api-marketplace-akana-blog
February 24, 2021

How to Build an API Marketplace

Developer Portal
API Lifecycle Management

Your API marketplace should be a thriving community where your APIs can be easily found and consumed by developers. Yet in the realm of API management, it can be easy to get confused. There are dozens of terms, definitions, and methodologies to take in.

Many often wonder what the difference is between an API portal and an API marketplace. And what about an API catalog?

In this post, we will demystify API marketplace best practices.

So, What Is An API Marketplace?

An API marketplace is a user-friendly public hub where developers and partners can easily find, download, consume, purchase, or share your APIs. Developing an API marketplace is a critical step in monetizing your organization’s APIs and seamlessly sharing your digital products with the developer community.  

Why Build an API Marketplace?  

Your developer portal acts as the central technical platform for provisioning, versioning, managing the API lifecycle, and interfacing with internal and external developers. These are the all-important gears grinding away behind the scenes.

On the other hand, your API marketplace is the tip of the spear for your API program. It should be optimized, attractive, organized, and categorized for end user adoption. It should be arguably as attractive as any publicly available product website or feature page.

But why bother?

APIs are more than integration tools. They are digital products. Like any other digital product, organizations have an opportunity to monetize APIs. By creating an attractive API marketplace, you are increasing the likelihood that your developer community will do the following:

  • Quickly find your APIs.
  • Resolve questions about your APIs.
  • Understand the value of your APIs.
  • View use cases for your APIs.
  • Consume documentation.
  • Adopt and share your APIs.

For any organization invested in a long-term API management strategy, your API marketplace will be the keystone in your API monetization strategy. Ultimately, your API marketplace can drive business revenue using your APIs as products.  

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How to Build an API Marketplace  

There are dozens of ways to build an API marketplace. There is truly no right or wrong way to build, as long as you remain secure.

Here’s how to build an API marketplace in five simple steps.

1. Planning and API Governance

At Akana, we believe the environment where you publish your API products should be integrated with your API management solution. This way, you can sync all of your operational API details across runtime APIs, portals, and marketplaces where APIs are available for consumption.

The first step in this marketplace journey is planning. The most important aspect you will need to plan for is your API governance and security protocols. Your marketplace requires a variety of governance arrangements in order to meet regulatory requirements and ensure appropriate technical specifications of available marketplace APIs.

Because your APIs will be consumed and used outside of your organization, it is critical that you develop governance documentation prior to sharing any APIs with the developer community. This includes everything from access and control rules, to usage rights and security. Akana’s API management software comes out of the box with an API governance framework. This includes lifecycle, operational, planning, and policy governance tools and documentation.

2. Implementation

Once your API governance and security planning is complete, you are ready to roll out your marketplace. Akana’s developer portal comes ready-built with API marketplace features. You can easily customize a user-friendly marketplace in line with the look and feel of your brand. For the record, we are aware that every software on the planet claims using their suite is easy. We mean it.

How to Go From Enterprise Developer Portal to Thriving API Marketplace

Bridge the gap between your internal developers and external consumers. Watch the webinar below to learn how. 

 

Whether you build your API marketplace with Akana or not, you should focus on the following features:

  • An audience-centric user experience that provides a frictionless path to adoption.
  • Social, forum, and sharing capabilities to allow for developer interaction and feedback.
  • Proper documentation and adoption support to ease API use among developers.
  • Collaboration features allowing internal and external developers to work together seamlessly. 

3. Promotion For Your API Marketplace

Promoting your API marketplace will be critical to building an API developer community. This obviously won’t happen overnight.

Start by thinking about your marketplace like any other digital product. Developing a digital marketing strategy can help improve adoption of your APIs and get the message out. In addition, find ways to incentivize forum activity, reviews, and developer sharing. If one developer finds your API useful, there are bound to be dozens more who could benefit.

Many organizations build revenue-sharing models for application marketplaces. Key developers who contribute to marketplace products can be greatly incentivized to promote APIs using this approach. If this is not an option, there are other ways to spotlight developers. This could include everything from leaderboards and subscriber counts, to filtering and displaying the most downloaded and shared APIs.

Finally, do not forget about social media. Do your best to stimulate conversation in any social community where developers are discussing relevant industry APIs.    

4. Scale API Analytics

Once your marketplace is up and running, you will want to keep tabs on a variety of analytics. There are two main categories of marketplace analytics including operational and platform-based:

  • Your operational API analytics will offer insights into how your APIs are being used and whether they are functioning appropriately. As your APIs are adopted, you will want to ensure they are performing their various tasks without error.
  • Your platform-based analytics will tell you how your marketplace is performing. This will help you make adjustments to the marketplace ecosystem to make it more attractive for your developer audience. This will include everything from visits, to time on site, as well as engagement metrics. 

Akana comes with a suite of API analytics tools that are automatically integrated with your marketplace. If you choose to build your marketplace manually, you will need to find or build your own analytics packages.

5. Provide Documentation

If your developer audience has to choose between a well-documented API and a poorly documented API, it’s no surprise which they’ll pick. If you do not provide documentation, it simply will not matter how useful and effective your API is. Your documentation should include specific instructions for how to integrate and use your API.

This should include details about your API’s classes, functions, return types, arguments and more. The best API documentation includes tutorials, examples, and support materials for getting up and running quickly.

Considerations For Your API Marketplace  

The digital landscape is an amazingly diverse array of software, services, and websites. Similarly, APIs are diversifying rapidly. Which means you will need to customize your marketplace based on some unique factors. These include:

  • The types of APIs you are promoting.
  • The developer audience for your APIs.
  • Your API lifecycle and versioning.

Types of API Marketplaces

Marketplace for Public External APIs

If you are scaling a marketplace to promote public APIs to a wide developer audience, here are some key considerations:

  • Optimize your marketplace using tags, categories, metadata, and more to ensure a search-engine friendly presence.
  • Develop ample documentation so your APIs are easy to consume.
  • Your marketplace user experience should be on par with other marketplaces in your category to ensure you gain traction.
  • Your marketplace should function seamlessly across mobile, tablet, and desktop devices to ensure your audience can access information no matter their device.

This also means including features that allow public developers to subscribe to get updates about APIs. Likewise, you will want to group APIs according to their end use and provide simple examples of your APIs while in use. Finally, do not forget about reviews and forums. Developers will want to see that others find your APIs useful. Likewise, when they can resolve issues in a community forum, you won’t be bombarded with questions.

You can easily implement all of these features building a marketplace using Akana’s developer portal. In fact, many of our customers are able to begin promoting their marketplaces and exposing APIs in less than a day. Assuming you already have APIs running, you can scale up your marketplace in minutes.

Marketplace for Private Internal APIs

Even when scaling APIs internally at an organization, a marketplace can simplify your user journey. This is especially true for the large enterprise. If you have dozens, or even hundreds of developers spread across the enterprise, a slick marketplace can increase API adoption and alleviate management burdens. Again, a developer forum and some simple use cases can go a long way to achieving these goals.

Akana helps a variety of large B2B organizations unlock innovation and collaboration using internal APIs. Akana’s developer portal and marketplace play an integral role in speeding this process.

Using Developer Audiences to Customize a Marketplace

Your marketplace user experience should be heavily dependent upon who will consume your APIs. If you are offering various weather APIs hoping to gain adoption across dozens of weather apps, your marketplace should provide a means for rapid adoption.

If you are offering a B2B API for a tool that streamlines the sales journey, you will need greater documentation and API support materials. The point is you should use your developer audience to customize your marketplace.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What will make my developer audience more likely to adopt my APIs?
  • What supplemental experience or materials will appeal to my audience?
  • How easy is using my marketplace, for developers, compared to similar marketplaces?
  • Does our marketplace allow developers to easily adopt and share APIs?

With Akana’s marketplace, you can choose from a variety of layouts and templates. In addition, you can customize your Akana marketplace to meet the changing demands of your developer community. 

Marketplace Features Supporting Lifecycle and Versioning

Finally, every modern API marketplace should support API lifecycle and versioning features.

Your full lifecycle API management represents everything from inception to retirement of your APIs. As you build your API marketplace, consider how changes you make in your developer portal will impact your marketplace:

  • If you retire an API, will it disappear naturally from your marketplace?
  • Will it cause systems relying on this API to crash?
  • Does your marketplace offer subscription updates so developers can be notified if an API is being retired?

These are critical usability questions best worked out before scaling your APIs via your marketplace.

Likewise, your marketplace should clearly communicate which version of your API is available along with the relevance of new versus old versions. Again if you update your API, will this impact the developer community that uses the API? How is their use of your API informing new versions? Where will they communicate this feedback?

As APIs become adopted through your marketplace, you’ll need to support the community with appropriate features. These should support the continued functioning of your APIs in the world at large and allow for developers to collaborate on improving your APIs. Your marketplace acts as the mechanism for achieving these ends. If your API marketplace is built as a simple dumping ground, this will be nearly impossible to achieve.

Akana is a full lifecycle API management software. Which means your marketplace will be in sync with all other aspects of your API management at all times. If and when you choose to release updated APIs, our suite of tools has the appropriate documentation and functionality to inform your developer community of upcoming changes. 

Build Your API Marketplace with Akana

When other vendors say API portal, they are referring exclusively to the internal developer portal. When we at Akana say API portal, we mean the fully-integrated internal developer portal and consumer-facing API marketplace of your dreams.

With Akana’s out-of-the-box API portal, you get the best of both worlds. You’ll have an internal portal where your developers can create APIs and manage APIs. But it also doubles as your API marketplace, so you can expose your APIs to an external audience easily. You don’t have to go through the challenges of integrating your API marketplace with your portal. With Akana, your internal portal and API marketplace are already integrated.

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