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What is API Management, how do you do it, and what are the benefits?
API management refers to a range of tasks, including:
It covers the entire life-cycle of an API, from planning through deployment to on-boarding users.
It begins with design: high level thinking about the purpose of the API, the desired outcomes, and how to build the API. Consider the problem the API solves and who will use it.
Next, consider deployment and user management. Ensure that your traffic management and security solutions are robust. Set up analytics and monitoring, as well as user access options.
Finally, create a professional and comprehensive user on-boarding experience. Users need access to documentation, learning materials, and clear information about the API features.
Good API project management helps your APIs succeed. It supports swift adoption and a great user experience.
A well-designed API is easier to maintain and extend and provides users with a logical, clean interface to work with.
Resilient traffic management is essential: you don’t want a sudden spike in users to bring down your service. Your monitoring tools support this, alerting you of potential problems. Meanwhile, your analytics help you with future phases of API design by allowing you to track how people are using your API in practice.
Your documentation and learning materials support existing users, reducing the time it takes to get started with the API. They also act as marketing materials, reassuring potential users that they have everything they need to learn your API, and allowing them to preview its functionality.
API life-cycle management signals a holistic approach to API project management. It covers all the stages described above, as well as maintaining the API, and if needed managing its retirement.
You can still split responsibility for different parts of API management between teams. You may have specialist designers handling the design and planning, an ops team focused on deployment and monitoring, a documentation team creating on-boarding materials, and so on.
It is essential to keep an overview of the entire life-cycle of your APIs. This applies to projects and teams at any scale. Carefully planning and managing the API life-cycle leads to a coherent, polished API, with appropriate systems and integrated on-boarding. In practice, this may mean have a project manager oversee all aspects of the API project. You can also use API management tools that support this approach.
API management tools support you at one or more stages of the API life-cycle. They may help you quickly prototype and demo the API endpoints, configure traffic control, or create a developer portal. Some management tools cover all these elements (and more), some specialize in a specific area. Whichever API management tool you choose, it should support you and your processes, leading to fast, high-quality API development.
Stoplight provides API management tools targeted at all users, from independent developers to large scale enterprises.
For individuals and open source projects, Stoplight Studio is a free tool that helps you design REST APIs, defining endpoints and behaviors. It provides a visual editor that generates an OpenAPI specification file, as well as mock servers allowing you to prototype and demo your API quickly.
Stoplight Docs gives you essential developer documentation. You can publish your API reference from Stoplight Studio, or using a CLI. Studio auto-generates the necessary materials from your OpenAPI specification.
For enterprise users, Stoplight Hubs offers more extensive documentation tooling, including customization and branding options. Stoplight Enterprise provides design, documentation, and project management tooling for large-scale projects. It allows you to create design libraries, style guides, internal and external documentation, and more.