Whether the API is private or public, it definitely requires product management at some level. Of course, since APIs not regular old products, most product managers don’t really know how to handle them. And if they handle them poorly, the whole ordeal of designing an API will only result in dissatisfied users and a failed product.

The API adaptation will be extremely limited; integrations will be few and far between and correcting all of the mistakes made will be too expensive for the company.

If you want to successfully launch your API, first you need to realize that you need product management. This management category lies at the crossing of business, tech, and user experience. The job of an API product manager is to make sure that the product the dev team is working on comes out usable, valuable, and feasible.

And just how can you accomplish all of that?

API Usability: How to ensure the software is usable

For starters, there are many different approaches to API – your team might be using REST, RPC, or a certain hybrid of these approaches. Depending on that, the end product may significantly vary in design, usage, etc. All of these elements will have a huge impact on the usability of the API in the end.

But the design is not the only thing you need to pay special attention to at the very start. If you want to ensure that your API is really usable, you need to make sure that the documentation that comes with it is readable, digestible, and easy to understand even for non-tech-savvy people.

You see, most experts – like John Musser, for example – place poor documentation at the top of the list of reasons why APIs fail. So make sure your documentation is complete, that it looks professional, and that it gets started on time.

API Value: How to provide a useful function

At its core, the API needs to solve a certain problem; why else should a developer even use the API? For that reason, as a product manager, you need to determine what’s useful and what’s not in the early stages of API development. Failing to do that would result in a ton of wasted man-hours.

First off, you need to understand your potential user base. You can target a lot of different people with your API, including:

  • The decision-makers in your chosen industry
  • Developers with little to no experience with the job
  • Seasoned devs looking to solve a specific problem

Of course, there are lots of other potential user groups out there, and we won’t waste your time listing them all. The point here is that every group out there has its own needs. You need to make sure that your API solves the problems of the group you’re targeting.

Also, you need to make sure that its functionality is up to par – if not even better – than the functionality your competitors are offering. All of that requires a lot of product research, market research, and most importantly, online API testing if you want do it successfully.

API Feasibility: How to give the users a great experience

This part might’ve sounded confusing for some, but when you get into it, it’s not actually that hard to understand. You see, different API integrations have completely different consumption needs. For instance, one integration might be able to consume an entire payload while another may consume just a small portion of the resources.

Furthermore, your API should definitely take advantage of the safe natures available on certain endpoints. By having headers set on responses, some services can boost cache-ability of your API. The headers should include:

  • The date
  • The expires
  • The pragma
  • The last-modified

Now, as a product manager, you’re not expected to understand all of the technical terms used to explain how these headers work. But you should at least consult someone about them. That way, you’ll be able to ensure that your consumers have the best user experience possible.

The Bottom Line

All of this probably sounds a bit complicated, especially if you’re new to the business. Well, that’s only because it is, no matter how much experience you have. API product management requires some developer knowledge, a lot of market testing, and even more research.

All of that is time-consuming and tedious at times. However, you need to understand that the rewards – including more integrations, employee satisfaction, and in the end, money – are all worth it. Invest the time needed in API product management, be patient, and you’ll definitely see results.

We hope you enjoyed our article and that you found it helpful. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the section below and we’ll get right back at you.

Published by Joel Borthwick