Four months ago I began my journey at Onboard Informatics on a mission to deliver the best API possible to our customers. From that point on, I have spoken to hundreds of developers, marketing managers, business development teams, etc… and have learned a few key things about what is expected from an API. There are a few basic concepts that come up in every conversation like uptime, data quality, documentation, and support. These are obviously the first things that an API product manager needs to be concerned about when getting started at a new company to make sure there are no critical gaps.
Why go to API World?
Moving past the core expectations is where the world of APIs really opens up and gives someone in my position quite a few doors to consider opening. This is where a conference like API World becomes a great resource for potential ideas on how to move forward. I spent two days in sunny San Jose last week with one goal in mind…validate that our API program's direction makes sense in the world of APIs, and most importantly, with our users.
I spent time at talks like "What do you mean by 'API as a product' " and "Best practices in growing a developer eco-system around your API" and listened to some incredible individuals talk about making a complex world more simple. I also spent some time brainstorming with other API product managers about problems I face every day and learned how industry experts handle them with ease (or at least seemingly).
Onboard is Headed in the Right Direction
Through all of these presentations and conversations, I left API World with a good feeling about where the Onboard API program is headed, and here's why…
Major API Releases
First, one of the points made over and over again was "developers only care about one thing when they get to your portal, 'can this API help me solve my problem?' and you need that answer to be yes for your market." Over the past 3 months, we have completed 3 major API releases and a handful of minor releases to compliment. By adding owner, mortgage, school, and sales aggregate data, we are working hard to get you all of the data you need to attract and engage your users. Along the way, we have added different ways to search, filter, and sort the data so that you can efficiently serve up data to help you and your users solve their problems quickly.
Developer Friendly Documentation
"Get code in the hands of the developers." I heard that A LOT. Once a developer has determined that an API can help them to solve a problem, the next question is "Do I want to use this API to help me solve my problem?" Solid documentation can come in many shapes and forms and is critical to a usable API. However, taking it one step further leads to sample code, SDKs, and tutorials. If two APIs have the exact same data, the differentiation is going to come through implementation and support of the API. This message came through loud and clear and was good to hear since the week before the conference, Onboard kicked off an effort to bring customers sample code and tutorials in an easy-to-use, self-service way. In the coming months, you can expect to see more ways for developers to easily get started building and create products that display Onboard data in ways that will help to engage your users.
Coming Soon: Partner Portal
Finally, the most important lesson I learned was one that I thought I already had a pretty good grip on. Partnerships. Partnerships and their importance in a successful API program really came through in almost any presentation I saw over the past few days. The main message circled around the idea that APIs may be built for a specific project or an internal team, but their greatest use will be through partners who build something great off of them. This concept is easy to see with examples like Google Maps and PayPal, where some of the best implementations may be through a completely separate set of products. At Onboard, we have built some great products using our data, but the best part of my job is getting to see what our customers build with the API. This is one of the key reasons why Onboard will soon be launching a partner portal where anyone using Onboard data can showcase their product and introduce it to a marketplace that is quickly being elevated by new technology.