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Re-imagining the User Experience with APIs

By Stefania Viscusi
July 13, 2016

The benefits that APIs bring to businesses are being talked about daily. APIs make it possible to more quickly, easily and affordably integrate and build connected platforms for products. This is because the businesses can be laser-focused on their expertise and quality solutions can result. Not only is this strengthening relationships and bringing better ROI, but it’s also making it possible to re-imagine user experiences.

“By utilizing APIs, businesses can go to market faster and with fewer resources. Outside of the ability to really focus, I believe that businesses are given an opportunity to uniquely compose their set of chosen APIs to create a richer customer experience for their customers,” Sean Hsieh, Flowroute Founder & Chief Product Officer told DevsWorld during a recent interview.

But there are still challenges ahead. Even though APIs are now very common, and the majority of tech giants have predicated their businesses around APIs, if you’re a new API developer, there is still an uphill battle to get other developers to even consider your product, Hsieh noted.

Reasons can include anything from interfaces, formatting of data and more. For this reason, Hsieh said it is vital that developers understand how to appeal to other developers to attain the traction they need to have their API grow into something that will make a large difference in today’s tech world.

Hsieh is participating in the upcoming All About the API event in Las Vegas where he will present during the session titled, “Bringing Telecom Innovation to Market Faster with APIs” on Wed. July 20 at 9:30 a.m.

The session will talk more about these topics and explore how APIs, from carriers and PaaS providers, enable innovation with telecommunications in a flexible, yet simple manner.

The rest of our conversation and what Hsieh had to say about APIs today has been included for you below.

Is there a market for APIs you would consider the low-hanging fruit?  Which markets are the next to leverage APIs extensively?

The low hanging fruit is clearly any business with a well defined process that doesn't require too much external manual intervention. An API is a natural evolution for a well defined business process, especially when you are pursuing automation and integration as business strategies. We’ve already seen the transportation game evolve via Uber and Lyft by utilizing communication APIs for voice and messaging capabilities. The ‘Uberization’ of other SaaS-based companies is spreading across a number of verticals. Food delivery is a shining example of that with the launch of Door Dash, Foodler and Munchery.

The industries ripest for Uberization are those with a marketplace of service suppliers and consumers, where the customer experience could be dramatically improved by interfacing with a management layer that puts the consumer in control.

Who, within an organization, should businesses target when marketing their APIs (i.e., business leaders, C-Suite, developers)?

Marketing your API is a two-pronged approach. The first audience is the developer, without a developer that wants to integrate your API, you’ll have a tough time maintaining that account. Second, you need to find the person internal to your target company who is overseeing development expenses and wants to get to market quickly. Aside from being clear that your APIs make development easier, it is vital your APIs are ready for prime time, as developers are hard to get back if they can’t get off the ground and running.

How do you measure ROI of APIs?

ROI measurement for APIs should be uniquely defined by what the API is accomplishing. For instance, if your API is the core of your business and designed to create orders for a product, then I would recommend that you measure something simple that the business understands, such as revenue through API-created orders created. If your API endpoint supplements an existing process, and streamlines customer experience, then I would measure the amount of queries on that endpoint and try to correlate it to something like expansion revenue.

Who is responsible for security?  Is API security more challenging than securing other applications, hardware and networks?

Security is ideally shared with both sides involved. Ultimately, it is up to the individual implementing the API as security is only as good as the weakest link. API providers should allow consumers to define the level of security they want to use. For example, offer tokenization schemes like OAuth2 which are more secure but require slightly more development effort.

APIs aren’t more challenging to secure, but if you expose another level of access, then you add another level of security to your applications or services.

Which is better, SOAP or REST?  Why?

They both have their applications in which they are strongly suited for, but in today’s market REST is much more appealing to me. REST was designed to accommodate for some of the elements that made SOAP cumbersome. The argument that REST does not have standardization is beginning to change with JSON-API, but this does put more onus on the developer to pay attention to create a good API user experience.

How often are APIs changed or updated?  How is this accomplished while ensuring minimal disruption to users and their customers?

That depends on the API provider. Features should expand all the time, but the API itself shouldn’t always be changing. We are firm believers that as an API provider, you should always be adding features, never taking them away. Depreciation schedules are often impactful on users and require coordination. If you are going to take away functionality from your API, give people a month or so notice to coordinate on their end. 

What kinds of standardization are still needed to drive successful mass development and adoption of APIs across verticals?

We need a widely adopted standard in API design; this has always been an issue. API endpoint design, standardized format JSON or XML and the design of the content of these responses will help usher in a new era of focus on API functionality rather than API design.

I believe that as different verticals begin to invest heavily into API creation, we will see new levels of standards come into the market, similar to what we saw with the effort behind OAuth. As the lines between private and open APIs begin to blur, we will see some convergence in terms of design and standardization.

How important is building an ecosystem around your API(s)?  Can your API(s) be successful without it?

It depends on how competitive the market is that your API lives in. If you deliver an API that is above all others in the space, then you really won’t have any competition. Developers are some of the hardest people to give you a second chance - so you have to make a good first impression.

I do believe that an ecosystem around your API, or having your API sit in many ecosystems will certainly raise your probability of having a successful API.

What differentiates one ecosystem from another?

A superior ecosystem is going to have a consistent way to access / integrate all their APIs. There should be a logical connection to the neighboring APIs, instead of just a marketplace of disparate services. The ecosystem that becomes extremely sticky is the one that provides the best developer experience from an integration, access and control standpoint.

Why should attendees at All About the API make sure to attend your session/booth?

Communication APIs are right at the center of the ‘Uberization’ of things. There are a number of different ways developers can implement communication services into their apps and services. It ultimately boils down to how much control the developer requires. This panel will focus on how the API movement is transforming the industry by enabling developers to re-imagine the user experience by incorporating calling and messaging into thousands of use cases.

Edited by Alicia Young

Assignment Desk, Content Management

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