As APIs have become the centerpiece of online data exchange in the modern era, the need for documentation and communication between developers of these APIs and their users has become incredibly important. Effective developer communication can unlock massive potential, create new iterative success, and serve as a compounding conduit that improves the industry at large. Accordingly, developer portals have become exceptionally useful and important ways to share API documentation with API consumers.
Unfortunately, developer portals do by-and-large suffer from a over-specificity issue. Developer portals too often focus on connecting the API developer to information about the product without connecting them to adequate business logic and systems designed to support said logic. In essence, there still exists a gap between the product and the business application of that product.
Today, we’ll look at some clear examples. These developer portals are all very popular and much beloved, and for good reason – they are great examples of what they do. Nonetheless, they still largely miss the mark when it comes to providing ample business logic to the end user.
Stripe’s developer portal is a very interesting example of this problem. On the one hand, it is a well-made portal that does what it does very well. With ease of access, it is use-centric, clear, and thorough, and expresses a variety of payment processing systems clearly through its resources, guides, and reference material. An API developer adopting Stripe will find the developer portal to be highly effective for their given use case.
However, for those using Stripe to provide more complex payment services as part of their own service, it does have some issues. The developer portal provides ways to show a customer their subscriptions and to generate their invoices, but doesn’t support more complex capabilities such as usage-based and usage-limited billing. Furthermore, there is no capability to provide reporting on these types of payment processes.
For this reason, Stripe is a wonderful solution for a specific set of use cases – given how many services are pivoting towards usage-based monetization, however, Stripe does lack some additional tooling that would be helpful. The lack of developer resources inherently built into the Stripe portal means that its functionality is best for users who are not building custom billing meters.
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Twilio’s developer portal is a combinatory portal and suite that leverages SMS, voice, and communication systems to great heights of commerce and engagement. The tutorials and SDKs that are provided by Twilio are in-depth and actively maintained, representing a very strong example of constant iteration and updates for developer-to-user communication.
That being said, while Twilio provides robust communication systems, it is missing a product which facilitates direct business logic implementation manipulation, a key to a successful developer experience. Revenue management and revenue to source tagging is missing, making it more difficult to pass through cost or monetize blended systems. For this reason, monetization using Twilio would often come down to a bulk cost rate or direct bill rate, making usage-based or other more specific billing systems something requiring internal code, or partnering with an expert in usage-based billing.
The Fastly Developer Hub is a great resource for edge development. Fastly is known for its effective edge cloud systems, and their hub is a wonderful entry point to the vast and varied offerings they provide to users who want to build apps. This hub includes a testing sandbox, code snippets, ample documentation, API reference materials, and more. For anyone getting started with Fastly, this is a super effective developer portal.
Like most on this list, however, it is missing a good amount of business features. Developers creating content in the cloud will at some point want to monetize their features, and Fastly does not provide complex monetization systems based around usage, paradigm, etc. This is a big gap for many adopters, as a huge chunk of business logic is sidestepped.
Mailchimp is an email marketing platform, and their developer portal provides ample documentation around this topic. User guides are effective and complete, and automation guidance is effective, especially in the context of campaign management. For most users, this developer portal is complete and stands as a great example of what a comprehensive overview can look like without being overwhelming.
Where it falls short, however, is in the more specific monetization systems and business-logic systems that may arise in complex systems. A big missing feature with Mailchimp is cross-list management, and when utilizing lists of users who may have differential billing policies, complex utilization enforcement with business logic, etc., this is a big miss and requires a lot of hands-on business logic to application management that negates the automation it boasts so heavily.
Slack is incredibly well-known and highly utilized, and for good reason – it is a wonderful workspace management tool for communication, file sharing, and collaboration. Its developer portal connects developers to a wide variety of APIs and backend systems, allowing for the creation of various applications to boost productivity and deliver exceptional extensibility.
Where it struggles, however, is in its monetization systems for applications developed using this portal. When an app is created, it can be monetized, but in a relatively limited way. There are the typical subscription models and use-based models, sure, but more complex business logic such as the amount of data processed or the complexity of said request is bundled under the same category as anything else. When you use an app, your complexity is largely ignored outside of the fact that it is a request. This is problematic for a variety of reasons, but for more complex applications that border on being a standalone application or a Slack application, it will tilt the calculus hard in one direction.
Ultimately, most developer portals do what they were designed to do – they connect developers with internal systems. Where this gap comes from is the fact that developers and business logic can often be separate things – business logic more often than not arises from financial consideration, whereas developer logic arises from technical consideration. Providing a system that effectively unlocks monetization while delivering a robust feature set for security and analytics is vitally important to most API developers, necessitating something more than a “one size fits all” implementation.
Moesif offers a wonderful and complementary solution to this problem. With Moesif, you can understand, grow, and monetize API usage with a comprehensive analytics and billing platform. Through API Analytics, usage-based systems (including metered billing, quotas and governance, and more), and customer success and retainment tooling, Moesif can deliver unprecedented success to your application.
The best part of it all? Moesif works with your stack. Moesif connects your APIs and apps to billing platforms, customer data platforms, analytics systems, and more, serving as a node that delivers success and growth while delivering a better developer and user experience. Check out our product’s guides to find out exactly how we can help you today.