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Mar 04, 2024

A seamless journey on the developer portal benefits the users and the API provider alike. Commit to excellence in design and build portals that meet and exceed the expectations of the developer community: when developers thrive, so does the API ecosystem.

This article will delve into the connection between intentional design and developers' peak productivity and their advantageous impact on your business. In other words, we focus on flow theory based on the research and interviews conducted by Pronovix’s UX Team, presented on APIdays conference 2023 in Paris. At Pronovix, we can build a user-friendly developer portal to increase API integration success.

Part two of the series will take a more practical approach and showcase best practices from the 2023 DevPortal Awards’ nominees, which can be helpful if you are already familiar with the basics.

While prior research suggests that developers commonly experience a state of flow in their work, the research’s focus delves specifically into the nexus of flow and software developers engaged with APIs on developer portals or API documentation platforms.

Is there business value in the happy path of developers? Yes.

Picture this: developers navigating through your portal effortlessly, like strolling down a well-paved path. This is what we aim for: the “happy path”, as described by Emese Hallgató, where developers find precisely what they need without much hassle. Achieving this isn't merely a matter of luck, it's about intentional design. Every step of the user journey should be meticulously crafted to ensure simplicity, fulfillment, and seamlessness.

Think about the last time when you were so deeply immersed in something that you forgot that you were hungry. This state of deep focus and immersion is what 9 out of 10 developers feel when working with APIs. They describe this as a state of their peak performance, when they feel that they can deliver anything. What can be a benefit of supporting this productivity on developer portals?

The most important step: first experience with your portal

"The first few experiences that you can have with the API portal are probably the most impactful, because even if you can resolve those problems that you encounter the first time, it's not like you're going to spend time keeping going with that vendor." - John

Developers choosing your service

When looking for APIs, developers reinforced that providers don’t have much time to impress them, because they will choose a maximum of 1-3 and reject those where they find friction right away.

As Steven described, it improves his motivation if he sees that the provider cares about helping their users to be more productive: "If I'm happy about using some software, some third party tools, some solution, then it would make my whole development process more fun, like it would help my motivation. I would be excited about it."

Increase return rate

Developers are more likely to have a positive experience with a developer portal if they can easily find what they need, understand the documentation, and smoothly navigate the platform. A well-designed portal that supports flow can contribute to a positive user experience, increasing the likelihood that developers will return to use the platform in the future.

5x more productivity

No distractions and total immersion leads to faster delivery times and meeting deadlines.

Like Ellen described, when she enjoys the task that she’s doing she can progress much faster with work: “That's the desired state, because it's the state when I advance the most. When I do most of the work and when I can deliver anything.

Recommending the portal to others

Developers in our interviews highlighted that it’s more likely that they would recommend a portal to others if they are satisfied with it. We also see that recommendation is one of the main sources where developers get inspired about which API portals to use.

Employee retention

Studies show that if developers are satisfied with the internal portal they use, there's a higher chance that they remain at the company.

Support developers’ flow

The interviews also revealed what helps developers to tap into their peak performance:

"When you are in a flow you kind of become your own bubble with your work, and it just flows" - Dan

When discussing a scenario akin to Dan's peak productivity, we enter a realm where progress flows effortlessly and swiftly. Termed the "flow state" in positive psychology by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, it represents an optimal state of performance.

Achieving this mindset hinges on maintaining a delicate balance between challenge and skill. The activity should be neither overly challenging to induce anxiety nor excessively easy to breed boredom. A crucial component is the sense of control over one's actions, facilitated by possessing the requisite skill set to tackle challenges. However, a certain level of arousal is necessary, as overcoming challenges becomes more gratifying when the task is sufficiently demanding. For instance, some developers who participated in the interview have highlighted how stringent deadlines can heighten arousal and enable them to enter a state of flow.

Furthermore, getting immediate feedback about one’s actions on portals plays a pivotal role in this dynamic. Users rely on feedback to gauge their progress, ensuring they remain on the right journey or are informed about their position within a process.

Distractions play a crucial role in disrupting the state of flow. When encountered along the path, distractions have the potential to disrupt this state entirely. A study demonstrated that for developers immersed in flow, being interrupted could lead to a significant delay of up to 15 minutes in regaining their flow, if they are able to regain it at all.


You can take your user experience to a whole new level by giving developers the rewarding experience of flow. This personal experience is really powerful, and in the end, it results in having more trust for the provider.

The interviews conducted by Pronovix's UX Researcher and UX Designer Teams confirm the theory of flow and provide an insight into the personal experiences of developer portal users. In part two, you can learn how to put theory into practice.

A person working on a computer. The screen shows the word: API

You can rely on Pronovix’s UX Researcher and UX Designer team. One of the services is user interviews which can help you get to know your users' behavior and their needs by discovering goals they want to achieve, in addition to what helps and hinders them in achieving them.




Further readings:

All Pronovix publications are the fruit of a team effort, enabled by the research and collective knowledge of the entire Pronovix team. Our ideas and experiences are greatly shaped by our clients and the communities we participate in.

Móni is a UX Researcher at Pronovix, with a background in psychology.

Nora Farkas is a UX Designer at Pronovix. Before joining the company, she worked as an Agile Coach, due to her background in psychology. Her interest in digital products and user behavior led her to the world of UX.

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