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What are your top tips for nailing the self-serve experience for an api product?

2 Answers
Melissa Ushakov
Melissa Ushakov
GitLab Group Manager, Product ManagementNovember 22

There are three key aspects of this:

  • Consistency - In large companies, APIs are maintained by many teams. Ensuring consistency across endpoints is essential to a great end-user experience. It's hard for when users when switching endpoints changes the format of standard fields like timestamps and other audit fields. The first step is to have agreed-upon technology and conventions. Then you can start enforcing the standards during code reviews and with your automated tests. 
  • Documentation - Complete documentation is table-stakes to the self-service experience. Standards like OpenAPI https://www.openapis.org/ help create documentation automatically, increasing efficiency and accuracy.
  • Discoverability - The ideal experience is that your users don't need to consult the documentation. Your API should give end-users ways to learn about the functionality directly from the API. You can read about how that can be achieved in this article https://thenewstack.io/the-state-of-introspection-for-rest-and-graphql-apis/ .
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Kalvin Brite
Kalvin Brite
Contentful VP, Product ManagementJanuary 3

Here are a few tips for nailing the self-serve experience for an API product:

  1. Make it easy to get started: Make sure that it's easy for developers to sign up for an API key and get started using the API. This might involve providing clear documentation, simple onboarding flows, and access to sample code and other resources.
  2. Offer robust documentation: Provide comprehensive and easy-to-understand documentation for your API, including details on how to make requests, what data is available, and how to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
  3. Keep it up to date: Regularly update your API documentation and other resources to keep them current and accurate. This can help to ensure that users have the most up-to-date information and can make the most of your API.
  4. Provide clear pricing and usage limits: Make it clear to developers how much your API costs and any usage limits or restrictions that may apply. This will help them to understand the potential costs of using your API and plan accordingly.
  5. Offer support and community resources: Provide support and community resources to help developers get the most out of your API. This might include a developer forum, an FAQ section, or access to support staff who can help with any questions or issues.
  6. Monitor and respond to developer feedback: Pay attention to developer feedback and use it to improve the self-serve experience. This might involve updating documentation, adding new features, or fixing bugs based on developer feedback.
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