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APPs 23 Nov 2017

Developer experience: The secret to designing better APIs

The APIfication phenomenon is by no means restricted to the banking sector. At the API Forum held this week in Madrid, insurance and entertainment companies participated, together with BBVA, to discuss the keys to designing APIs capable of attracting developers.

Designing APIs (Application Program Interfaces) without thinking about developers is just as bad as designing applications without thinking about users. This is the premise of the ‘developer experience’ concept, which is becoming increasingly important. It focuses on improving API design to create a more user-friendly experience for developers.

The central idea of this trend is to design APIs that will captivate programmers by making them easy, convenient and even appealing to use in creating apps. As José M. Lerma, CIO of the insurance company Divina Pastora, explained during the API Forum event organized by IKN, a mobile app’s success depends on how end users relate to it – how much and how often they use it, and how they feel using it. However, an APIs success in the market ultimately depends on developers.

APIs come first

Atresmedia Project Manager Óscar Martínez, agreed with Lerma about the increasing importance of APIs, which have gone from being a secondary element to a strategic level in many businesses. “Now we think first about APIs, as a service in and of themselves,” he explained.

The ‘API First’ mindset, which entails designing and planning APIs internally before moving on to any other development, is more prevalent than ever, especially now that the European Union’s Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) is about to come into force. This new regulation focuses on programming interfaces as the safest system for protecting customer data.

“Our approach to APIs predates and goes further than PSD2. For us, APIs are 100% a business priority. And we identified them as such after looking at other industries and extensive testing,” explains Head of BBVA API_Market Raúl Lucas during a presentation devoted to BBVA’s experience tackling the API environment.

Raul-Lucas-evento-APIs-BBVA

Raúl Lucas, Head of BBVA API_Market, during the event in Madrid.

According to Lucas, one of the key elements that have allowed BBVA develop a solid project such as BBVA API_Market was the creation of an online process with an ‘API first’ vision, which focused on facilitating the subsequent work for developers. “We created a ‘sandbox’ and good and reliable documentation and put them at our users’ disposal. These are key elements to a friendly developer experience,” said Lucas.

A bot for exploring APIs

As an example, he explained how a two-developer team had been able to create an ‘app’ based on the PayStats API in just two weeks, proving that it is possible to create valuable user experiences drawing from the data provided by a bank.

To showcase the possibilities that BBVA API_Market offers to developers, Lucas’ team has built a bot that serves as testing and inspiration environment for future ideas and synthetizes the way an API-based ‘chatbot’ works. The bot has been rolled out in Telegram. Users can explore its functions by searching for the @sbx_bbvaapimarket_bot channel in the application and having a conversation with it.

Chances, the app built with PayStats API.

BBVA API_Market was rolled out early in 2017 after a year of consultation with developers and companies. There are currently nine APIs available in the Spanish portal. “We’re concentrating on bringing value to customers through APIs and by collaborating with other companies along three vertical lines: anonymized aggregate data, personal banking and business banking,” Lucas explains.

The latest development has been the Alipay API,  which allows merchants to connect with China’s biggest online payment platform. The API offers seamless integration and BBVA has also developed the best possible documentation to help stores accept payments from the Chinese system. This platform opens the door to a market consisting of the estimated half million Chinese tourists who visited Spain this year, accounting for some €1 billion in spending. The API was made possible thanks to BBVA’s agreement with Alipay to allow Chinese tourists to pay in Spanish stores using this payments system.

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