Happiness is a well-designed API

The API director at Ancestry.com shares his secret to successful API delivery — consistency.

APIs continue to proliferate, everywhere — both inside and outside enterprises. It may be time for organizations to get a handle on how and where they are being used.

Harold Madsen, API director at Ancestry.com, calls for training in API development and deployment as a way to achieve consistency. In a recent post in InformationWeek, he says the way APIs are being developed in many companies — as was the case in his own — is problematic.  "As companies build their API programs using multiple teams, APIs tend to develop their own personalities and become radically different from one another. That's a problem," Madsen says.

There's a tangible business case to be made for API consistency, he says. Having one consistent set of APIs means faster time to market. As he explains it, developers wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel every time they develop or consume APIs. Plus, he adds, it will make developers or software engineers a lot happier.

To put all its API developers on the same page, Ancestry.com established a platform that includes tools and wikis that provide guidance to its developers regarding API development. The platform included a platform portal wiki, development standards, technical knowledgebase, documentation hub, newsletters, and API design training.

As with any software project, documentation is the key to ensuring consistency. The API design training also was an important component of Ancestry's API program, Madsen adds. And, along with the business benefits, it increased the overall job satisfaction of the company's software engineers.