POSTED : September 3, 2019
BY : Chuck Thomas

While sensible API design is a key part of our outreach philosophy at PK, we also try to never lose sight of how crucial a developer portal is to any enterprise. If consumers and developers fail to embrace the portal, faith in it can deteriorate, and a lot of inefficiency will find its way into the system. Apigee Edge offers a stellar developer portal solution, which provides a valuable starting point for us to champion the adoption of healthy practices.

Still, no developer portal solution is truly “one size fits all,” and the PK team has fielded many requests for customizations to the Apigee Drupal Developer Portal. The ability to meet these sorts of demands has proven deeply advantageous in our quest to encourage trust in the convenience, versatility, and necessity of the portal itself. Let’s examine two custom modules we’ve recently worked on to fulfill specific client needs.

Try It Now

The common thread among nearly all the companies we work with is a focus on Customer Experience. In the case of the developer portal, the experience can make all the difference when it comes to a developer’s choice to engage. Is the portal clunky? Hard to use? Does it require a lengthy registration process just to access API’s? The tidiest, most feature-rich portal isn’t attractive at all if a developer is forced to hunt down its benefits.

This was the concern when one of our customers in a highly regulated industry approached us recently. They worried that developers would be discouraged if they had to sign up for the portal and submit a formal request just to gain enough access to evaluate API’s. Our solution was to build a custom portal module called “Try It Now.” This feature offers a property field into which a user can quickly enter an API request and receive an immediate response. The Try It Now feature doesn’t require any profile to be set up beforehand, nor does a user have to request an API key—they’re able to simply send a request and get a response.

This feature is integrated into the API documentation directly, supplying a hands-on example of functionality. This design choice was made with an eye to engaging developers who are in search of insight into a given API. When they need to know if an API will meet the need they have in mind, we remove the guesswork. As is often the case, anything that can be done to reduce the time to reach a “Hello World” outcome is a good idea.

While a feature like this isn’t completely unheard-of, Try It Now is a perfect example of a module that isn’t part of the Apigee Drupal Developer Portal “out of the box” but might still be desirable for many enterprises. Considering the benefits our existing clients have enjoyed from this feature, we would love to leverage our experience to help you add it to your own portal.

API User Grouping

While the Try It Now feature focuses somewhat on removing the need for access to an API key, another necessity our clients have expressed is a means to sort developers into groups that share a particular API key. For innumerable reasons, the notions of granting access to all the same API keys to every developer or giving each individual developer a separate API key were both unattractive. Notably, if a developer leaves the company, would the creation of a new API key be required?

The PK team’s answer was a custom API User Grouping module. Instead of ownership of a given API key being in the hands of a specific developer, it is entrusted to a group that developer can be added to or removed from. This resolves the difficulties that can be created by developer turnover without forcing API key access to become less secure or convenient.

Our initial research pointed us to similar functionality Apigee has built into the monetization feature set, but we determined that special configuration would be required. In the end, the monetization options in Apigee Edge are designed to solve a different problem, and we wished to avoid leveraging them beyond their intended purpose.

Rather than attempt this, we elected to broaden our search for “the right tool for the right job.” What we uncovered was the open-source nonmint module. Though obscure, nonmint proved highly effective for our needs. It was also so easy to work with that our team was able to implement the API User Grouping feature in under three days.

A Parting Word

In so many cases, the impression we want our clients to take away is not only that the Apigee Developer Portal is a critical and useful portion of their API planet, but also that it can be tailored to meet their unique needs. Of course the PK Team wants to boost the eagerness of both consumers and developers to explore the portal, but we also take pains to always communicate that you don’t have to love the portal as it is; we can always make it a better match for your wishes.