How To Design a Great API Training Program

There is no shortage of web API-related training programs. Some focus on the technical details, while others explore the various aspects of great API design. However, most training programs spend most of their time focusing on the needs of the developer and leave out everyone else on the team. Whether you are looking to build your own in-house API training program, or you are shopping around and don’t know what to look for, this article will help you find or build the right API training program for your organization.

Focus on Cross-Team API Training Fundamentals

Few training programs contain a comprehensive curriculum that spans all aspects of cross-functional teams: developers, QA teams, technical writers, product managers, product marketing, and ScrumMasters. While some may argue that any of these team members could attend a developer-centric API training program and learn something, there are often some critical pieces missing:

  • QA teams are often left out of standard training curriculum, leaving teams uncertain about how and when to test web APIs
  • Technical writers are left out and are therefore uncertain of what to document, when, and what tools exist
  • Product managers miss opportunities to build better business value and increase organization agility using web APIs
  • Product marketing lack clear understanding about developer concerns around web APIs, creating missed marketing opportunities
  • ScrumMasters are unable to integrate the varying processes for designing, developing, and deploying great APIs compared to standard product development

By building in each of these aspects into your API training program, each member of your product team will better understand and apply the fundamentals of web API design and development.

Teach API Modeling Along With API Design

Many API training programs spend a considerable amount of time digging in to the technical details of API design. While we agree that a great API design is essential, we have found that API modeling prior to API design is critical. API modeling is the process of capturing the participants, activities, and activity steps that users and developers will be conducting when consuming your API. Without this preparation, too much of the focus is on the “how” of the API (i.e. the resources, HTTP verbs, and response codes) and less on the “what” and “why” of the API. By focusing on API modeling first, everyone on the team can discuss and contribute to the core business needs. API modeling helps to create team ownership of the API, rather than just developer ownership and ensures that everyone from the team becomes a stakeholder from inception to production and customer support.

Incorporate Cross-Team API Design Exercises

Everyone on the product team is busy, so we suggest moving beyond just lecture to both engage attendees, as well as reinforce the concepts. Incorporating API modeling and design exercises will help all team members to better understand how to apply the knowledge that they have learned into their day-to-day functions. We often hear from attendees of our workshop quotes like the following:

I had no idea that designing web APIs was so easy and yet so critical to the business.

 

We just realized that we haven’t been building time for API design and documentation into our agile process.

We recommend that these exercises accommodate various degree of technical skill. We design our exercises to be conducted using whiteboards or paper and pen, as it prevents the details of software development from becoming a distraction. We also recommend the exercises use topics outside of the business, to prevent “talking shop” during the learning exercise.

Five More Tips For Building a Great Web API Training program

Here are some additional tips to help plan your API training program:

  1. Plan for API training program a few months before you are ready, as it will force your organization to make some key decisions that will drive the training curriculum
  2. Involve all aspects of the organization, from marketing to IT, to ensure that the training covers all aspects of the digital strategy
  3. When building exercises, ensure that you mix up the product teams, when possible, to allow cross-product team members to become acquainted and to prevent settling into old routines
  4. Refrain from getting too detailed too quickly. We have found success in teaching the fundamentals, business drivers, governance guidelines, and basics of API design to all teams. More technical details can be covered in a second class tailored for more technical team members
  5. Try to allocate a full day to the training when possible, with the attendees considered “out of the office”. This means scheduling the training during a time when there will be no new product releases or other projects due. If necessary, split the training into two or three segments but keep them confined to the same week to encourage better understanding

Building a comprehensive, cross-team web API training program takes effort. However, it will foster better communication, help increase business agility, and result in greater business value generation. Feel free to reach out via email if you have any questions or would like us to perform a review of your existing API training curriculum.

Don’t have time to build your own course? 
Read our course overview and then contact us to schedule a conversation about how we can help your team accelerate your API training program.

 

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