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Application programming interfaces (APIs) power nearly everything we do these days—whether it involves the cloud, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, or big data. APIs have become instrumental in how organizations operate, allowing them to continually innovate and transform both internal IT processes and how they interface externally with customers. These days, to be agile and future-proof, you should be implementing APIs.

APIs may be everywhere, but they’re not all created equal. For all of the ease they offer, some APIs are complicated, unpredictable, risky to integrate with, and lacking sufficient documentation (a surefire way to make a developer look elsewhere for a better solution).

While APIs at their core are business-driven technologies, not tech-driven, having a highly skilled API developer implement your API strategy could be the difference between its success and obsoletion. Here are some best practices to ensure your API strategy is on point.

  1. Nail Down Documentation

Customers across every industry don’t just want APIs to replace the way they interface and integrate with a business’s software and services, they demand them.

APIs should have a clear, simple mission, but the demand for simplicity doesn’t stop with their architecture. An API’s documentation has to be clear and easy to understand, too.

It’s a competitive market. Poor documentation or overly complex code could cause your API’s primary audience—developers—to look for an alternative solution. Have an API documentation expert give them this ease of use with excellent documentation, and you’re bound to have happier, more loyal API users.

2. Create an API Catalog of Simple, Reusable Parts

Rather than overhauling an existing API that tries to do too much (often resulting in bulky, inefficient calls that can slow down apps and traffic), start small and build on your API offerings with a suite of related APIs.

Enterprise IT departments rely on APIs every day to sync up their data, grant inter-team access to different systems, and connect with the cloud. This creates a sort of “self-service” portal—a model you should also consider creating for your users. Creating an API catalog then building an easy, intuitive portal for users to access those APIs will set you both up for success.

3. Put a premium on data and metrics coming into your API

APIs don’t just funnel things out of your organization—they can funnel valuable data back in. Be sure part of your API strategy includes gathering metrics about your users that can help inform better strategies in the future.

APIs can be the basis for partnerships between teams, especially marketing and IT, so leverage metrics from your API in strategic ways. Also, metrics can give you insight into the success of your API, so you know what’s in demand and what could be improved.

4. Prioritize security

APIs create entry points outside of your network’s firewall, subsequently creating entry points for security vulnerabilities. Things like user credentials, API keys, and encryption of data should be addressed comprehensively and early on. An excellent way to address security is API gateways.

Centralize API security and traffic control in your organization with gateways rather than leaving security up to the developer writing each API. This makes your security strategy more scalable and easy to manage.

5. Always consider performance

API consumers value the flexibility APIs can provide, minimizing the time and effort previously required to access data and services through traditional user interfaces. For API providers, you can’t offer the availability of assets without a guarantee of performance. As with security, API gateways can help enforce throttling and rate limits.

Remember: Your API’s around-the-clock stability is non-negotiable. A qualified API developer can help ensure your API is built in a way that client applications aren’t rendered useless by poor performance, inefficient calls to the API, or new versions that “break” client apps.

6. Create New Revenue Streams with APIs

APIs that can solve specific problems and address specific needs can offer a lot of value to a third-party developers and organizations—enough that they’re willing to pay a premium for it. Opt to monetize your API through the same means you protect it—gateways and API keys—and create a new line of business. You can charge users using different monetization models, whether it’s on a freemium plan (no charge until a certain threshold of calls is reached), by call frequency and volume (e.g., Twilio’s charge based on usage), or a flat rate for access.

Savvy businesses with excellent proprietary technology and valuable data know the benefit of making it available through APIs. But creating an in-demand public API is not as simple as flipping a switch and making your software available to the world. A skilled API developer will know what his counterparts are looking for in a good API, and will be able to help you engineer a secure, stable API to meet their high standards.

Ready to get started? Download Upwork’s free API ebook to learn more, then engage a top-notch API developer today.