An API is only good as its documentation. While this is not a hard concept to grasp, it seems like most people forget about the importance of good documentation. The matter of the fact is, your API – no matter how good it is – will be basically useless without the proper documentation.

api-documentation-practices

Of course, creating documentation is easier said than done. You need to make sure that it’s easy to digest, enjoyable to read, and still informative – and that’s definitely not an easy task. In order to help you with the whole ordeal, we’re going to talk about some of the API documentation best practices.

Six Best API Documentation Practices

1.   Proper Authentication

If you want to create documentation that’s a breeze to read, you need to segment it right. And the first segment should definitely contain information about authentication schemes. Before the end-users even gains access to your API, they need to authenticate themselves. That’s why you need to make sure that this part is documented in detail because if it’s not, people will drop your API right away.

2.   Error Messages

Next up we have error messages. Why are they so important? Well,your users need to know when they are doing something wrong. You need to explain your error standards, give them a few good examples, and most importantly, provide the solutions needed to overcome some of the more common errors. Document this part in detail if you don’t want to leave your users frustrated.

3.   API Resources

You should also pay specialattentions to the resources of your API and the response cycles associated with it. Resources are some of the most important parts of the API and the end-users will interact with them on a regular basis. Therefore, make a list of all of your resources and try to explain how the end-user can integrate with them. This will also give you a good direction of how to document requests and responses under your resources.

4.   Changing Log

Designing an API is not a one-and-done job. You’ll make a number of tweaks during your API’s lifecycle. And the users need to know all about this tweaks in detail. This will give them a sense of security and stability and give them a chance to see what changes need to be made for API calls. Make this a top priority, so when you do make a change or two, be sure to document it right away. If you leave important things like this for later, you just may end up forgetting about them.

5.   Terms of Use

The terms of use is a valid legal document between the organization and the consumer that documents and defines how the consumer should use the services provided to them by the organization. You should include the limits of your API under terms and conditions. What’s more, you also need to clearly state any constraints you have in mind, so the users understand what API practices are permitted and what are not.

6.   Libraries and SDKs

A code library will help the developer call different resources and having easy-to-call methods in different programming languages to work with the API will help your users feel completely comfortable using it. Moreover, SDKs are also important for the adaptation of your API. However, SDKs aren’t really crucial for you launch, so you don’t have to finish them right away. They may take some time to finish, but since they give you a great way to engage the dev community, they worth the time.

The Bottom Line

When it’s all said and done, you have to realize that creating good documentation takes time and effort. But considering just how documentation is important to the success of your API, it’s more than worth it. With the tips above, your road to good documentation will be significantly easier and even shorter.

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