API-Led Growth – The Need for an API-First Design and Documentation
APIs or Application Programming Interfaces form a fundamental technological pillar in our modern digital society. With the multi-application digital infrastructure of the current industry, an API-first design has become prudent for developers to allow their appliances to seamlessly communicate and exchange data with each other. As enterprises continue to depend on a growing suite of business applications to manage the various aspects of their operations, developers need to develop and maintain a library of APIs to streamline the integration of these multiple applications. However, to ensure the quality and credibility of these APIs, proper API documentation is also a necessity.

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If you are using multiple business applications to manage your organization and want to seamlessly achieve full-stack integration for all your line-of-business applications through a single platform to automate and streamline your business processes, then employ APPSeCONNECT’s Integration and achieve a new level of improvement to your business metrics.

What is an API-First Design

Before we delve into what is an API-first design, let us first break down the concept of APIs. API stands for Application Programming Interface, which allows different applications to communicate information. Now an API-first design philosophy is a product-centric approach by developers where the APIs take priority. Traditionally, software development prioritized code-first development in which developers focus on building the service first along with all its resources, with APIs being an afterthought. An API-first approach views the role of APIs as discrete products, rather than a last-moment addition subsumed into the applications. The main objective of an API-first approach to application development is to produce a holistic view of APIs as modular building blocks to drive application innovation with a focus on reusability.

Why Developers Must Have an API-First Design

With the growing number of applications in the market that offer greater and more specialized functionalities to businesses to manage their different workflow pipelines, the need for faster and more effortless integration between them has also become more prudent. An API-first design approach by developers with a substantial number of potential benefits, which cannot be ignored by developers designing applications for the modern industry. The benefits offered by implementing an API-first design approach during product development include:

Development Flexibility

With an API-first design, each API is treated as an individual product that offers the ability to work in parallel and achieve accelerated development. The ability for developers to develop in parallel offers a seamless platform to work on multiple APIs at the same time while removing the need to have to wait for another API to be finished before starting the next one. The approach enables developers building the APIs the freedom of choice when choosing the API’s technology stack and flexibility in how they are designed, deployed, and maintained.

Improved Developer Experience

As stated in the previous point, APIs are treated more like a product than a piece of software. With an API-first structure, the objective is to create a robust digital environment where developers can effortlessly access code, data, and templates to create applications on top of them. With an API-first approach, organizations also help the internal structure of the IT system, and the architecture developers use to develop applications, by making APIs readily available across all teams which helps boost efficiency and development experience.

Reduce Development Costs

While developing an API from scratch can be a costly process, the high reusability of the API helps brings down development costs in the long term. The API-first approach allows high reusability across a variety of different projects which removes the need for developers to have to rebuild everything from scratch, saving both time and money. The API-first design also allows the identification of problems in the early stage of development which can be used to solve issues before any code is even written, preventing problems during the integration of APIs with other applications.

Faster Time to Market

The reusability of APIs offered by an API-first design philosophy also reduces the overall time of software development. The API-first approach enables the reusability of existing code and software, which improves the time to market for software deliveries in the long run. Thus, the approach allows developers to optimize their total development time and gain agility in their workflows even if the APIs do not cover all the aspects of the system.

How to Implement an API-First Design

For organizations still depending on traditional application development workflows, shifting to an API-first system can be a new experience but not necessarily a challenging transition. An API-first approach offers more structure to the development pipeline and can be easily implemented through proper planning at the start of the development life cycle. Many non-profit institutions like MACH Alliance also help with educating and supporting enterprises on what to focus on when planning to move from a legacy infrastructure to a headless, API-led development.

The following are the proactive steps to becoming API-first:

Layout Proper Planning

The first step to becoming an API-first organization is to have a structured plan with a draft overviewing the core objectives of the API operation along with a recording of all the details regarding how the core objectives are currently being done and the aspects that require improvement. Documenting the existing API strategies, developing a road map for the formal API strategy, and defining the next steps, all from the first stepping-stone toward an API-first architecture.

Ensure the Discoverability of APIs

For becoming API-first, organizations must invest in having a complete inventory of all the coding artifacts used across APIs being designed, developed, and operated in production while working on creating new artifacts for APIs. There are four types of artifacts, namely, OpenAPI, AsyncAPI, JSON Schema, and Collections that are used to describe the APIs, which when published to any API workspace or repository can improve the discoverability of the APIs and their microservices across operations.

Focus on APIs over Applications

Traditional software development focuses primarily on the coding aspect of development to deliver web, mobile, and device applications. To become an API-first organization, planning and development of consistent and reusable APIs should always be prioritized before writing any code. Prioritizing APIs over applications allows for the digital resources and capabilities being used in applications to be defined early on, preventing the creation of duplicate resources for APIs that already exist.

Adopt a Standardized API Platform

During the process of developing an API and defining it, the best practice is to adopt a dedicated API Platform and standardize it according to it. Adopting an API Platform like Postman can help manage an API-first approach by enabling seamless sharing of API access, collaboration, and execution. The Postman platform offers a collaborative platform for API development, by allowing the management of API data through its desktop, web, CLI, and/or API interfaces. The platform also offers a range of partner integrations and public APIs through its Postman API Network while offering security and governance services designed for enterprise deployments

Consistent Adherence to Security

Data security is one of the priorities to becoming API-first and security tests must be put in place for every API and microservices to ensure compliance. Executable security tests that can be manually executed by developers locally or on the web can be offered and scheduled to run across multiple cloud systems. API security can be pushed further into the forefront of the API lifecycle by equipping developers with standardized protocols to ensure their APIs are secure throughout the API lifecycle. Prioritizing API security as a default part of API operations forms a core part of an API-first approach.

The Need for API Documentation in an API-First Design

Throughout the API development lifecycle for an API-first design approach, proper documentation is one of the most important steps. The API documentation keeps track of version updates made to the API along with all its features, issues, and technical requirements, making it essential for API lifecycle management. Moreover, it is significantly easier to implement an API into a software ecosystem if there is proper API documentation. The more fundamental benefits of API documentation include:

Increases User Adoption

API documentation offers transparency in the understanding of the functionalities, requirements, and data accessed by the API. The complete understanding offered helps build trust for the end-users and allows faster onboarding of inexperienced users. Inexperienced users can become productive from the get-go by referring to the documentation instead of depending on an external expert to implement the API.

Improves Developer Experience

Proper guidelines and instructions allow developers to follow a structured approach towards working with the API instead of trial and error to get the desired outcome. Moreover, if any bugs occur during and after the implementation of the API, the developers will not have the necessary expertise to resolve them. Proper API documentation helps developers effortlessly overcome these challenges.

Reduces Support Time and Costs

Structured and clear API documentation additionally decreases the amount of time and cost spent onboarding new inexperienced users, whether they be internal developers or external partners. Poor or no documentation leads to users depending on the API vendor to mentor them on how to work with your API. Moreover, for any hurdles encountered by the user, they are completely dependent on the vendor to help them resolve them. With the documentation, developers get the flexibility to work independently, reducing support time and costs.

Enables Effortless Maintenance

API documentation allows more efficient maintenance and quicker updates of API. It allows the API developers to know exactly the details of the available resources, methods, and their associated requests and responses, making maintenance and updates quicker. It also helps to keep track of the bugs identified and resolved in the API’s architecture throughout the development process.

Unifies Focus and Understanding

The API documentation can act as the common point of reference for the developers to keep track of all the team members that are aligned with the API’s objectives, and how the API’s resources are utilized. The documentation also offers a unified understanding of API specifications for endpoints, data types, attributes, and more. The unified focus helps both internal and external users to have a mutual understanding of what the API is and what it can do.

How to do API Documentation

The fundamental aspect of API documentation is to have easy access and understanding. Thus, it is prudent that the documentation is written using direct, structured, and simple-to-understand language. Each operation of the endpoints should be described in human-friendly terms and can be accompanied by relevant charts and images for further clarity.

The parts to include in API documentation includes:

  • Overview: A brief description of the API including the problem it is solving along with the features, functionalities, and benefits offered by this API over other similar APIs.
  • Tutorials: The tutorial segment is the primary part of the API documentation and should include the different content formats being used to explain the concept of the API to the user. The section should include all relevant charts, images, links to references, and a step-by-step guide for integrating the API.
  • Use Case Examples: After a detailed explanation of how the API works, displaying examples of different use cases for calls, responses, error handling, and other operations related to how the developer interacts with the API can make the API documentation more comprehensive and easier to understand.
  • Glossary: While optional, having a glossary helps avoid long text blocks for explanations of various terms, schemas, and images that are used throughout documentation by pushing them into the glossary.

Furthermore, The API documentation should be hosted within a specific section of a website, or within its own dedicated API portal and must be made widely accessible to the end user, be it internal or external developers.

By following the above steps, complete and comprehensive API documentation can be effortlessly created.


In this fast-evolving industry, API-led growth is the future for enterprises and software developers alike. Having an API-first design from the beginning offers flexibility in the development process to ensure compatibility with all existing applications along with the option to seamlessly expand the functionality to implement new applications in the future. API documentation offers the necessary structure to both plans and keeps track of the API in development which forms one of the fundamental pillars towards achieving an API-first workflow.

While going with an API-first approach and having structured API documentation can help keep track of updates and changes, manually managing the APIs can be an extremely challenging task, especially if the number of applications in the digital ecosystem becomes greater. Thus, having a robust low-code iPaaS solution that offers next-gen business process automation functionalities, like APPSeCONNECT is necessary to automate and streamline API management. Enabling API management through an iPaaS allows non-developers to effortlessly design, deploy and manage integration through a low-code visual interface. With an iPaaS businesses and developers can both make the most out of APIs.

If you are using multiple business applications to manage your organization and want to seamlessly achieve full-stack integration for all your line-of-business applications through a single platform to automate and streamline your business processes, then employ APPSeCONNECT’s Integration and achieve a new level of improvement to your business metrics.