Do you run an application program interface (API)? If so, documentation is a crucial element of the developer experience, and it’s typically the first encounter they will have with your API. Developers need detailed instructions and documentation so they don’t have to waste time filing support tickets and searching forums when trying to access and use your API.
So, how can you ensure that your API documentation is successful and easy to use? Here are four tips to help you create best-in-class documentation:
Tip 1: Focus on the User
Understand your users. Who will be using these docs? You can’t assume that everyone who uses your API will understand it as well as you do. Make sure to write in plain, clear language specifically tailored to that user base. Avoid jargon they won’t be familiar with and break down technical terms. Make it easy for users to understand what they need to know. Try to use casual language when you can – your customers will feel more engaged if they feel like they’re talking to someone on your team directly.
Tip 2: Include Visualizations and Examples
Visualizations are a great way to provide additional context for what your API does and can help reduce the amount of text developers must consume before they can start working with your APIs. Developers benefit when they get the information they need to use your APIs quickly, so include graphic examples wherever possible so that developers can see how certain features work in practice.
Tip 3: Organize, then Organize Again
The organization of your documentation should be logical and consistent and include relevant information in a way that is intuitive to readers. Provide examples of how to use your API, so you can give developers a better understanding of how they can use your work in their projects. Make sure that you have a clear purpose for each page of your documentation so that readers know exactly why they’re reading and where your guidance fits into their workflow. Ensure that all of the resources referenced in your documentation are available online (or linked directly). If information isn’t necessary on a particular page, consider moving it somewhere else so it doesn’t clutter up the page or confuse readers.
Tip 4: Keep Your Documentation Updated
Maintain your docs and keep them updated. You should be updating your documentation any time there is a change in functionality or when you add new features. When you update your documentation, make sure you change the version number, so developers know what version of your API they are using. Anyone who uses your documentation will want to know what’s new and what has changed since the last update.
Connecting with your users means providing them with clear instructions for how they can use your API, including all of the details they need to get it up and running. They’ll feel more confident in their ability to use your API, which will encourage them to keep using your system in future projects.