Building API platforms to delight your users – part 3: API consumers

When it comes to API platforms, some tasks map neatly to particular groups of consumers. Then there are those tricky tasks where you need to keep a wide range of stakeholders happy, all of whom have different goals and challenges. 

Keeping your consumers happy when building an API platform is definitely one of those tricky tasks. Your consumers can come from across the business – and from outside of it. And you need to keep them all happy if you want them to adopt, use and value your platform. Here’s how. 

Understanding your API platform consumer needs

The first step is understanding who your consumers are. We can break these down into two groups: primary and secondary API platform consumers. 

Primary API platform consumers

Your primary consumers are likely internal and external development teams looking to build on top of or integrate APIs into their applications. Think distributed product squads. Plus, the platform team themselves – the platform managers, engineers, site reliability engineers, architects and so on. All looking to an API platform to provide:

  • Secure access to reusable data, services and functionality that fall outside their core development or maintenance responsibilities 
  • Stable, performant and well supported APIs that can be built on with confidence and loved by their end users.

Secondary API platform consumers

Beyond the direct consumers of APIs within your platform, wider internal business operations teams and C-suite execs should be treated as stakeholders. These secondary consumers are often seeking to:

  • Automate manual processes (e.g. providing access to and monitoring digital/API products to deliver on contractual agreements/limits/SLAs)
  • Produce reports on overall digital infrastructure usage, performance, health and costs.

 

API platform consumers

 

API consumer pains 

Whilst APIs are technical products, in order to drive adoption, your primary platform consumers will need to be able to easily discover what’s available, assess its usefulness and integrate it into whatever they’re building. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, a whole range of issues can get in the way of that. 

 

API consumer pain points How to solve them with Tyk
You have lots of teams making APIs, which makes it hard for consumers to discover the APIs they need. Tyk’s user-friendly Developer Portal enables you to centrally catalogue and publish a consumer-friendly façade to your APIs, providing API documentation and secure access control. Treating your APIs as products means your consumers will get mature developer experiences, resulting in greater adoption and growth of your APIs.
Your consumers are struggling to learn how to use or the functionality and benefits of your APIs. Again, Tyk’s comprehensive Developer Portal, with its out-of-the-box documentation templates and wider API content management capabilities, means you can ‘productise’ your APIs with ease.
A lack of community/support means consumers are left to fend for themselves. It’s not just the Tyk team that has your back. You can get help from fellow Tyk users as part of our global community. You can also search our community, our docs and the Tyk blog to find answers to your technical enquiries.
Downtime relating to API integrations impacts the consumer experience and reduces trust in your platform. Understanding whether the fault lies with their code or the API itself and quickly troubleshooting is difficult. API outages are inevitable; it’s how you deal with them that counts. Enhanced API consumer telemetry means your consumers can quickly identify (through detailed traces) where issues are occurring in the end to end application, as well as why and whether it’s their API provider at fault. On top of this, alerts to API owners mean that those maintaining the APIs can get on top of any critical issues in near real time, potentially mitigating the impact of any outages if and when they do occur.
API contract changes result in breaking changes for your consumers’ integrations. Tyk makes it easy for you to define and implement your versioning strategy without risking breaking things for your consumers. Changes can flow from your platform APIs through to your consumers’ products in a way that makes things better for everyone.
Understanding the value of their API integrations and overall usage patterns. Consumers signed up to tier-based consumption plans and are looking for insights into usage. Once API consumers have successfully integrated APIs into their applications, over time they’ll have a desire to understand if, how and why they’re being used. Being transparent with this, and ideally enabling API consumers to self-serve in viewing elements of their API usage, drives meaningful conversations around how API owners can continue to optimise.

 

While it is mainly your primary consumers who will be wrestling with these issues, you need to resolve them so that your secondary consumers’ touchpoints with your platform also result in positive experiences. Without thinking about the wider stakeholders of your API platform, you risk missing out on crucial investment, support and resource allocation to your API platform optimisation (and critical maintenance) programme.

As such, on top of the developers you serve when managing API platforms, it’s essential to provide capabilities to wider business teams to prove out the continued value of your platform. You can achieve this in multiple ways…

Regular business reporting

APIs are often the primary means by which auditing and  teams check all the boxes that regulators require. As such, you need to serve these customers with easy access to everything they need. 

For leadership teams whose continued investment in the platform is key, it’s important to take a step back and tell a story around how platform management and APIs play a critical role in assuring platform uptime and stability. Monitoring isn’t just about troubleshooting and error handling – it’s also part of this wider business picture. 

Your platform also needs to support benchmarking (likely quarterly) in relation to the role of platform optimisation in improving the speed or latency of your API errors. By regularly demonstrating this as the clear return on investment (ROI)I for your platform endeavours

Platform or data API development

Having a remit to provide tools to enable secure integrations across their business means API infrastructure owners are uniquely positioned to identify novel ways to surface and expose valuable data insights. However, not every team is so savvy regarding APIs’ potential for extracting data. Thankfully, centrally developed and managed APIs can provide functionality to wider teams that need simpler ways to extract meaning from the underlying data and services available across their organisation.

Showcasing impact

Automation and API development golden paths can have a major positive impact on developer satisfaction and productivity. Your API platform can help to measure this, looking at metrics pre- and post-implementation of key platform elements (e.g. SPACE metrics). 

Showcasing how your API platform meets consumers’ needs, through regular, clear insights to platform users and stakeholders during design and planning, can also help achieve the continued buy-in you need. 

What your API platform consumers stand to gain

When you get your API platform right, your consumers – whether internal or external – stand to win big. That starts with self-onboarding and self-service. When your platform is intuitive to use and it’s easy for consumers to discover the APIs they need through your API catalogue, you have a solid foundation for success. 

Your consumers also benefit when you deliver high availability, performance and reliability. It means they can trust your platform for their integrations. 

The ability to provide unified experiences is another plus point. Consumers can reap the rewards of standardised security, the efficiency gains of using templates and more. Speaking of efficiency, the reusability that a well-conceived API platform can deliver can support consumers to strengthen their API strategy – another way to keep them happy. 

With all this in mind, are you ready to reap the rewards of your API platform strategy? The right composable API platform means you can manage your entire API ecosystem easily and efficiently while keeping your primary and secondary consumers happy. 

Why not book a demo of Tyk to see for yourself?

Richard Johnston
Product Research at Tyk | + posts

Rich has a passion for helping businesses develop strategic API initiatives. With 14 years of experience in digital strategy development, and implementation, he is dedicated to empowering you with the knowledge and skills needed to craft a winning API platform strategy.