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Ron Huber

Ron Huber is the CEO and co-founder of Achieve Internet. He's an experienced senior executive with over 15 years managing and leading software teams in the online media, Internet, and software development space.

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API portals are redefining how organizations approach using APIs to reach their business goals. Beyond better user experience, organizations can now humanize their API experiences and deliver a good user experience for developers as well. That’s why it’s no surprise that Market Data Forecast projects a 34 percent yearly growth rate for the API management market.

In this article, we'll delve into what an API portal is, how it can take your organization to the next level, and the steps you can take to determine whether it is right for your business.

What is an API Portal?

An API portal is a bridge between the internal developers that build your company's APIs and the people who engage with them to move the business forward. This includes internal developers, external developers, as well as your business team members.

Think of it as a directory that houses all the information around your organization's API offerings. While some of these API offerings are gated —especially in regulated industries with portals targeting internal developers— others are publicly available for a wider developer community to interact with.

API portals help with discovery, subscription, and especially API testing — to ensure that all APIs are fully functional.

API Portal vs. Developer Portal: What Is the Difference?

A developer portal is a site that is used almost only by developers to access and organize technical information to configure and manage the APIs used by their organization.

Some features you will find in a developer portal include:

  • A list of all APIs that are available

  • A set of API reference documentation (that may or may not be complete)

  • A space for developers to communicate on how to use those APIs

At a basic level, API portals also provide the same functionality listed above. The key difference is how API portals are designed and built for non-developers.

Where only developers typically use developer portals, the first audience of an API portal can be anyone, and with the rise of the Citizen developer, it is crucial your API portal gives priority to the UI and is built with ease of use as a top priority. In other words, an API portal is a more accessible version and provides advanced features that are not available on a typical developer portal. Addressing this broader range of people opens up new partnerships, access to new and larger markets and creates efficiencies inside and outside of the organization.

Unlike a typical Developer Portal, an API Portal works specifically to promote APIs as a product. With a robust set of tools and features designed for non-developers and developers alike, API Portals allow businesses to maximize returns on their APIs for better business outcomes.

Who Will Use the API Portal?

Two major groups will use the API Portal: your business team (citizen developer), and professional developers. For you to succeed, it is essential to consider some standard requirements that your company should include to cater to both segments of your user base.

But perhaps most importantly, it’s critical to understand that for both the business team and developers - you must consider that both internal and external users are going to access and navigate your API portal differently.

Let's discuss the key segments that make up the user base of a typical API portal to help you understand your API consumers better, to deliver the most value to them.

1. Business Teams

An API portal should provide business leaders from within and outside your organization with the ability to locate, manage, and share information from all of your APIs. The data gleaned from APIs will provide insights to drive your business forward - and key decision-makers need the ability to quickly and effectively access valuable information.

Since non-technical people will need to see the bigger picture to make better strategic decisions, it's essential to allocate your resources to constantly improve your API Portals UI and analytics tools to quickly access the most critical data for their business purposes.

These roles might include:

  • Product owners: The product owners gather and present ideas for new API products or features.

  • Business Analysts: Business analysts work with companies to help them identify new business opportunities. With easy access to your API portal, they can better evaluate the workflows, spot inefficiencies, and see potential revenue streams.

  • Marketers and Salespeople: They help promote the API and develop the business strategies for the product. They also recruit partners for the API product.

  • Digital Transformation Experts: Working similarly to business analysts, digital transformation experts are looking at the big picture and how to bring the organization’s digital experience to employees, clients, and partners. Since your API portal should serve all the above categories, user-friendliness for a non-technical digital transformation expert is vital.

2. Developers

API portals will always need to deliver the features of a typical developer portal - at a macro-level, they must provide a single place to manage API reference documentation, sample code, and SDKs.

This means a portal should have clear navigation and straightforward access to API documentation that enables API consumers, again internally and externally, to easily search for and locate information around the APIs they need.

Some of the specific users include:

  • API developers: Developers build, publish, and maintain the APIs and their portal.

  • Developer advocates: They bridge the gap between the developer community and the company.

  • Technical Writers: Technical writers provide engaging, easy-to-understand content on the API and its usage. They also provide essential content to onboard and get new developers started on the API.

  • API consumers: Application developers driving today's startup market. These experts are the heart of an ecosystem, driving innovation and empowering disruptive new ideas.

What Are The Benefits of API Portals?

An API portal that is accessible to more than developers and data scientists is necessary to provide insights that will drive mission-critical business decisions

Let's go through some of the more concrete benefits of an API Portal.

1. Increase Adoption & Productize Your APIs

API portals make it easier for developers and “Citizen” Developers who are less skilled to discover and consume API products.

From the onboarding process to API documentation, you can set up everything in one place to boost adoption rates and API usage, and turn your API consumers into a loyal user base.

Since API portals enable non-technical people to access and consume your APIs, you can leverage them to expand your potential and existing user base.

The influx of new users can help you boost the business value of your digital assets, increasing the ROI of your API products in the long run.

Additionally, you can take full advantage of the user-friendliness of API portals to develop API products tailored to different user segments, creating additional revenue streams for your organization and providing a bridge to your other digital assets.

2. Reduce Multiple APIs for the Same Function

For large enterprises, it's not uncommon for different departments to independently develop API solutions that partially or fully deliver the same functionality.

API portals help eliminate this issue by solidifying all of your API assets in one place, allowing different departments and teams to access all of your API products without interfering with each other.

3. Promote Innovation in API Implementation

Since API portals drastically reduce the entry barriers for non-technical stakeholders to use and interact with API products, more effective collaboration between departments will bring different perspectives to each issue.

This diversity of views helps organizations and API providers leverage the expertise and experience of specialists across different fields to bring unique perspectives and ideas into the development process.

This, in turn, promotes innovation across the entire organization, helping you stay closer than ever to your API consumers - and ahead of the competition.

4. Track the Success of Your APIs

You should constantly monitor the effectiveness of your API strategy.

Research carried out by Apigee identified a stark contrast between successful APIs and unsuccessful ones based on how integral their API success metrics—revenue and consumption metrics— are to them.

Some of the key metrics an API portal allows you to accurately monitor are:

  • ROI

  • Direct and Indirect Revenue

  • CLTV

  • API Traffic & Usage

  • and more.

Developers have to be on-hand to suggest changes based on their developer community engagements, churn, NPS, or documentation engagement. Solutions may include adding a new use case for a new programming language, improving some methods, or extending its features.

The operations team needs to check and monitor API traffic patterns and other operational metrics like error and uptime and know when you need new resources or critical changes.

What Are The Key Features of an API Portal

A good API portal should offer a variety of functionalities that enable both external and internal users to effectively interact with API infrastructure.

In this section, we'll break down the key features of an API portal.

1. API Productization Tools

As a superior solution in terms of interactivity and ease of use, API portals make it much easier for you to productize your APIs and build new revenue streams.

Some of the world's largest companies already rely heavily on their APIs to generate recurring revenue and drive business growth.

Companies like Salesforce, Expedia, and eBay generate most of their revenue through APIs, representing a shift where the API economy becomes the primary driver of digital transformation.

And given the pace at which APIs get adopted across all industries, chances are that your APIs will account for a large portion of your annual revenue in the not-so-distant future.

API portals provide organizations with everything they need to make their API product accessible to wider audiences, not just API developers, while seamlessly scaling as you grow.

Some of the features that help organizations promote their API products and scale their revenue sources include:

  • Advanced registration workflows

  • Tools to allow for tiered API access

  • API product groupings

  • Terms and Conditions control by product

Also, future planning can allow the portal to provide access for purchasing API products and packages tailored for different levels of functionality and traffic overhead.

When you combine all of these factors, you may dramatically increase the amount of revenue your API products generate for your organization with the help of an API portal.

2. Easily Accessible Developer Tools

As a more comprehensive way to integrate APIs within and across organizations, API portals provide everything a developer portal does to help API developers successfully interact with the API products of an organization:

  • API documentation, code samples, and SDKs allow developers to quickly access the information they need to manage and configure the APIs.

  • A sandbox environment helps developers test, experiment, and troubleshoot your APIs.

  • Integration tools empower developers to integrate their solutions with third-party systems and improve overall adoption.

  • A developer community platform allows every member of the team a place to gain insights from other developers to solve problems more effectively.

Additionally, advanced analytics and easy visualization of key metrics, such as status pages showing performance and uptime of the various API offerings, are common features.

3. Advanced Access Control

While API portals promote collaboration and boost adoption rates by providing your API consumers with a space where they can interact with one another - all users are not the same.

API portals need to provide levels of access to collaboration tools and account management to ensure the security of your APIs - from both internal and external threats.

An additional benefit of segmentation is the ability to create groups or teams. Solutions like Apiboost include a team builder feature that allows an administrator to build teams of all sizes that can collaborate and innovate on apps and products in a group environment.

With team-level access control, you can assign apps and products to departments, partners, and customers for effective development while securely exposing your data to only approved team members.

The ability to control access on a user level with roles like admin, super-admin, guest, and others will allow for the highest level of cross-department collaboration - with the lowest level of risk.

Without advanced access control, it's common for API portal solutions to require you to build two portals for a single project - one internally facing and the other externally facing.

While on the surface, this may seem like a good way to separate your internal team members and partners from external API consumers, it's an unnecessary drain on resources and requires additional oversight.

"API portals ensure that developers can discover and use your APIs, but often fail to drive API adoption due to poor developer experience." - Gartner

4. Regional Separation & Internalization

On top of expanding the potential user base from API developers to pretty much everyone, API portals lay the foundation for regional separation and penetrating international markets.

Expanding into other markets is a great way to expand the user base and scale up the amount of revenue your API products generate for your business.

However, the process of regional separation and internationalization brings with it a set of unique challenges as you need to adapt the following elements to make your APIs usable for other markets:

  • Locale-sensitive collation

  • Number formatting

  • API portal interface

  • Date and time formatting

  • Documentation, guides, and other content

Thankfully, API portals provide organizations with the tools they need to make the process of localization and translation a lot easier.

5. Scalability

Several API portals on the market include a templated system that they have to build to your specification. While these portals may seem like they have everything you will need, in reality, the limited functionality reduces your ability to scale or add features down the line.

You'll have to wait for new features to be built and integrated into your system. As a result, you end up spending more money in the long run and unnecessarily waste a large amount of time and resources.

Apiboost is a fully-fledged enterprise-grade product with all the necessary features to launch your API portal out of the box. You can easily expand the platform to manage numerous APIs, users, teams while keeping everything secure with single sign-on (SSO) and CI/CD functionality that fits seamlessly into your DevOps pipeline.

A hallmark of a great API Portal is the flexibility to quickly upgrade or add functionality as needed.

What Are the Most Common Use Cases for API Portals?

The type of API Portal you create will depend mostly on the intention or primary issue that the portal is built to solve. We can broadly categorize the most common uses of an API into four primary types of API portals:

  • Internal Use API portals

  • External Use API portals

  • Partner Integration API portals

And in this section, we will cover each of them in greater detail.

1. API Portals for Internal Use

The purpose of an internal API portal is to create a safe space for everyone within a given organization to consume API products, from developers to senior management.

Building an internal API portal is a great way to promote digital transformation and optimize internal processes by integrating all departments in one place.

Developers, marketers, HR specialists, and managers of all levels can leverage the power of APIs to improve the quality of their output and seamlessly collaborate across departments.

As an example, Charles Schwab developed an internal API portal to consolidate all of their APIs in one place to improve adoption rates and visibility.

2. API Portals for External Use

An external API portal is tailored to external consumption, providing a place for API consumers to interact with your API products safely.

Deploying a public API portal helps organizations develop a strong source of additional revenue, increasing the business value of their corporate assets.

As an example, Experian utilizes its API Portal to offer products to help their customers find and utilize the data they need to make better decisions for their business.

Experian has built a suite of APIs that are sold independently, or as a package, to provide businesses with access to valuable insights including real-time income and employment verification reports, vehicle history data, and in-depth KYC data.

3. API Portals for Partner Integration

A partner API portal makes it easier for companies to cooperate with strategic partners and forge business relationships by providing the technical infrastructure needed for collaboration across different organizations.

Partner API portals give you full control over the visibility of your APIs and user roles, providing a safe space for building great products.

As a result, such portals improve the quality of their products by leveraging the strength of their partners - because no company is an island.

As a real-world example, 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 and location of the rescuer, providing a monetization model for developers (memberships and per-use costs).

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

While API portals bring so much value to the table, it's important to understand whether your company has reached the point where an API portal would truly move the needle and dramatically improve the overall performance of your organization.

Before you invest in building out an API portal, ask yourself whether you currently struggle with any of the following challenges:

  • Internal developers are often struggling with manual approval processes, missing documentation, and potential security risks.

  • Separate internal departments each building their own APIs that provide the same function.

  • A number of smaller data sets can 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 a significant investment in research, development, and staffing to support API customers, both internal and external.

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, developing and deploying an API portal has the potential to make a massive positive difference.

Leveraging True API Expertise with Apiboost

If you think your business could benefit from an API Portal, our experts are ready to take your call.

Achieve Internet is Apiboost's premier agency partner, which has vast experience implementing Apiboost and building bespoke developer portals as well as API portals using Apiboost as a foundation.

Apiboost is a true extension of that expertise - not just an add-on. This, along with our partnership with API management vendors like Apigee, makes Apiboost a superior alternative to others on the market.

Ready to learn how to get more value out of your API portal? Reach out to us today for a free consultation.