API portals should be giving app developers the tools they need to find APIs and you the tools to manage the entire API lifecycle. They’re supposed to make your APIs easier to adopt. And they were supposed to be helping you get a return on your API investments.
Instead, they’ve turned into a list of stuff that demands support time as frustrated developers struggle to navigate the portal. Part of this is due to the explosive growth of APIs, but also more dev teams, more types of APIs (Asynch, Synch, gRPC, graphQL…), and the fact this is all happening in multiple deployments and with multiple vendors.
It’s probably also because you’re treating API developer portals like a junk drawer full of cables – you know the one I’m talking about.
It’s the drawer where you collect cables that you need, and ones that you might potentially use someday. You probably meant to organize it at some point, but it’s become a thing unto itself now. Pretty soon, you find yourself buying a new API – I mean, HDMI cable – only to realize later you already had one that was wedged under the very bottom of the pile.
If you can get the right organization and view of what you have, you’re able to quickly pull out what you need, lock up your valuables safely, and donate what you know deep down inside you will never actually use. Sound familiar?
Here’s why your API developer portals are stuffed with stuff that no one can find or use, and how you can unlock the full value of your APIs with an API marketplace that offers a more complete developer experience.
What are API developer portals?
An API portal is a web catalog specifically designed for access to a company’s APIs. It provides a centralized location for developers – potentially both internal and external – to find API documentation, register for API access, and collaborate with the company providing the API.
The idea is to provide a good developer experience that encourages adoption and engagement with the APIs. The portal should offer a comprehensive set of tools and resources to support developers throughout the entire API lifecycle.
Unfortunately, API portals rarely live up to that standard. Instead, companies often lose money building and maintaining too many of them. They’re finding unmanaged (read: lost) APIs that pose security risks, and unclear documentation and examples (if there’s any to begin with).
Top seven reasons your API developer portal is failing
A recent study by Enterprise Management Associates found fewer than 10% of IT organizations fully document their APIs. Besides making for a frustrating experience when a developer wants to use an API, the lack of visibility and documentation can pose serious security blind spots to your organization, the study’s sponsor points out.
Even if you’re only using a portal for your internal teams, you need a consistent experience to ensure APIs are intelligently designed, documented, tested, and supported throughout the entire lifecycle. Importantly, they need the tools to go beyond a project mindset – i.e., developing an API for a single use case – to treating APIs as business capabilities (products) that are more easily reused and recomposed into new solutions.
Here are seven signs your API developer portal is failing you:
- It’s just a list of stuff – siloed teams have to manually add APIs
- Search is dependent on structure, and tagging isn’t well defined (or even used)
- There aren’t any examples; no way to showcase how an API could be implemented
- Developers don’t know where to start to understand your offering
- You have little indication of what APIs are getting used or if they’re even still supported
- No product orientation with ownership and ongoing content and freshness
- When it depends on developers using some extra toolsets to work, the portal doesn’t work.
What it really comes down to is that API portals have historically focused on APIs as technical interfaces. But an effective API strategy focuses on API products – business capabilities packaged into an API.
Organizations need the tools to design API products that solve specific needs and drive business forward, not just a repository for application programming interfaces.
The true cost of the problem
So, your API developer portals aren’t working out the way you need them to, and growing complexity isn’t helping matters. One common stumbling block is when larger companies have multiple development portals; they might be organized by development center, API pattern, Gateway vendor or other category.
There are good reasons to organize by customer segment, but the multiplication of portals can complicate things. For example, if you have teams in different geographical locations, they likely have their own developer portals through their preferred vendor, and they might all be deployed differently (cloud, on-premises).
With increased complexity, you it’s also harder to have a single source of truth for all your APIs. This can lead to serious API security concerns when they go unnoticed. A 2022 analysis of more than 16.7 billion API transactions found that 31% of the malicious requests targeted unknown, unmanaged, or unprotected APIs.
Beyond security concerns, this lack of efficiency leads to very real costs in terms of lost time and resources, slowing down digital initiatives. And it makes it hard to execute an aligned, enterprise-wide API strategy.
Lack of adoption
If you’re offering a poor API developer experience, it can undermine trust in your developer portal and its APIs. That translates into low API adoption.
The developers attempting to consume your APIs are lost and frustrated when navigating across multiple portals. They aren’t sure which source to trust for documentation (if there is any, as we saw in the study cited above). As a result, they need a lot of support and walk-through just to adopt a single API.
Even if they do find the API they need, it’s unclear how or where that API is being maintained and supported. Can they trust it?
Duplication of APIs
Finally, a poor developer experience on your API portal leads to API duplication. Low reuse and adoption are painful because developing an API is expensive. When we researched API complexity, we found companies stand to save nearly $30K on average every time they reuse an API.
You can’t afford to have teams from different regions or departments redoing the same work because developers couldn’t find the API they needed.
What is the best API developer portal?
To drive adoption, companies need to be able to package and manage their APIs as products, and that includes streamlining the process of onboarding, empowering developers to use their APIs.
That’s why the best API developer portal is an API marketplace.
Amplify Enterprise Marketplace consolidates all your APIs across platforms, gateways, and repositories into one enterprise API developer portal.
With a universal API management platform as its foundation, Marketplace tames complexity by using lightweight agents to automate the discovery, capture, and validation of APIs into one registry where they can be managed, monitored, and governed.
That means developer teams can continue to work with their preferred tools and deployment modes, and you are able to tame the complexity thanks to a single source of truth for your APIs.
I recently shared some of the ways an API marketplace helps improve internal efficiency. Watch the video below to see how it gives teams APIs they can trust.
Amplify helps you increase the speed to market for new digital initiatives by making it much easier for dev teams to find and adopt the precise API building blocks they need. And with Marketplace, you can build fewer, more useful APIs with a productization process that validates security while also increasing your APIs’ value, longevity, and adoption.
Let’s get that cable drawer under control.
Watch this demo to learn how to leverage your APIs through a turnkey Marketplace.