Documentation. Even the word documentation makes me shudder. Images of stacks of paper with long, complicated descriptions and instructions float through my head and remind me of why I loathe documentation. However the often tedious and extremely boring documentation is a necessary evil. Whether you are putting together that “oh so simple” shelving unit from IKEA or developing a software application, we generally need to start with good documentation.
Of course there are highly technical and very sophisticated gadgets or programs that require equally sophisticated instructions. There is no getting around that but I am beginning to see light on the software documentation horizon. In my own organization and from some of the organizations we work with, we are seeing more and more online toolkits. In our case, we built an online toolkit specifically for our suite of NewsEdge APIs. Toolkits aren’t a new concept but to be able to get all the resources you need for a particular project or engagement online in one place, easily searchable to find just the information you need is simply a relief.
To understand this a little better, I decided to reach out to our head of development, Dan O’Connor, who spearheads our online API toolkit named RAPID (Resource for API Developers).
What was the main reason we created RAPID?
Technology doesn’t stand still and as it changes so do we. We continuously improve our products and services to provide value to our clients but keeping up with the documentation was difficult for us and our clients. An online, always available resource that offered the most up-to-date documentation just made sense.
What other benefits do RAPID and similar toolkits provide?
APIs can get complicated and we wanted to break it down into logical, easy-to-understand components that can walk clients step-by-step through our offerings. These include example API calls and their expected results. Additionally, API calls often connect with other API calls so with one click users can quickly show how the different pieces of the API functionality are connected and what to do with that information. It’s just a more efficient, comprehensive way to provide instruction while giving the users the flexibility to pick and choose the components they are interested in.
What are you are seeing in the industry that will be the next steps for our toolkit?
There are many ways to further improve the experience. The one thing that we are getting ready to release is our API Sandbox. This is a testing environment that mirrors our production environment so that users can experiment with our API. The big software companies offer these and we’re pretty excited to bring that functionality to our user base.
We will continue to add more Acquire Media APIs to the RAPID toolkit as we go on. We also plan on adding self-service trial access as well as a developer forum to share information and communicate with those individuals directly involved in working with the technical side of our products.University Life 292 via photopin (license)