. For some reason, that gives them some cred. Why do you do all of this? Because after the second rise of Apple, everyone understands that capital “D” Design matters. It has value. Business value. It makes you stickier and increases the sentiment toward your brand. It improves your bounce rate. It makes it more likely that you’ll have a long term relationship with your customers/readers/whatever. It translates into money and success.

Before the I-Era, bringing up design in a business setting was usually the classic idealist meets realist situation. The realist rolls her eyes. She knows her business is about cutting cost and the bottom line. Spending a little more on elegance and user experience is just another pointless head-in-the-clouds principle. The idealist slinks back to her crappy appartment and works on her art.

But now we live in an era, where even The New York Times knows that bad information design kills people. We know that design with capital D makes bank and makes your brand.

So why the fuck aren’t you doing any of this with your APIs and SDKs?

You know you’re not. And it’s probably because you don’t think of them as UI. But they are. API even has Interface in the name. They have their own UXP. Ask any developer if there are good APIs and bad APIs. They’ll have an opinion.

As the number of APIs and SDKs increase and as the API consumption gets democratized, this will matter more. Do you really think that this area of design doesn’t matter? That it’s just the mental masturbation of overly critical developers?

Are you sure that the design and user experience of your APIs isn’t part of your brand? Developer Experience is important if you want API customers and want your customers to evangelize your product.

If that matters to you, I can recommend two resources to get started. First you should listen to the talk below by the very awesome Pamela Fox. Second, you should read Developer Experience Matters by Mashery’s Rob Zazueta.

Pamela Fox being awesome