28 Jul

Why Developer Experience (DX) is critical while creating APIs for humans

Developer Experience (DX) is critical while creating APIs for humans

“Developer Experience” is the convention of perceiving the procedures followed by developers to accomplish their work, and also optimize that experience subsequently. DX considers developers as specialized users and is inspired by the User Experience (UX); which in essence, is the science of simplifying the end-user-interactions with software products to enhance their experience. The ideologies of UX can thus be applied to DX, as the domain under consideration (software programming) is also similar. This makes DX an amalgamation of UX and conventional development ideologies. While DX has several applications and appeals to a wide range of audiences, we here are categorizing our focus on APIs (Application Programming Interface) for humans.

For businesses with consumer-facing software, UX has evolved into a critical aspect, as it can help them gain competitive advantage. But as the end-users of the APIs are developers, the need to design a good experience also is essential. This can be achieved by focusing on DX, which in turns requires using the special aspect of empathy. It’s because we are basically dealing with humans and need to understand how they feel while using our API. The sum of overall experience of a developer, while interacting with the API, derives the aggregate component of Developer Experience.

Unlike generic users, developers are technically qualified to deal with software in a better way. Using this as an inference, going out of the way to create a highly enhanced experience for the developers is commonly not intended. However, on the other hand, developers are also smart enough to discover the inaccuracies in the APIs, which eventually can result in an appalling DX.

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In the niche market of APIs, where functionality is almost similar, and usability is the sole differentiator, focusing on DX becomes even more important. An overall negative DX could result in pessimistic reviews about the product, which could even give the developers enough incentive to switch to a competitor’s product. On the contrary, if your API delivers better DX than all other competing products, you could gain a significant competitive advantage in the specialized market.

Focusing on Empathy

To build an API with brilliant developer experience, API designers have to peruse the aspect of empathy; which is about perceiving the emotional state of others by placing yourself in their position. By focusing on empathy, API developers can construe the emotions the developers would go through while using their product. This would help them in making their APIs much more effectual.

While the parenthesis of focusing on empathy sounds simple, it would be surprising to know that is perhaps quite intricate to put the same into practice. This is usual because designing for humans with different perceptions is always going to be tricky.

For instance, the API designers are developers themselves and would have become accustomed to the various idiosyncrasies of their own products. This intimate familiarity with the product could make it difficult for them to identify the quirk that could turn out as pain-points to the developers who’d use their API. While those features would be matter-of-course for the designers, it could generate a completely different experience from others. This is where the emotive aspect of the process becomes the key to interpreting the empathy that is required. If an API manages to employee empathy to an extent that it covers all the bases for the developers who’d use it, the final product could have an exceptional quotient of DX.

Representational State Transfer

Ancillary Communication

An API could be utilized to its fullest if it is easy to comprehend. The ideal way for the API designers to ensure that developers using it do not find it intricate is by providing enough documentation of their code. This would enable the developers to read through the source easily and interpret the core functionalities.  Apart from the necessary documentation, a comprehensive set of “Getting Started” guides along with illustrative diagrams would also be highly useful. Furthermore, adding examples, statistics and facts will improve the connotations. This will not just help the developers to go through the records quickly, but would also induce considerable interest. The approach of using the auxiliary documentation would help them assimilate the usability in a better way, which would, in turn, contribute to the DX.

Ease of Debugging

Trying to create a faultless API is always the objective of the designers. However, there is no denying the fact that bugs and fixes are an integral part of the software development process. Hence, a near-perfect API would be one that allows fixing the inevitable bugs rather much more easily. While the end-users, if an API are proficient technicians themselves, giving them a chance to fix the bugs on their own, becomes even more important. Also, due to the unsynchronized characteristics of API, debugging them when in production can be particularly tedious. On the other hand, being the eventual target audience of the software, developers can specifically tweak the functionalities that they commonly utilize. API designers can alleviate the task of developers by providing a dashboard, which will let them cross-check their requests and callbacks much more easily. This could add significantly to the overall DX factor.

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Dedicated Support

Even though developers are technically capable of debugging some of the trivial issues, major or many intricate bugs might require them to seek help from the original design team. In such cases, a having tech-support available guide them to find a solution could be highly cherished. However, owing to several factors like cost and resource availability, a dedicated support structure might not always be possible. Yet, having someone from the API-team to help developers solve their issues with ease will contribute to the DX in a big way.

From helping the developers to find a solution, to putting yourself in their shoes to assimilate empathy, there exist various other ways for the API designers to enhance the overall experience for their target audience. While these measures may not be the most comprehensive list of principles when it comes to maximizing the DX, they are ideally suited to define a cohesive framework while developing APIs for humans.

Key Takeaways

  • “Developer Experience” is about understanding the procedures followed by developers to accomplish their work, and also optimize that experience.
  • In the niche market of APIs, functionality is similar, making usability the primary differentiator, and focusing on DX becomes important.
  • Profound documentation of the API code will enable developers using the API to understand it better.
  • Intricate bugs might require developers to seek help from the original design team for solutions, which can be sufficed by an efficient support structure.