• Ron Huber

API Adoption: Your Guide to Winning in the API Economy


api portal adoption

Traditional developer portals act as single points of access for developers looking to use an organization's API offerings. But modern-day developer portals, which are now commonly referred to as API portals, need to do so much more.

According to Gartner®, “API portals ensure that developers can discover and use your APIs, but often fail to drive API adoption due to poor developer experience. Application leaders should deliver separate targeted internal and external API portals to enable optimal developer experience and adaptive governance.”

The proposed solution by Gartner? To build API Portals That Drive API Adoption Among Internal and External Developer Communities.

Building a robust API portal from scratch is difficult and time-consuming. Today, platforms like Apiboost have made standing up professional and inviting portals at cloud speed a cinch. But launching and marketing an API portal to third parties can still be a daunting process.

In this article, you will learn about the importance of promoting API adoption, the key obstacles that organizations need to consider, and how to increase their active user base.

Why Is Increasing API Adoption Important?

API adoption is an umbrella term that gauges how users engage with your API assets, from the number of active API consumers to how often they interact with your API ecosystem.

In the early days of APIs, businesses were hesitant to use them until they were widely adopted, but today APIs account for 80% of all Web traffic.

APIs play a pivotal role in creating new products and services by enabling collaboration between companies.

Ensuring high API adoption rates is important because APIs have no intrinsic business value if no one is using them, pushing companies to focus on improving their API adoption rates to win and retain an active user base.

Taking advantage of the booming API economy requires developing a solid API adoption strategy, which brings us to defining the benchmarks to measure your performance against empirically.

Read More: What is API Management: Your Guide to What You Need to Know

5 Ways to Boost API Adoption

An API portal is a linchpin that ensures high API adoption rates, providing a single point of access to all APIs and an ecosystem for users to interact with your APIs.

API portals can help you drastically boost your adoption rates in many ways. Below, we cover all of them.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to API Portals in 2022

1. Remember That Modern API Portals Aren’t Just for Developers

With digital transformation on the agenda of every forward-thinking brand, the role of the API portal has changed. Gone are the days of API portals housing code and documentation for developer eyes only.

With the growth in usage of APIs and the API-first methodology taking root, particularly at the enterprise level, developer portals have morphed into API portals. These modern platforms act as a way for businesses to drive innovation, revenue, and collaboration among developers as well as other stakeholders.

In fact, what we’re seeing is a rise in citizen developers working on APIs to become products that serve developers, marketers, and C-suite players alike. This is in line with Gartner guidance to software engineer leaders on productizing APIs.

In their report, ‘Top 10 Aspects Software Engineering Leaders Need to Know About APIs’, Gartner Analysts Shameen Pillai and Mark O'Neill advise software engineering leaders to, “treat APIs as products by creating the role of an API product manager to promote a consumer-centric product mindset for APIs”. [Also,] Software Engineering Leaders should “improve the visibility, roadmap, and interoperability of APIs by managing the life cycle of APIs.

With this trend in mind, be sure to offer features that will entice developers, as well as their non-technical colleagues.

2. Take Content Marketing Seriously

Technical documentation lives at the core of an API portal, and producing good docs is a strength of many IT organizations. For example, Divio, an open-source company that maintains the Django web application framework, has compiled a best practices guide that's seen wide adoption across the industry.

Divio’s "grand unified theory of documentation" holds that your docs should cover four different use cases: tutorials (learning-oriented), how-to guides (problem-oriented), explanatory (understanding-oriented), and reference (information-oriented).

While great technical docs are fundamental to retaining devs interested in your product offerings, effective portal promotion requires exploring other ways to reach the developer community. And developers can be a struggle to connect with, they can smell marketing-speak from a mile away and are typically turned off by marketing content.

But content marketing is still a highly effective strategy to reach developers. The secret is to reach them where they stand.

Developers work in a rapidly changing professional environment that can be exhausting for them to keep up with. Help them with content that includes what people are doing with your APIs or your technology. Write case studies, mention success stories, and interview developers who are using your technology.

Developers spend a lot of time reading, and respond well to video series and podcasts that allow them to take a break when the content is relative to trending topics, news, and interesting questions. Just make sure your dev portal is a side dish in your content to avoid a promotional tone.

Plus, traditional content marketing techniques like reaching out to publishers and newsletters in relevant spaces and offering to write content for free, or asking about sponsorship opportunities are often effective strategies to reach developers.

3. Build and Promote Your API Ecosystem—Not Just Your Portal

An API portal is a key part of your organizational infrastructure, but it shouldn’t be your final goal. Instead, focus on building and promoting your API ecosystem. APIs should be classed as products that can be promoted to consumers along with the capabilities of the enterprise, eventually creating a larger API ecosystem.

In today’s digital world, no organization can build every aspect of its platform or service on its own. Instead, they rely on third-party APIs to help fill the gaps. An API ecosystem encourages collaboration, providing value for both internal and external resources. This helps foster community growth, which leads to further creativity and innovation.

An API portal should provide documentation and tools that make promotion even easier, attracting organizations to the ecosystem, rather than having to constantly promote. It’s important that organizations also use an outside-in approach to build an ecosystem by looking for ways to solve business needs, understanding what the market wants, and building APIs to fulfill that demand, rather than simply building APIs that offer little to no value.

4. Don’t Forget About Developers!

Developers consume massive volumes of information in their day-to-day work routine. Much of the time, these developers don't know what they need to know before they encounter it and so rely heavily on websites that are good at surfacing new techniques, products, and workflows while helping them separate the grain from the chaff.

If done right, these niche channels can pay huge dividends:

  • Reddit: Dev-focused Reddit subs are bustling with developers looking to explore new technologies and APIs. The /r/webdev subreddit alone has some 750,000 subscribers. Reddit's algorithm promotes posts based on their engage - number of responses and upvotes. Promotional posts are often downvoted out of view, so focus on engaging in conversation, adding insights, and telling stories along with dev-focused articles as your top-level posts.

  • Quora: A channel like Quora can be an effective place to get the word out. Answer relevant questions thoughtfully and in-depth with a link to your portal, and you'll stand out from the torrent of low-value promotional answers on the platform.

  • Product Hunt: When your API portal is ready to launch, adding your site to ProductHunt can help gain mindshare and visibility. You only get one chance, so do your research first.

  • Directories: API directories are lists of publicly-available APIs with search features to help developers discover resources. It's worth taking the time to list your offerings on directories like ProgrammableWeb, RapidAPI, and APIs.io.

  • Catalogs: Catalog sites like Rakuten RapidAPI are similar to API directories and provide additional tooling for devs to work with service offerings like testing and monitoring.

5. Leverage Social Media

Twitter is incredibly popular with developers because its short-form content makes it easy to scan a large volume of information and engage with others working on similar problems. The platform also has an incredibly vibrant developer advocate community. And while developers will follow a company page, they interact with people. However, a high follower count isn't necessary to use the platform effectively.

Just be a part of relevant discussions, easily surfaced through following relevant hashtags. Research the hashtags that are relevant to your portal, set up alerts for them, and use them to start discussions.

LinkedIn is an important channel to ensure that your portal is discoverable (via its profile), but building a following or using sponsored postings are important to get your message out on this platform to developers. New feature announcements, beta programs, and links to quality dev-focused content are good choices for sharing on your LinkedIn channel.

Reusing your video content on YouTube, or making it your primary distribution channel for video content, is a great way to reach developers. While most general channels fare better on the platform with fewer channels and more attention, dev-focused video content should be organized by topic in separate channels, preferably in sequence to encourage developers to keep watching and engaging. You can also make it easy for them to share your best content on other platforms.

6. Host, Attend, or Sponsor an Event

Developers typically love webinars and tech conferences because they offer the opportunity to interact and connect with others in the industry. The pandemic has made hosting virtual meetups truly normal. Writing code can be an isolating experience at times, and the opportunity to engage professionally with others in a social atmosphere is appealing.

Tech conferences range from small to huge and often offer opportunities to speak or for sponsorship. Meetup now allows virtual meetups and can be used for recurrent get-togethers centered around a relevant technology or industry. Webinars offer another effective tool to educate potential users about how your product works and your unique value proposition in a friendly and laid-back setting.

What Are the Key Metrics to Measure API Adoption?

It's essential to measure API adoption to identify patterns in usage and areas of improvement.

We're going to zero in on the most critical metrics you can use to measure API adoption to help you always stay focused on the things that truly move the needle.

1. Active Users

How many API consumers use your API over a certain period?

Keeping track of that number helps you gauge the size of your user base and get a better idea of the business value your API assets generate for your organization.

You can measure active users by tracking how many users make requests to the API daily, weekly, and monthly to identify a general trend.

2. New User Registrations

This metric tracks how many people sign up to use your API over a given period.

Measuring the number of new user registrations provides insight into how rapidly your user base is growing and how effective your marketing campaigns truly are.

You can track this metric by looking at the number of people who sign up to use your API ecosystem daily, weekly, and monthly.

3. The Number of API Calls

The number of API calls is a crucial metric that can measure API adoption, providing insight into the engagement levels and helping you plan and predict the growing needs of your user base.

You can track the number of API calls by monitoring the number of requests that are made to the API over a certain period.

4. Time to First Hello World (TTFHW)

Time to first hello world is a metric that measures the time it took for a new API consumer to sign up, go through the onboarding process, read the instructions needed to understand how your API works, and execute their first API call.

This metric measures how quickly developers start using the API and can help you identify where the onboarding process or API documentation needs improvement.

Track this metric to understand how easy it is to use the API and gauge the success of your API adoption.

You can measure this metric by calculating the time from the moment the user enters your API ecosystem to when they make their first API call.

Read More: Types of APIs Explained - How Are They Different?

What Are the Most Common API Adoption Challenges

By understanding the most common challenges related to API adoption, you can take proactive steps to overcome these obstacles that hinder the growth of your API program.

1. Regulatory Compliance & Industry Standards

API compliance means ensuring that an API meets the requirements specified by the relevant governing institution or other regulatory entity.

These requirements may include industry-specific laws, such as HIPPA for the healthcare industry, or general regulations such as GDPR and CCPA to protect data privacy.

Regulatory non-compliance can significantly hurt the organization, leading to a wast range of negative consequences - from fines to reputational losses.

API compliance issues reduce your API adoption rates by deterring organizations from partnering with you because the failure to comply with regulations creates an additional layer of business risks for all stakeholders.

2. Security

With Gartner projecting APIs to become the primary attack vector in 2022, implementing security measures and policies across all of your APIs is vital.

API security measures protect your data from being accessed and modified by cyber attackers that can use the loopholes in your security policies to reach a malicious goal.

API users have become increasingly aware of the security risks associated with API use as massive data breaches make headlines every year.

If your API isn't secure enough, users may be reluctant to use it, which, in turn, limits API adoption rates.

3. Access Control

Granular access control is also critical for security and scalability - you want to authorize access to specific data or functionalities based on the permissions granted to a given user.

This is especially important as your API ecosystem grows and starts interacting with many different teams.

Without advanced access controls in place, your API adoption rates are likely to suffer as your APIs won't be able to meet the needs of a large segment of your user base, especially enterprise clients with complex organizational structures and cross-departmental relationships.

4. Business Agility

APIs need to maintain a balance between enforcing compliance standards and security measures and being user-friendly for API technical and non-technical consumers alike.

With the rise of citizen development, the rapidly growing trend of getting business units involved in API product development, it’s essential to provide non-IT users with the ecosystem they need to create API products and use APIs as part of their workflows with little to coding skills.

According to Gartner, the number of active citizen developers in large enterprises will be four times greater than the number of IT professionals by 2023.

Those who fail to adapt to this significant shift in the API economy may have lower API adoption rates and miss out on substantial market opportunities in the near future.

Read More: How Citizen Developers Will Impact the API Marketplace in 2022 and Beyond

Apiboost: An Enterprise API Portal Platform Primed for API Monetization

Focusing on organic engagement with the wider development community and including developer-focused content marketing in your efforts is an effective way to grow the user base of your API offering.

By working to include developers within your own organization in your developer marketing efforts, you’re likely to build velocity in delivering messaging that entices third parties to discover your APIs.

Apiboost is a cloud-based API portal platform with rich functionality and high extensibility. As well as providing functionality for building out flexible catalogs for your APIs, Apiboost lets you productize APIs through Product Optimizer and enable people to collaborate in teams with Team Builder.

With Product Optimizer, your APIs can become shoppable products controlled at a Product Owner level, enabling authorized administrators to add new content, descriptions, blog posts, video, events, and even discussion forums to help educate third parties about your APIs.

With Team Builder, administrators can manage collaborative environments with assigned roles and permissions. This is great for assigning apps and products to departments, partners, and customers for effective development, all while securely exposing data to team members who are authorized to see it.

Learn more about our API portal and how Apiboost can help you engage with developers better, schedule a demo with us.