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How to be a good platform for third party integration developers?
We have been in the integration business now for over 5 years, as of 2021. Over the years we have worked with more than 100 different applications, their APIs, their API support teams, forums, API documentation and a bunch of other systems with APIs that were open, closed and everything in between.
These days every platform worth its salt claims to have an open API. How can you ensure your platform is developer-friendly so more integration developers want to build integrations on your platform? What are the things developers care about ?
Here’s our wishlist from platforms when we are working on integration development. If you are a Partner Manager responsible for bringing integration developers on to the platform read on below to see how.
Good, up-to-date and interactive documentation
This one goes without saying – the key to a good API is to have really good documentation, better still if you have a way in the documentation to do a live trial and a trial post right there on the post.
Here’s a good example of a documentation system that works with a fully interactive ability
The key being to have developer API be interactive so it can be worked on easily.
While most apps today support oAuth, there are quite a few that still rely on old token-based or some other custom protocol forms of authentication. As much as possible, going with the industry standard oAuth2.0 would assist in dev adoption.
https://oauth.net/2/ has more details
Offer Email Support
Do not direct developers to a FORUM for support. Please have a dedicated API support team or a team inbox for developer support. Even if the response times on these are slower, it is better than having a support forum.
Remember segregation was outlawed in the 19th century, don’t treat developers as second-class customers not entitled to email support. Each developer query in some ways always represents one or even hundreds of client inquiries. By relegating these questions to a support forum you are treating these as far less important, where in actual effect, a single issue for a developer might be blocking hundreds of your customers.
If you don’t want customers asking for support in forums, the same rules apply for developers.
Here’s an example of someone doing this right and offering email and phone support for developers: Procore.
Procore does this well in their Developer Center with a publicly listed email address to be able to reach them for support firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also signup and start building apps right from the same page.
The attraction of having user-generated content and having an automatically-filled library of questions and answers that people can search for and find answers to themselves is always very tempting. The downside of that is everyone airs dirty laundry in public. As a developer, the last thing I want to do is complain about something not working well in a public forum that will stay on the internet forever.
Is your API not working well? Are there issues with webhooks not triggering? Is it lacking in a certain area? Does the API not have enough detail? Any other concerns that people have about your API will now be public to everybody. For the same reason as you do not offer customer support in public, is why you should not offer API support in public forums.
More critical in specific cases where we may need to share code or examples etc., public forums are not a good way to discuss these issues and have the risk of exposing business info, client information or other technical details best kept private.
Ready Made Libraries : Postman or other
Offer ready-made Postman or other Libraries or create templates in Postman for your API so someone can get started quickly. This makes your API more accessible and easier to use for developers new to your platform.
It might only take an intern in your team some time to create the libraries under guidance but it will be very useful and a huge timesaver for the many devs who you are hoping will build on your platform.
Not have a paid barrier to entry
Some applications like Salesforce can get away with having a reasonably high paid barrier to entry to the App Exchange, they can get away with that with the market clout. Doing that does reduce the number of apps and integrations built to your platform.
Just because it works for Salesforce does not mean it will work for you and, as someone active in the developer community, it reduces the value of the integration ecosystem, highly NOT recommended. I know of many integrations that other third party companies have built which are not listed on the Salesforce marketplace.
Offer an integrations marketplace / ability to list integrations
Customers are looking for integrations. One of the core things that people look for, in addition to your application’s core functionality, is what other apps can it integrate with. While most apps public websites often have an integrations gallery or marketplace where the integrations can be listed, some are still stuck in the middle ages and have no public visibility of third party integrations on their site.
This is just plain shooting yourself in the foot. If your app can connect with another app, why would you not want to shout it off the rooftops. It’s more useful content for your site and customers appreciate it and the partners love it.
The integrations marketplace does not need to be a full on APPExchange like Salesforce, it can be a simple page with multiple listings like it appears here on the simPRO site.
Have a Partner Manager
Having a dedicated Integration partner manager can really assist with onboarding new partners and giving them a clear understanding of what is where and how to navigate the new app. An Integration partner manager assigned on initial signup who can be your go-to contact for all non technical questions, say regarding commercials, or co-marketing, marketplace listing etc.
Do this and reap the rewards, so far all we’ve talked about is what you can do to make it easier for Integration partners and developers to work with your application. In the next post let’s look at why it’s worthwhile doing this and what you can gain out of this.
If you have other ideas or have differing opinions on any of the points written above let us know in the comments below.