SANTA CLARA — Do your services and devices and cloud-based applications include APIs? If not, you are either out of business or soon will be.
 
That was the consensus at the Developer Relations Conference, held here in late March. The small conference—only a couple hundred attendees—is for companies looking for you to join their developer program. Think Embarcadero. Think IBM. Think Ford Motor Company. Think AT&T. Think Samsung. Think Walgreens. Think Amazon.
 
As one speaker put it, “Everyone is in the software business.”
 
Now in its 10th year, the Developer Relations Conference, produced by Evans Data Corp., is intended to help companies (and their marketers and developer evangelists) create compelling developer programs that will attract lots of attention. That means helping stay on top of trends. A few years ago, the hot ticket was to have your own app store. Today, it’s to offer open application programmer interfaces.
 
It’s not enough to publish some APIs. The underlying offering has to be compelling. The APIs themselves have to be well designed, stable, documented, supported, and include a vibrant community. The fee structure for using those APIs has to be clear. The benefits of using those APIs have to be clear as well, and communicated loud and clear, preferably through the right sort of social media channels. (Think Stack Overflow.)
 
A solid group of speakers gave excellent information at the two-day Developer Relations Conference; I especially enjoyed the talks by David Intersimone (also known as David I) from Embarcadero, Gina Poole from IBM, and John Ellis from Ford. Here are some tips that I picked up:
 
Every developer going to your developer program is looking for one of four things. Those are seizing a business opportunity, looking to solve a specific technical program, growing skills, or seeking “fame and fortune.”
 
The cloud is transformative. Eighty-five percent new software is built for the cloud today, and a quarter of all software will be in the cloud by 2016. According to Evans, 72% of developers are already using cloud APIs.
 
The world is mobile. And 90% of mobile users keep their device within arm’s reach 100% of the time.
 
You need to focus on unstructured data. It’s said that 80% of all data is unstructured, and the amount of unstructured data is growing at 15x the rate of structured data.
 
Privacy is important. Yet people will share personal information with you based on the perceived value of what they are getting in return.
 
It’s all about RESTful APIs. Forget SOAP. REST with JSON is the most usable for developers.
 
Feed the developers. If you want to promote your APIs, products or services at in-person meet-ups, offer to pay for the food.
 
Developers don’t have patience. Make using your APIs and services a frictionless experience. For example, your API documentation should be dynamic for specific user cases, not boring man pages.
 
Support is important. A vibrant developer community is even more important.
 
Open up your API documentation and community. Welcome and embrace developers before they become customers.
 
It’s not about why your API is so great. Focus on explaining why developers would want to build to your APIs. Show developers how to be successful.
 
What do you like best about APIs? Write me at alan@camdenassociates.com.
 
Alan Zeichick, founding editor of SD Times, is principal analyst of Camden Associates.

About Alan Zeichick

Alan Zeichick, founding editor of SD Times, is principal analyst of Camden Associates.