API Documentation
August 31, 2020

What Is API Documentation?

API Lifecycle Management

APIs are continually becoming the glue with which our digital world is interconnected.

Companies of all sizes are relying on APIs to ignite their digital transformation, unlocking new value by exposing their capabilities to an ecosystem of developers and partners.

But once those APIs are published, how does another party (both internally and externally) know what to do with it?

That’s where API documentation becomes critical.

What Is API Documentation?

API documentation contains the technical content of the API, including instructions on how to effectively use and integrate, as well as updates on the API’s lifecycle such as new versions or retirement.

Think of API documentation as a reference manual that has all of the information you need to work with the API. It tells the developer/partner/consumer everything that is possible with the API, and how to get started.

Why Do We Need API Documentation?

A large reason why API documentation is important is to increase API adoption. Comprehensive documentation on all of the functionality, how to effectively use and integrate, and updates on the API lifecycle improves the experience for those using your APIs.

Could you use an API without documentation? Sure, it’s technically possible. But you can grasp the API’s technical content and integration instructions much better with complete and accurate documentation.

What Does API Documentation Look Like?

A typical API documentation set might include the following sections:

  • Overview: A summary of the API functionality, links to reference documentation for the operations, and a Getting Started section that illustrates key information and steps for using the API.
  • Developer Guide: Reference documentation for each API operation (method). A typical organization might include use cases, URI (endpoint), sample request, request parameters, sample response, response parameters, and error handling information.
  • Users Guide: Instructions for how to connect to the API, and ideally a walk-through of API use cases.

Documenting an API

The following video provides a demo on how to document an API within the Akana API management platform:

A differentiator with Akana, when it comes to API documentation, is the platform’s ability for API publishers to choose the description language of their choice. It then automatically generates each of the other description language documents, allowing both developers and consumers to work with their preferred language.

Within Akana, administrators are able to upload and manage API documentation, reducing the effort involved in authoring API documentation with dynamically generated documents.

Additionally, publishers can control visibility of documents and document elements based on licenses. The platform offers a series of visibility filters that you can use to control the display of applicable API documentation files, or portions of content within individual files, to authorized users.

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