While writing code can be a solitary activity, software development is a collaborative enterprise. Developers need to connect with other developers to enable interconnectivity and share information about the use of APIs, SDKs, and other things necessary for development.
In software projects, collaboration requires multiple united people to create a product. To enable such a level of collaboration and cooperation, tools and websites with the exclusive aim of sharing and disseminating documentation, such as the developer portals, have begun to appear.
However, once built, developer portals, just like intranets, aren’t highly used. This happens when companies, wanting to attract developers, create a developer portal but fail to improve it by fostering a community. That makes companies wonder, do I need a developer portal? While the short answer is ‘yes’, we’ve asked the experts about their opinion.
What Is a Developer Portal?
A developer portal provides the necessary technical information for software developers to configure and manage communication between an API and internal and external systems.
A developer portal aims to generate more output, more quickly than it would be for a single team of developers without community help. Similarly, a developer portal helps teams come together to eliminate dysfunctional collaboration.
Developer portals are commonly composed of two parts:
- Functional documentation: This includes basic flows, API guides, and status codes.
- Technical documentation: This includes information to assemble resources and sample calls.
According to Chris O’Connell, Senior Principal Architect at Chicago, IL-based SPR, a developer portal should allow developers to do the following:
- Access documentation and see statistics such as usage and performance
- API consumers should easily consume API features
- Simplified support for the API to quickly roll out new features without breaking existing ones and to make sure that the API is healthy.
Related Article: What Is API Management (and Why Do I Need It)?
Benefits of a Developer Portal
For software vendors, open APIs represent a new way of working with customers and partners. A dev portal enables third-parties to create digital products and services that enhance the vendor’s capabilities.
A portal enables providers to extend their market reach and range of products, potentially increasing the user base. It also helps business leaders and prospective software buyers understand the value of the tool and its APIs and the resources teams need to start using them.
That being said, the benefits of a developer portal center on four categories:
- Drive awareness: A developer portal makes it clear for visitors what your software and APIs provide and the opportunities for development that exist. Ron Huber, CEO at San Diego, CA.-based Achieve Internet is of the opinion that “portals can also give organizations an opportunity to expand their global presence while maintaining full control over access management and security.”
- Enable software exploration: A portal centralizes documentation and reference guides. Plus, Huber thinks that “developer portals also provide easy ways for developers to get in touch with the API team, as well as app galleries that showcase the functionality of APIs or different technologies.”
- Simplify onboarding: Portals help other developers hit the ground running and build products faster. Huber considers that development times can be shortened “with a well-built developer portal that includes user-friendly discussion forums and a knowledge base that's easy to search and navigate through.”
- Increase engagement: A portal enables partners and other third-parties to enact co-marketing strategies. “Developers often use API portals to discuss their ideas and projects, making them busy, engaging innovation hubs,” Huber said.
Who Interacts With a Developer Portal
Developer portals are not only for developers. In fact, portals create an ecosystem where multiple stakeholders interact. Let’s take a closer look at who uses the dev portal:
- Developers: The team of developers who built the portal and the APIs.
- API consumers: The end-consumer and those who get value from your APIs.
- Product owners: Product owners gather new ideas for products or features.
- Salespeople: A portal can help with business development and partner recruitment.
- Developer advocates: They bridge the gap between developers and the company
- Technical writers: They produce content about APIs and onboarding initiatives
Now more than ever, developers are making technology adoption decisions. They are choosing on which platforms to build and what products are needed to purchase and use. Developer portals are places where companies can do technical outreach and education. They can offer software documentation, example code, tools, and knowledge bases to enhance communication and functional collaboration.
Also, from a developer perspective, a developer portal simplifies API management. According to Matt Pillar, VP of Engineering at San Mateo, CA.-based OneSignal, “API management platforms often provide the ability to expose and market API endpoint schema via a developer portal, which enables the API schema to be duplicated across multiple sources like developer documentation and the app itself.”
Similarly, a portal has an added benefit for marketers and decision-makers because the community around the software can help measure certain metrics such as maturity and adoption.
Ultimately, for developer portals to become successful, software vendors need to build a reputation among developers to attract talent and build a community. To ensure the continuity of your software and drive user adoption, a healthy developer portal is necessary, which means that marketing teams need to start thinking of developers as an audience and create content aimed at attracting their attention.