API Developer Community
May 12, 2020

How to Build an API Developer Community

Developer Portal

Building your API developer community is important. But how do you do it? 

Read along or jump ahead to the section that interests you most:

What Is An API Community?

An API community refers to the people who consume your available APIs, which are most often found via your API portal. In short, your API community are all the people who benefit from using your APIs within and outside your organization. 

API community is often used interchangeably with developer community. 

What Is a Developer Community? 

developer community refers to the developers who consume, repurpose, and innovate using your available APIs. This developer community can include developers within your organization and outside your organization. A key aspect to growing your external APIs is evangelizing them among a relevant developer audience. 

The main difference between API community and developer community is the audience. Your API community won't be limited to developers — it also includes partners and consumers. 

Why Your API Community Is Important

You API community is important to drive business growth and expose new digital opportunities. That's why this is one of the API basics you need to know.

The business landscape is changing. To really embrace digital transformation, you need to create APIs in modern times. APIs have become the primary means that businesses interact with their customers, reach new markets, and enable app developers to innovate with an organization's digital offerings.

You can think of building APIs like building products. Likewise, it is important to identify the right business capabilities to expose as APIs, using this product mindset. When your APIs are well designed, well supported, and promoted effectively, the result will be a flourishing developer community.

How Do You Grow a Developer Community

Whether you’re just getting started with APIs, or already have APIs in production, you need a solution that makes this process simpler. This allows you to focus on the business value and functionality of your APIs. In other words, if your APIs have nothing to do with your core business functionality, leave the heavy lifting to an enterprise API platform, like Akana.

1. Build the Right APIs

APIs don’t exist in little self-contained packages installed in your enterprise DMZ. In most cases, APIs will be externally-facing interfaces of one or more internal applications, often using existing enterprise services.

The big challenge is taking an existing service interface that is often implemented using SOAP with WS-Security, or plain old XML (POX) over JMS or MQ, and turn it into a RESTful API with XML and/or JSON content. It is especially important with mobile applications to deliver the least amount of data possible to get the job done, with the least amount of back and forth dialog.

With Akana, you can quickly and easily create properly defined and structured RESTful APIs supporting XML and JSON. These can be built on top of existing internal services. You'll be able to mediate between content types, transport protocols, security models, message exchange patterns, standards, and more. This will allow you to get your API up and running quickly.

2. Integrate Your APIs

Even though you may think of your APIs as entirely new products, they still rely on existing applications. In an enterprise context, they should be integrated with your enterprise security and management systems, and with existing enterprise services and applications.

Akana comes with out-of-the box mechanisms for integrating with your enterprise identity and access management systems. This allows your developers to login to the community using enterprise-controlled credentials, while APIs and apps can work with existing managed user accounts. This allows for using single sign-on between apps and enterprise applications. This ensures your app developers and end users remain subject to existing security and privacy requirements.

Akana also integrates with enterprise management and monitoring products. This way your enterprise network operations center can manage performance and availability, and can leverage your existing investments in enterprise database infrastructure and datacenter operations.

3. Target Your APIs to Your API Community

You want to be fast to market with APIs, but you’d better get it right. Especially if your community will make use of your APIs.

Akana helps you optimize your investments with strategic planning to:

  • Ensure you build the right APIs at the right time.
  • Meet current and planned needs.
  • Understand the dependencies between the API and existing business processes and applications.

This means clean API definitions, good API documentation, and the right amount of architecture and program management support.

Once you’ve built your APIs, Akana makes it easy to ensure they are behaving. Meeting QoS and security requirements is critical. Finally, Akana helps you with the process of publishing, socializing, and supporting your API. This will ensure your API community thrives.

4. Evangelize the APIs

So you’ve built the best API in the history of APIs. Tons of businesses will use it and thousands of apps with millions of users will keep pouring in. The only problem is you don’t know how to tell people about it. When you do find someone who’s interested, they need all the right information without getting overwhelmed. Only then can they leverage your APIs.

This is where your API developer portal comes into play. Akana makes it easy to socialize your APIs, regardless of whether you are trying to broadcast your open APIs to the whole world or expose them to a small group of developers inside your own business.

You want to market your APIs and apps inside and outside your enterprise. With Akana, you can publish your APIs into an API catalog with appropriate descriptions and tags to make it easy for potential consumers to find them. 

Of course, once someone has found your APIs, they need to decide if they are relevant. This is where definition and documentation capabilities come into play. And where the discussion forums and user following capabilities allow them to ask questions, or see how active your API community is.

How to Go From Enterprise Developer Portal to Thriving API Marketplace

Bring your developer community and consumer API community together. Find out how you can bridge the gap with an integrated portal and API marketplace, so your audience can always find your APIs. Watch the webinar below to learn how.

5. Define and Document Your APIs

People should be able to use your APIs without a ton of questions and complaints. You need to define, document, and publish the definition and documentation effectively.

Akana provides a robust set of tools for API definition, documentation, and content management, as well as policy and lifecycle management. This ensures your APIs are correctly structured and well documented. 

6. Monitor Your APIs

Akana provisions API access individually to each app. It creates an identifier for the app, allowing the app developer to upload a CSR (certificate signing request) for a locally-generated public key. The app should then use this app ID (optionally signed) to authenticate itself to Akana. The app developer should use the Akana’s developer community to find the APIs they want their app to use. In addition, they can initiate a simple approval workflow to grant their app access to the APIs.

7. Protect Your API

When it comes to API security, there are a couple of things you have to be wary of:

First off, do your APIs expose sensitive information or even enable business transactions?

For example, it would be a really bad idea to overlook security when you deliver an API that exposes private information about your customers, or allows people to move money from one account to another. Consider implementing FAPI (Financial-grade API) protocols in these scenarios. 

Regardless of whether your APIs needs sophisticated security or not, it will still be vulnerable to abuse, intentional or otherwise. You need to control the amount of traffic each application is able to send to your APIs to ensure that one app can’t dominate the APIs, preventing other apps from using it; and to protect your internal systems from the damage that could result from the APIs overloading them with traffic.

API Security Protocols

You'll need to follow API security best practices, too. This will include the ability to mediate between security models, standards, and technologies to ensure seamless interoperability between externally-facing APIs and the internal services that support them.

These security capabilities should include:

  • Authentication
  • Token exchange
  • Cryptography
  • Federation

8. Socialize Your APIs

Assuming you’re following along with the various steps above, then by this point you now have rock solid APIs that are well structured and documented, published in a catalog with great search facilities, and protected from malicious intruders. Developers are starting to find your APIs through traditional search and browse models. But that’s not good enough in today’s social-media driven world. You need your APIs (or apps) to go viral. Bring on the social world.

Akana provides the social platform for API management and app development. It will bring together API providers and app developers in an online social community. Whether this community exists inside your enterprise, as a private external community, or part of a broad public developer community is entirely up to you. The enterprise API platform’s social features should include:

Invitations

Any user, developer, business administrator, or API provider should be able to invite other users to the party. Invitations should be general, inviting a user to check out the community, or to follow an API, app, or group. 

Social Forums

Every API, app, user, business or group inside your enterprise API platform should have its own social forum. This is a place where users will go to post comments or ideas, ask questions, or even raise support tickets.

9. Support Your App Developers

One of the bigger challenges you’ll face with your API is potentially becoming a victim of your own success. What’s going to happen when you drive massive social adoption of your APIs? How on earth are you going to manage the volume of support requests and questions?

Make sure that your APIs are well-structured and well-documented. You can make developers’ lives even easier by providing them with SDKs and code samples, and then publish and promote these with your APIs. But the real beauty kicks in when your developer community becomes self-sufficient and users start helping each other out by answering questions and even responding to trouble tickets.

When everything is efficiently indexed, it should be easy for users to search for errors, issues, and get immediate answers to questions and issues that have already been resolved. Sure, you’ll have to put some effort into getting your community moving, but the time and energy you dedicate early on will pay enormous dividends later. 

How to Build Your API Community With the Akana Platform

Akana is the best API platform to build your API community and developer community. 

Akana brings API providers and app developers together in a community.

Akana provides a connecting point where you can publish, promote, and manage your APIs in a secure and scalable environment. You can manage your own developer community, or just plug into communities that already exist. Creative developers can find and harness your APIs, blending them with complementary APIs from your partners. These developers can then work together, share ideas, and support each other in new and productive ways.

The Akana platform provides lots of social goodness, without losing sight of your day-to-day API management and application needs.

Our API platform stands on the shoulders of a rich heritage – Akana has been around the block a few times. We work with many of the Fortune 1000, meeting the needs of demanding production environments for their API management.

Experience the Akana Portal

See how easy it is to create, document, test, publish, and market your APIs in the Akana API platform with a free 30-day trial.

Start Trial  ▶️ Watch a Demo First

 

👉 Become an Expert

 

Note: This blog post was originally published as a white paper in May 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.