Are you a developer looking to improve the user-friendliness, developer experience and adoption rate of your self-made Application Programming Interface (API)? If so, then you should consider creating a Software Developer Kit (SDK) for your latest project. By making an SDK for your API, you give other developers everything they need to use to its fullest potential, while also ensuring that they have the best developer experience possible.
With that said, your SDK should be crafted in such a way that it facilitates a helpful and informative experience for developers. Otherwise, the SDK may hurt your API’s usability and popularity among your peers rather than improve it. To help you with this, below is a list of five helpful tips in creating an SDK for your API. Before we delve into those, however, here is a brief explainer about what APIs and SDKs are.
What is an API?
API stands for Application Programming Interface. Simply put, it is a software component that allows two other separate components to communicate with each other easily and efficiently. This intrinsic trait makes APIs indispensable in programming since it gives developers a standardized way of getting software components to work with one another while eliminating the costly need to have such interfaces built from scratch.
What is an SDK?
SDK stands for Software Developer Kit. Essentially, it is a package that includes all the information a developer needs to know about an API, as well as the tools and instructions they need to create an application with the same API.
Now that we are familiar with these terms, here are the five quick tips for API SDK creation.
Ensure that both the API and SDK have documentation
It is advisable to have the API come with proper documentation, even if you do not have any plans to create an SDK for it. API documentation that is easy to read and interactive is always a good starting point in ensuring that it sees use from other developers.
It is also especially easy to create compelling documentation for your API, especially if it was built with the OpenAPI specification in mind. One of the biggest benefits of using an OpenAPI Specification Toolkit is the ability to use the most number of API management tools that accept this same specification, which then allows you to easily generate interactive API documentation. This added interactivity let your users try out your API’s calls directly in their browsers, giving them a clear picture of what your API is capable of.
Beyond this, it’s also ideal to give the SDK its documentation as well. By providing clear and jargon-free documentation of your SDK, you can clearly outline which component of the kit does what. This minimizes the chances of any developer being confused by your SDK and its contents.
Simplicity is key
Keep your SDK and API as simple as possible. Avoid overly complex coding, flamboyant uses of jargon, and confusing methodologies. While these can certainly attract attention, they contribute nothing to attracting more users to try out your API. If you allow these unnecessary flourishes in your code, they may even dissuade developers from utilizing your API.
Some examples that you can take from are as follows:
- Prioritize heavily used methods and classes. This will let the SDK prominently display the functions that the user will be heavily relying on. This will also avoid any confusion by showing other functions that the API or SDK isn’t designed to accept.
- Be consistent with naming conditions. Use only widely accepted terminologies and naming conventions in your SDK and API. This also helps cut down on confusion and wasted time.
- Use as few parameters in the SDK codebase as possible. Only use enough to carry out the separate functions you need to run. This allows for a codebase that has both form and function in mind, thus making for a leaner and more focused product.
Keep the widest possible audience in mind
Your SDK should be usable by the widest and most diverse audience possible. Otherwise, it may not be effective in increasing the adoption rate or popularity of your API. Some important things you can do to achieve this includes packing in a detailed manual or primer for new users. You can also consider multi-lingual support for both the SDK and API for a truly inclusive experience. Your SDK should also be simple enough that a capable user can start utilizing it effectively within the first ten minutes of interacting with the kit itself. Tailor your SDK’s codebase and starting user’s guide to facilitate this as much as possible.
Don’t hide surprises in your SDK
Remember that your SDK should be able to educate a new user about the basics of your SDK, and teach them how to effectively utilize it. As such, it should be completely devoid of all unexpected elements that could detract from the learning experience. For example, the SDK and its documentation should always be updated to match your API’s latest version. This means that if you add new functions or features to your API, they should already be documented and featured in its SDK as well. Any element that you remove or cull from your API should also be removed from your SDK.
Approaching publishing in a sensible and balanced manner
Finally, always approach publishing that balances your objectives and user convenience. For instance, if your API is meant to be openly accessible to the public, then using GitHub to publish your SDK would be the ideal route to go. Conversely, if you want your API’s codebase to be kept private, then a proprietary SDK and documentation should work better in this regard. Such an approach allows for a tightly defined and controlled user experience, in terms of what the user can see and interact with.
Having an appropriate SDK makes your API more welcoming to new users
Don’t underestimate the value of having a well-written and capably made SDK for your API. Just like how API documentation helps users and developers grasp the ins and outs of your latest project, an SDK allows for a clear understanding of how your API functions. And how it can benefit the coding endeavours of others. It is a direct line of communication and instruction between you and your user. One should strive to keep it as simple, intuitive, and inclusive as possible. The extra work and effort will pay off in the long run.
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