There are different ways to generate documentation for your API, but its purpose remains the same. Well constructed documentation ensures a good developer experience, which is critical for increasing the adoption of your API.
API Documentation provides complete information needed to consume the API through descriptions, tutorials, examples, and code samples. It is the first thing a developer notices while deciding the API for their project. Proper documentation increases your API's adoption by making it easy to integrate and use.
Here are some best practices you can apply while documenting APIs.
Before you start documenting your API, take a step back and think about the target audience of your API. This will help you understand who you are writing the documentation for and decide on your documentation’s design, structure, and features.
It is helpful to divide your audience based on their roles, such as developers and decision-makers. Then, try to answer the questions they might have with your documentation. For example:
Does this API solve my problem? (Decision Makers)
How can I call and integrate the API in an application? (Developers)
Another way to improve documentation is by dividing and organizing the documentation into sections. These sections will make the documentation more accessible, and your users can look up precisely what they want.
Here are some essential sections you should include in the documentation.
The first thing a developer looks for in your documentation is how to start working with the API. Including a guide to show users how to get started using the features of your API can increase its adoption.
Getting Started/Quick Start Guides help streamline the onboarding process. They must be beginner-friendly and may include code samples or example responses to help the developers.
Keep in mind that your API users may not have the same technical abilities, and some of them may be new to the API workflow. Users of different skill sets will read your documentation, so keep the unnecessary technical vocabulary to a minimum. If you have to use specific jargon, make sure to provide links to explain it further.
Your documentation must be consistent with naming conventions and terminologies related to APIs. For example, there is no need to be too creative with HTTP verbs, status codes, etc.
Today, many APIs include playgrounds and interactive components to enrich the otherwise dry documentation.
Adding additional guides and use cases can also go a long way to improve your documentation. It can be great to include complete guides on integrating your API in an application to perform a use case. You can take inspiration from our how-to guides, in which we build applications using different APIs from RapidAPI Hub.
The maintenance of API documentation is critical, yet it is often ignored. It can be very frustrating for developers to deal with obsolete documentation. Therefore, update the documentation whenever you make changes to your API, explain new features, and remove mentions of deprecated features. Introduce a mechanism to get feedback from the users and incorporate it in your documentation as you go.
Following some of these best practices force you to offer good quality documentation for your API. Now that you have learned some best practices, you can also check out this guide, which shows what an ideal API Documentation should include.