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API Documentation

How to Keep Your API Documentation Up-To-Date

Developers like nothing more than simple, easy-to-digest code. After all, designers are experts at finding new ways to accomplish more goals with less material. As we all know, code-writing is an essential skill in the development world.

Unfortunately, good code-writing skills don’t always translate into good documentation writing.

Sure, every documentation comes with bare essentials like endpoints and methods, but your documentation needs to be more than that. It needs to be filled with good examples and explanations that make the implementation process a lot easier for your users.

Luckily, writing API documentation doesn’t require too much talent – it is a skill that can be learned and honed over time. In order to help you sharpen writing skills, here is a quick guide that will help you get started with the whole process…

Starting with the Documentation

Before you even put a finger on the keyboard, you need to come up with a clear user in mind. You need to assume how much experience your users have, how much work are they willing to put into the whole process, so on and so forth.

This will help you write the documentation more clearly and fill it up with examples that will be understandable to your target demographic. And keep in mind, the developers aren’t the only ones that go through documentation.

You need to think about the average user – in most cases these are business owners that are investing in apps – and make your documentation understandable to them. If the documentation is overly confusing, they might abandon the idea of using your API and go to another vendor.

Why You Need a Dynamic Layout

The layout of your documentation is almost as important as the writing inside of it. For the last decade or so, a boring-old layout usually hints at outdated products. You don’t want your API to look cheap and unusable by having a static layout, so you need to make things a little bit dynamic.

But this is not the only reason why you need to have a dynamic layout. These layouts are also much easier to navigate through. And since your documentation will have at least a few hundred pages, you need to make sure that the user can go through it without wasting a single second.

Here are a few essentials for your layout…

  • Multi-column: The 3-column layout was famously patented by Stripe – so why not use their idea to make your documentation more visually appealing? Just put your code on the right side of the documentation, and the navigation on the left side. This will help your users understand how the API endpoints work in the real world.
  • Navigation bar: The navigation bar needs to be present on every page. We’ve all come across those disappearing bars that require you to scroll for a couple of minutes up the page to get back to. Therefore, you need to make the navigation bar present on every page of the documentation, so the user can jump to any part without a problem.
  • Multiple tabs: You probably won’t include just one language in your documentation. If you want to keep the examples really organized, you should definitely have a couple of tabs that allow the user to jump in and out easily. This also helps the user have the most relevant data in front of their eyes at all times.

Maintaining Your Documentation

There’s nothing worse than outdated documentation. In fact, most developers see this as a big red flag. Remember: your documentation will probably be the first thing a developer encounters when he gets interested in your API.

You only have one chance to impress your future user, so don’t miss it. Every time you launch a new feature, you need to make sure that your team has made the changes noted in the documentation. And if you have enough time, get rid of all outdated examples in your documentation and keep it clean.

The documentation will represent your API, your skills, and your brand as well and you need to ensure that you give a good impression on the first read. Simply put, you can’t let months and months of work go to waste because you’re too lazy to write clear documentation.

We hope you enjoyed our article and that you found it helpful. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the section below and we’ll get right back at you.

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