The jurors for the 2021 DevPortal Awards have expertise that spans business development, UX, technical writing, design, development, marketing and API strategy. Our jurors are senior level managers, directors, speakers, writers, consultants, and strategists.
DevPortal Awards 2021 Jury Interview Part One - Featuring Jury Groups One and Two
DevPortal Awards 2021 Jury Interview Part Two - Featuring Jury Group Three
Interview with the 11 Jury Members of the 2021 DevPortal Awards. The jury interview took place in two parts. The first part interviewed seven jurors. The second part includes the remaining four jurors.
The 2021 DevPortal Awards jurors are independent of the DPA organization, they are experts in their fields, and conduct their activity as jurors in a vendor- and gateway neutral way.
The jurors tackled 49 developer portals nominations over 15 categories. To achieve this, they were split into three working groups with the responsibility of 5 categories each and returned to collectively select the final overall winners.
Table of contents for Transcript
- Jury Group One [00:01:00]| Best International and Localized DevPortal [00:03:20] | Best Innovation [00:06:30] | Best Accessible DevPortal [00:09:22] | Best Community Spotlight & Outreach [00:13:07] | Best Design [00:17:35]
- Jury Group Two [00:21:46] | Best Onboarding developer portal [00:25:12] | Best API Reference Documentation & Support [00:27:56] | Best Developer Dashboard [00:31:36] | Best Editorial Experience in a Devportal [00:33:36] | Best Internal DevPortal [00:35:38]
- Jury Group Three [00:00:54] | Best Findability of Products in a DevPortal [00:05:44] | Best Developer Portal for alternatives to REST-APIs [00:07:21] | Best API Business Model [00:12:14] | Best Use of Monetization [00:15:55] | Best Use of API Gateway Integration [00:19:52] | Final Thoughts from Jury Group Three [00:19:52]
- Learn more about our jurors!
This transcript has been edited for legibility from a computer generated script, our apologies for any mistakes or misinterpretations. Please refer to the attached video for reference content.
Jury Group One
Our first group of jurors were tasked with evaluating developer portals for design, developer experience, community pages, and innovations.
Diliny: We have Sophie Rutard here who has been working as an API strategist for Euler Hermes of the Allianz Group. Sophie, which nominees stood out for you?
Sophie: There were a number of very, very nice portals, but if I have to choose, it’s actually Twitter and I can’t really explain why, but it kept me somehow. There was something very natural too, to look at it. And to simply like.
Diliny: We also have Michael Meng, our resident academic juror. He’s a Professor of Applied Linguistics at Merseburg University of Applied Science. Michael, which category gave you the most challenge?
Michael: That’s really a difficult one, but I think, the one that was really a challenge, DX innovation of course developer experience is something that we all know is very important. It’s a concept with multiple connections to other important areas. But the innovation part costs. Important challenge to me. So what is an innovation? What is an area where we need improvement? What is the next big thing that can be tomorrow-standard? And yeah, this category kind of forced me, forced all of us to think about our understanding of innovation and about things that need to be addressed by (the) developer portal.
Diliny: Thank you. We have Katalin Nagygyorgy who is a director of UX at platformOS. Which nominees stood out for you?
Katalin: So it’s really a hard question, but I try to think it through, and I would like to mention the Plaid developer portal from a design point of view. They revamped the documentation site in a really nice and consistent way, and their micro animations are making the site more friendly. However, they kept the focus on the functional.
Best International and Localized DevPortal
One of the awards that you were judging was the Best International and Localized DevPortal for which we had three nominations. What were some of the criteria that was used to determine the winner?
Michael: First and foremost, I think this is one of the categories that really deserve more attention and one of the issues that deserves more attention, because on the one hand, of course, API business is typically a global business. Right. And so you really have to think about a global audience. On the other hand, of course you, don’t only, you not only have to serve the needs of a global audience, but you also have to think about the business that your audience is doing, which is also global, of course. And, therefore one of the first things we considered was business-wise. the API offering the API portal would support users in kind of filtering and selecting, features and functionality in terms of whether that applies to a certain region. I mean, this is the most obvious for. Companies for example, who may offer features that Volvo works in one region of the world, but not in others. Apart from that, of course, it’s about serving your global audience, which first and foremost means. You have to offer content in different languages. You have to support your audience in selecting the local. So language and region they are working in and there’s other things that are important and that perhaps we’re getting more potent than the future, like, will your devportal be able to automatically detect the region that your user is currently in and adjust your offering kind of automatically. And, there are other dimensions to localization and international offerings that have to do with the fact that. English is still the language that is used most often, of course. And you can expect that your audience has a certain level of proficiency, but the level can vary a lot. Right. And you really have to think about how you can address your audience, and how to serve the needs, at those very different levels. They, they have, So that means that you have to think about easy language, plain language and, support, of language through, for example, appropriate visualizations. Of course, this kind of relates to other dimensions and other categories like accessibility, but, still, that was kind of a very important criteria for this category localization and international developer portal.
For the Best innovation Award in 2021 we had 7 nominees, what did you define as the standard for innovation in 2021? How did applicants consider themselves innovative?
Sophie: And I think Michael mentioned it. Michael had mentioned it earlier on,i t was difficult to select a candidate in this category because innovation is moving on and what is innovative today will possibly be standards tomorrow. So we had a lot of things which had very good filtering options to make it really easy to find the API APIs that you need for your use case. And yet we didn’t feel that. As really being innovations because we saw them widely spread. And so we then finally said to ourselves, the winner in innovation should be the one really surprising. And we had these things, on the onboarding journey, for example, where the onboarding journey automatically recognized our company and address details, with the background check, obviously very nicely done, then we had E-learnings but, but really greatly done. E-learnings integrated in that developer portal. And these are really things that we had not seen in others and, which were really standing out for us then.
Diliny: I can see the real joy when you’re describing these experiences. So it must’ve been very fun as a jury to be discovering these.
Michael: Yeah, I think that was one of those challenges or challenges, like interesting. The information needs, the different goals that your audience brings to the problem. I mean, this is one issue, but. New and innovative ways of solving that problem, which I think really is a problem. Right. That was an area where we said, well, we saw very cool solutions to that, and that kind of helped us finally, also with the decision.
Best Accessible DevPortal
Our Best Accessible DevPortal Award had 12 nominees. What set the finalists apart from the rest of the nominees? What advice would you give next year’s nominees?
Katalin: Yes. As you mentioned, a total of 12 grade developer portals competed with each other in this category. The following three guidelines helped us to define the rank. First we checked how the applicants define their site related to accessibility. Why did they applied in the first place? It was important to see if they are in line with the category definition. In this case, it was of course, the definition of web accessibility, quickly I share these definitions, everybody knows about this. Web accessibility means that websites, tools and technologies are designed and developed in a way that people with disabilities can use that. This approach also benefits people without disabilities. For example, people using devices with different screen sizes or different input modes. Also temporary disabilities, goes into this category such as broken arm or loss grasses, people with situational limitations, such as bright sunlight or in an environment where they cannot listen to an audio. For example, people using a slow internet connection also fall into this category. We can tell that finalists understood the accessibility and fit into the category descriptions. second accessibility, checkers showed informative and comparable numbers about the accessibility scores of the developer porters. We used Google lighthouse rave and eCheck, or, for this purpose, all of the troll bytes, explanations next to the scores and highlight the accessibility errors and problems of the sites. All finalists actually had outstanding scores in this site can tell. And, as a third step, we compare the XL extra accessibility to related features of the outstanding developer porters, like decorating structure, consistency, terminology, accessible language, gender, communications and so on. There were a lot of items, but we were able to make or group smaller and smaller based on this and highlight. There’ll be. related to the advice, what we can tell for next year’s nominees. First, I believe, check the criteria of accessibility and explain in the devportal, of course, a questionnaire how your developer portal helps your users to access the content in every situation. Second, that’s your developer portal with accessibility checker. If you find any problems, you can still fix them. So that’s the good part. And also it will be good for your users and also it will be good for your. So I believe that’s it.
Diliny: Thank you. That’s it? That was a long list of testing and, you know, lots of things to verify there. So sounds like you guys were incredibly thorough and, not an easy task, but, again, from the smiles on your faces, I’m glad that,
Best Community Spotlight & Outreach
Our next award had five nominees for Best Community Spotlight & Outreach.What would you say is the main beneficial take home of what you felt was necessary for community spotlight and outreach for developer portals?
Sophie: We saw a lot of things and linked a bit to the innovation. You’ll see how this develops over time. So in the past, for your community management, you would probably have done, I dunno, an FAQ or a forum or a blog, but this is very far away from what we have seen. So we really see that the runners are investing heavily in being in touch with their communities. We’re seeing, even a possibility for contributors to the portal to improve the content, to be then rewarded with sort of credit points that you can get. So you could get a rebate on the product, for example, to, to really, incentivize your contributions. We have also seen portals, which really, did very segmented communities, depending on the most common use cases or the type of users of the API that one could have. So, for example, it could be, private persons or companies or non-profit organizations, and then the partner would accordingly propose dedicated communities. Twitter even allows you to create your own community, which is fancy. So you, you would have localized communities, in, let’s say Berlin or Paris, and you can then really, link the developers with each other. That’s really beautiful to see, and it’s very inspiring too. To learn from that and try to put this in our own pulseless. Also, it’s really very, very sophisticated.
Diliny: Thank you, Sophie. Does anyone want to add to Sophie’s answer?
Michael: Only that I think this category for me was most fun to judge and to talk about, to discuss it was really, really amazing to see what ideas, you know, people are out there generate in order to. Interact with their audience in order to get people attracted, in order to keep people in the portal and also to have the audience participate in kind of shaping the roadmap. That was also very impressive to see right. How to compete back, how to involve them, in your thinking about, what to do next and which direction your product should.
Diliny: just one additional question because from your answers, did you see a difference between when there was a small community versus a large community? Cause when you mentioned Twitter, they probably have like huge, massive community. whereas other portals probably have a lot smaller developer community.
Michael: So you could see like a difference in terms of how this was. yes. I think there are definitely differences also in the budgets that one can have to actually create all these features because it’s. Yeah, I hear they don’t come alone. but you don’t have to be Twitter to have great community works. We have seen this on many other portals, very nicely done, and really also in an innovative way, which is really inviting people to contribute and continuously improve the site for the benefit of.
The award for Best Design had 21 nominations. How did you create your short list from 21 nominations? Do larger companies have an advantage over smaller companies or do you see both holding their own?
Michael: Well, first foremost, this was also a very, very challenging category, similar to the next innovation because elective of the experience design is a very broad concept. First, we had to kind of clarify our understanding of that concept. And, quickly found out that we agree on this kind of two types of meaning of narrow one and a broader one. And everyone related to the visual appearance of the site, consistently. The look and feel, is it modern? Is it intuitive? Is it appealing? Right. Things like that. But then at the bottom it also relates to functional aspects. So does it serve the purpose appropriately? Does it make it easier for you to get the information you need? Does it support usability, things like that? What was 20 more than 20 nominees to can kind of just, Go on and, and kind of do a deep dig into every portal, although you would like to do that. Right. So we did a two stage approach here. We first kind of checked every developer portal, nominated for that category and focused on our first impression. And we kind of used questions that customers would perhaps also typically use, like, can I find out what. API is offering, what are the main benefits I can draw from it, how to get started, things like that. And then kind of use that to do some interaction with a portal and check your intuition about the look and feel, the visual appearance and so on. And this letter. Yeah. Some would say, well, really cool. And all those, we would say, well, I’m a bat, but perhaps in that category, not among the front runners and we then arrived at a smaller. I dunno, five or six candidates, will we all agreed on that? They are pretty good with this kind of first pass check and then did a more thorough check and went deeper and checked, using other questions. And finally discussed for quite a while to, determine the one that was really a close race and, showing the high showing of course also the different dimensions that you have to take into account your, but, yeah, like all the other categories, it was a big, big learning effort learning, gain also here in that one. Regarding the second part of the question. Similar to what Sophie already mentioned. I don’t think there’s kind of a correlation between company size and quality of the developer portal, or even say design. Right? In fact, it could be that big companies say, well, people out there have to use my API anyways, so why care? Right. So offer them something. And for small companies, it could be like the main assets. So they will really think hard about. How to make it a success. but of course we only have good examples. It’s actually very often we had only a very rough understanding, whether it’s a small company, a big company, I mean, Twitter, you have some sort of, knowledge that you can bring into that, but many other, nominees where, where you had to do some background check first and see, Independent within belong to a lot of companies, things like that. But as I said, there’s no, yeah, no correlation that I would emphasis here.
Jury Group Two
Our second group of jurors today had the challenge of tackling nominations, not only for developer experience, but for the under the hood operations and experience of technical writers, managing content within developers.
Diliny: I’d like to introduce Lukas Rosenstock, is a software developer, technical writer, API consultant, and entrepreneur. Lukas, Which category gave you the most challenge and Why?
Lukas: So, as you already mentioned, we had two categories, which we’ll talk about later, about internal portals and processes and those are a bit challenging to judge because, since it’s internal, we couldn’t directly observe it, but we had to rely on the information, and the self description of the material that they provided us. But which I still think is a good proxy of how, how well, their internal process in how well they could present it to us.
Diliny: Bob Watson is a Senior Technical Writer at Amazon Web Services. Bob, Which category gave you the most challenge and Why?
Bob: Well, for me, it was the reference docs. partly because they’re so detailed and generally pretty extensive. And in this case this year had so many entries. So we have the challenge of going deep and going wide and, in, in all the variations of, and quantity of reference docs to evaluate, but it was a great experience. I mean, Those, those are the kinds of problems to have too many. Good, good entries.
I’d like to introduce Ellis Pratt, the Director at Cherryleaf, a technical and UX writing services company based in the UK. A different question for you, which nominee stood out?
Ellis: what stood out. I had the privilege along with Bob and some others who had jury members this year to be a judge last year. And there was a difference this year and there were some, some new features with some new, with some sites, which we hadn’t seen last year. And that was that, Taking into consideration onboarding and the developer journey. And in some ways we’re treating the API or the portal, like it was not vacation. And there was much clearer process of what to do, where to start that I didn’t notice last year. And, it made a number of some, a few sites stand out as being really good for having those clear developer journey.
Diliny: Tom Johnson is a senior technical writer working for Google. He is behind I’dratherbewriting.com. Tom, Which nominee stood out for you?
Tom: Well, a lot of, a lot of the nominees were great. I really zeroed in on a lot of the getting started stuff with onboarding and there were some excellent tutorials that really onboarded in different ways. some provided more of a conceptual overview of the entire process. Others were breaking the, getting started into like a, more of a part one in part two. And I thought a lot of these approaches were innovative and working.
Best Onboarding developer portal
For the award of Best Onboarding developer portal, there were 19 developer portals nominated. What advice would you give to the many nominees who had great onboarding experiences, but fell short?
Tom: I was putting together a few thoughts on this. I think first of all, use standard terminology to refer to onboarding doc types. I think the most common name is like getting started. And when people would link to the getting started directly from their doc homepage or product overview, it made it really easy to find and get started. And if there was some kind of registration required, hopefully, make that painless, some registration processes as too much information required signing of agreements or, you know, just too much, too much, of a hurdle to get going. But the, the biggest takeaway that I realized in looking at these, getting started tutorials is that a good tutorial needs to strike a balance between giving you enough information to become familiar with the product, to actually learn something about the product and how you set it up and how you work with it while also being concise and. Having this endless tutorial that just duplicates the documentation. Some getting started tutorials were too skimpy. They were just like, here’s how you authorize a call and make a call. Here’s your response done? And it’s like, well, what am I doing? What’s the product about what is this larger context and workflow kind of missed out on that. And then on the flip side, some sites just had too, too long of an onboarding, like it was multiple courses and so on. Like that’s not quite the angle. So, find a balance, give enough detail, but don’t overwhelm the user. And then finally, this is your first impression with a user you want to, you want to build confidence and inspire confidence in the doc. So if you’re getting started tutorial. Isn’t accurate or doesn’t help the user and they’re not successful. What’s the rest of their experience going to be like in the docs? Probably not great. Right? So that first 15 minutes or hour or whatever that they’re spending with their docs can make a huge difference in their attitudes and perceptions as they go through the rest of your documentation.
Best API Reference Documentation & Support
The Best API Reference Documentation & Support award received an even larger number of nominees at 26. What was the process this year for narrowing down the nominations for this category? Were there reasons a nominee would rank higher or lower?
Bob: Yeah, no, this was quite an impressive turnout for that category. And, like I said, having so many entries is a challenge, but it’s the right kind of challenge. Cause it’s great to see all the creativity and especially the improvement in some of the, repeat, entrance. but, how we, how we manage that was to, agree on, on a rubric of customer experience and categories on how we would evaluate the different topics. And they, you know, we centered on things like navigation, appearance, the utility, how easy it was to use and the completeness. And so with that, we re-looked at all of the entries submitted at a high level to sort them into, finalists and not finalists. And then we looked at where I can look at the finalists in detail with, you know, more, a critical eye with each of those categories, you know? And then we came up with a winner, one of the things that we saw in the high scoring entries, which made it a bit of a challenge. find a clear winner, was in the usability and utility of different sites. And the winners were consistently easy to use. They served their audience well, and they had an engaging design. It was really a challenge. but, it was good to see, you know, something like reference topics, getting that much attention by the companies that have submitted their entries. And so, you know, I’m looking forward to next year’s entrance cause they just keep getting better.
Diliny: Is there any advice you’d give for planning next year’s 2022 awards?
Bob: I’d encourage them to look at the, you know, the winners and see some of the techniques they applied, you know, how did they, how, how was their design, how did they approach the navigation? you know, it’s all about making it easy to use and useful for the audience and some of the, you know, the winners and the, the, the, runners up, you know, really took a creative approach. So, you know, learn what you can and then, you know, just keep, you know, getting better each time. W I wanted to add onto a point that Bob mentioned about reference stocks, getting, getting more attention. And I really think this is a noteworthy call-out because, in the API world, 20 years ago, most of the outputs were just Java docs. Doxygen standard documentation generators. And it’s really, I mean, it would be hard to judge entries and so on. With them all being Java doc output or something. But, yeah, with this web API landscape, the approaches are so much more varied and innovative and lend themselves to more creativity. it’s really kind of an interesting space to observe, to see, oh, this person is. Doing this. And that’s kind of an interesting technique, you know, how they’re making it less seamless and maybe another person is grouping things in a different way and they’ve got their own design. So there’s a lot more variety now in this reference landscape.
Best Developer Dashboard Award
There were two nominees for the Best Developer Dashboard Award. Was it an easy decision for Best developer dashboard this year? What in your opinion identified success?
Ellis: This is probably one where there were two candidates that stood out much more than the other. And so in some ways this was an easier one to find the winner and the runner up compared to some of the other categories. The challenge with a dashboard is do you create a blank canvas and. Get users to start from that point, or do you give them lots of choices? And for us as judges, we were essentially the type of user that had no previous experience at that particular API. So we were coming in without necessarily knowing a great deal about what the product did or any buzzwords. And so the ones that stood out. Again, go back to what we were talking about with onboarding and they treated the dashboard more like an application. There was a clear starting point. There was a path that we could say, okay, there are five steps that we need to do to do this, to get a result or to create a product. And they have that segmented away from the analytics and the configuration element. Some of the other sites, which weren’t so successful, that the registration could be quite complicated. You’d have just a blank screen and no guidance on what to do or too many choices of where to go next, or they assumed you knew certain passwords that we as judges, because we weren’t in those, in that industry and weren’t familiar with, for the ones that stood out there. Consider the beginner. They have that clear onboarding path again, and that’s why they were the winner and the runner up.
Best Editorial Experience in a devportal
There were seven nominees in this category. What challenges did the jury have when judging the Best Editorial Experience in a Devportal category? What was the ultimate ‘value’ built into the process that ranked higher for portals running in this category?
Lukas: The difficulty here was that we were not able to judge the process because we weren’t in those teams that we can’t see their editorial process on a day-to-day basis, but we had to rely on how they described it. And we would also have to judge. Okay. Is that how authentic is what they say? Do they really do what they say they do? if they follow the process. And so something that we also considered a value that, that, that we used in, in ranking, these portals was, Like, what kind of technical assistance do they have? Do they have some kind of automation which enforces the process? and well, if it’s just a, is it just humans talking and I’m not trying to discount the importance of people having conversation and bringing everybody together and deciding, how to, create your docs and how to create your develop experience. If, if it’s just okay, we all get together and, and, and talk about it then it’s, it’s difficult to see. Okay. Are all stakeholders involved? So, the automation that could be, something like Docs as Code where you have some tooling and continuous integration to bring all the content together, to validate the content and to publish it. And also, another thing that we saw was to use a lot of structured data to really enforce inside a content management system. How to structure the data in ways that the process guides, the content is.
Best Internal Devportal
Diliny: The Best Internal DevPortal was the final award that the four of you were looking at. They were seven nominations. In addition to this, I believe we had to send them a questionnaire because internal developer portals are proprietary. We can’t look at them. Five of those nominees answered the required questionnaire.
The Best Internal Devportal was probably our most challenging to rank new category this year and yet one of the most interesting. What helped make the final decision for selecting a winner and runner up?
Lukas: Yeah. I mean, again, this is a category where we had to judge without first hand experience. And I don’t think that that can be avoided here. one thing that we found is that there’s a difference between an internal and an external deaf portal. And I think that’s, that’s something, something we, we looked at because, If you just have one developer portal, where you publish your internal APIs and your external APIs, then you have something like raw role-based access control or X measuring. We’re just, okay. We show those APIs. And I don’t think for an internal devportal that’s enough because I think in an, in an organization, especially a larger organization that has a lot of internal APIs. you need to. To manage the, manage the access. You need maybe some approval processes. So you need specific toolings to support your internal developers. And that’s something we looked at, but it was sometimes difficult to determine. Okay. How does the internal API differ from the external APIs. And, the part that we found out is when they specifically had a good process to manage API access internally, and maybe that’s something I would like to see next year. Ask the companies, how does their internal devportal differ from the external and how do they make these distinctions? And I think that would be really helpful both in, in the developer portal strategy in general, as well as in the future jury, being able to judge this, this really good as an internal developer portal are great.
Diliny: Thank you so much. Thank you again Michael, Katalin, Sophie, Tom, Ellis, Lukas, and Bob for taking the time for both being on the jury and for meeting with me today. Also, a thank you in advance to the jurors I will interview at the next Gala: Emmelyn Wang, Katrien Van Gijsel, Flavio Geraldes, and Liz Couto.
Jury Group Three
Our third group of jurors today had the fun challenge of tackling how to find APIs, business models, monetization & API Gateways, and alternatives to REST-APIs.
[00:00:54] - Part Two Jury Interview
Diliny: We have Flavio Geraldes who is an experienced API Product Manager at Lufthansa. Which nominee stood out for you?
Flavio: Well, that is a good and challenging question. I mean, there were many, many good examples, but I would say the one that would come immediately to my mind would be Ably. They really have some good stuff there. When you go into the portal you know immediately what they offer and how to use it both from a publisher and the subscriber point of view. They immediately have examples on how to use the service they provide, but it doesn’t really just stay there. They have amazing documentation, very extensive and easy to follow from guides and tutorials to very detailed technical information. Also on top of that usually the onboarding processes tend to be a bit complex but they really simplified a lot. When you register - immediately - you get a default key that you can start using in just a few seconds. So the entire flow is really very simple and very straightforward. So from an overall perspective, that looks very good for me. It really stood out.
Diliny: Emmelyn Wang is Global Business Development Leader for AWS Marketplace. Which category gave you the most challenge and Why?
Emmelyn: Diliny, Thanks for having us here. So out of the four categories that this jury panel evaluated together, the one that was very interesting and challenging was all about integration with the API gateway or gateways. And part of it was, we started off the evaluation by understanding what each of us could experience from a hands-on perspective. So for example, being able to, you know, log in and access the API. But then we were able to, you know, thanks to the ISVs and the nominees who participated, get to see a little bit of behind the scenes. Luckily the nominees trusted us, to be able to handle some, you know, very sensitive information, just so that we could truly understand the parts of the integration that you couldn’t experience with just the developer portal. And so we’re really grateful to be able to, to have that, to be able to be as objective, in the evaluation as much as possible. And we focused on the developer as the initial audience from a jury perspective.
Diliny: The additional material provided by the nominees, was that very helpful? There were some questionnaires and there were some videos - was that used as well?
Emmelyn: Yes, it was very helpful. And, you know, we basically gave you were very fair, right? We gave everyone the same questions and allowed them to provide what they thought was the most relevant.
Diliny: Katrien Van Gijsel was recently put in charge of Digital Identity for KBC, she is a digital enthusiast keen on strategic transformation and challenging environments. Which nominee stood out for you?
Katrien: Hi Diliny, I would have to say the BT portal stood out for me and repeatedly charmed me because they operate in a very complex environment. They have a lot of different types of customers, retail, wholesale, and they managed to give a consistent flow. They really focused on good user centered development, good expectation management. They have a lot of information there, but it’s graspable because they have to cater to a lot of people, but still, it was a very good job that they did there.
Diliny: Liz Couto was recently a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for Shopify’s Developer Program and is currently a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Unity Technologies. Which category gave you the most challenge and Why?
Liz:For me it was definitely the best gateway integration, so much complexity, so much nuance, for us we really had to dig deep. It was a lot to consider, lots of unique challenges for each portal. So that one was the hardest one to weigh in on.
Best Findability of Products in a DevPortal
There were 22 nominations for this category. Given the multitude of nominations, how did you shorten the list to find the finalists?
Katrien: Well, the individual candidates in this category really did raise the bar. And, even those few portals that had only one API, they made sure that it was easy to find the in and out for that one. However, as we said, because it’s on findability as products, we decided as a jury to focus on portals with more than one API. And then we looked really into what is good in the search. Are there filtering options or is there relevant categorization and is there an easy entry point to the service catalog? And of course it’s always very nice when something is visually appealing as well. The visual guides you through as well, especially for me, I’m a visual thinker. There are a few points that charmed all jury members. For example, Algolia was really focused on a diverse audience and so their technology campaign wasn’t too salesy. So, once you find what you’re looking for, the experience there was really good as well.
Best Developer Portal for alternatives to REST-APIs
There were 3 nominations in this category. This was a challenging decision, what were the things that stood out to you as jurors?
Flavio: You know, this category really makes sense. Nowadays when we talk about APIs and API management, everyone kind of assumes that we are talking about rest APIs. Right. But that’s not always necessarily the case. As this assumption exists, there is this tendency of making assumptions that people know how to use the services, how to use the products. But sometimes that’s not the case. And the portals need not only to explain technically, how to use the service, how to use the products that are available, but also the business behind it. What are the capabilities that are available and how to use them, and what’s the business concepts that the developers can take advantage of. And we, we really saw that in most of the participants, on one hand, very clear documentation explaining the technology and how to use it step by step. But on the other hand also alternatives that were being picked exactly because of this ease of use and to make the life of the consumers easier, and environments where rest is not that known. It’s really interesting that we saw alternatives like widgets or pre-made UI components that take these integration steps, really to the next level and the usability to this next level that I mentioned.
Because you judged other developer portals, were there any other devportals that didn’t put themselves in this category, but that also had something notable?
Flavio: Yes, for sure. I mean, the similar existence of documentation is not enough, not anymore. Even if people know how APIs work and sell this assumption. But, I would say one thing that we consistently saw in almost every portal, was the existence of SDKs, or at least a few samples in multiple programming languages. So this already provides a bit of a level of abstraction on top of the pure technical interfaces, but, answering to your question directly: One example that comes to my mind will be Algolia, because they provide the rest APIs, the traditional, that we can see everywhere, but also libraries. Right? So the SDKs that I mentioned, but then they also take it much further. They provide UI design, API interfaces. Sorry. So libraries that people can just drop in their UI so that they can much easier just to use the products and the services, but also, libraries and frameworks for other development frameworks, like rails or Django, and also components for the platforms that are around in the market, like WordPress or Shopify. So they look at the customers from a global perspective and provide options for everyone. Another example that could be mentioned is Ably because they provide not only the rest APIs and SDKs, but also server service center events, right by asynchronous APIs by using, for example, MQTT. And, not only they offer a significant range of options, but their documentation is also very good and, offering, not only the low level data field descriptions, but the overviews, guides and tutorials. So the overall concepts and patterns of how to use the services that they provide.
It feels like the options are truly limitless.
Flavio: Yes. The sky’s the limit and creativity and imagination is endless.
Do you have any predictions for what would be the flavor for 2022? What would be something that might stand out next year?
Flavio: I would say asynchronous services seem to gain more relevance, everywhere. Also if we think, for example, mobile devices. Because I mean, in the phones you have notifications that you get. But also with IOT and such kinds of things, I would say probably we are going that direction. So again, REST is more synchronous and obviously it will remain there, but I would say, asynchronous is gaining more and more importance.
Best API Business Model
__There were 13 nominations. Can you discuss how the open and closed nature of the data affected the juror’s ranking of these nominations?
Emmelyn: It’s less about whether or not the data is open and more about what the end consumer is going to use the data for. The main reason I mentioned that is, the developer portal, even though it’s developers actually doing the integrations and the work, there’s quite a bit of upstream and downstream work to help with, for example, things like pricing models, right? Whether or not it’s pay as you go versus, you know, whether or not it’s based on each app that you might publish. And so to me, this was a fantastic business model because of the diversity of our panel. For example, BOL.com, which is a very prevalent e-commerce company in EMEA, has a major presence and per se, they had what was perceived as one API. However, what was really interesting was just seeing the capability of their pricing model to be able to do things that you need to, from an e-commerce perspective. I just wanted to mention some of the ideas there. So, it’s easy to automate adding products, managing fulfillment and the e-commerce life cycle and they didn’t just talk about the technical aspects - They’ve put in key concepts and they really helped people to be able to get involved in that ecosystem. And so I wanted to mention that. And then in general, you know, just making information easy to digest, as you move about the dev portal, for example, having a very clear frame of reference as to where you are, where you want to go, to help any business personas that are there trying to understand the model. The other thing that I thought was very interesting is I think it was the BRI API developer portal. I think if I got that correctly, it’s basically the one where it’s kind of like your cable TV and the packages available. It was really interesting to see the different kinds of promotions that they were running that could appeal to both developers and in business, business personas who are maybe using that. I was gonna add one more thing a lot of the times it’s strategic, right? So maybe it’s not direct monetization. And I think that’s where, you know, meaning it’s very sticky to be able to integrate with an API, right. You’ve got time, resources and you have to justify using precious resources that are not working on the actual product to be able to integrate with an API. And so whether or not it was the scale of direct monetization to where it’s more strategic monetization. I think that’s one sort of challenge that these dev portals have to overcome in kind of converting people to, for example, using the paid version of their API.
That was one of the reasons why we introduced this best monetization award as well, because just to have that differentiation, because there is a clear, clear distinction between developer portal spending indirect and direct revenue sources.
Best Use of Monetization
What would you say are the challenges you faced as a juror trying to evaluate portals for monetization? Was there a moment where you had to reset your thinking or assumptions because of the way that the nominees presented themselves?
Flavio: Well, I think Emmelyn already mentioned a little bit of something around there. I would say the biggest challenge we had was defining the borders and the criteria for the many evaluations and making sure that we were not stepping into the realm of the API business model. So how, how do we differentiate these two categories? And, also, having a diverse jury, I mean, we have different backgrounds and different points of view. So we each kind of approached this category in different ways. So I think that resets what we had and defines these borders and defines the scope that we’re trying to evaluate and the thinking of what we are looking for. Once we managed to do that and create the right frame and scope for the category around the pricing visibility and clarity, it became fairly straightforward. Of course, it probably also helps that the number of contestants is not big in this category. If we had more it probably would have been much more challenging with the different options and alternatives that we could have available.
Emmelyn: Yeah, we were able to dive deep, like Flavio said, for example, BT is actually the one where you had to login to be able to see all the different pricing options. But for example, G+D Convego® Connect APIs, you know, at first it was difficult because we couldn’t see any pricing. Right. So what was available either publicly or after you log in. But that one was specifically interesting. Because, for example, we would try to dig deeper, right? We would interact with the platform to see what other information we could find. And then in general, for me, as a business development person, just summarizing what it would take to align to be able to, say I was a company that wanted to, to use the connect APIs that G+D Convego® had what information was available to me to help create that environment where it would make sense for the two organizations to interact.
Diliny: I’m hoping next year we have more than three nominations, but it’s a lot of work to look into this and to figure out what’s going on.
Flavio: Yeah, let’s hope so. I mean, it’s a big, big world, big business, right? I mean, and definitely, companies and industries are going in that direction. So I really hope that in the next few years we’re going to have more.
Emmelyn: Yes. And then there, there was definitely quite a bit of data about how a lot of companies are moving towards more of a pay as you go model, if it’s kind of a SaaS-based software model where it’s powered by APIs and so most companies, I think today, if they’re not adopting that, they’re looking to see if that’s even a viable option. And so one thing I want to say that I like about Devportal Awards is since 2018, till now, I’m grateful that you’ve been not only listening to what the jury has given as feedback. So for example, findability had so many nominees that we actually made recommendations for future judging panels to think about the maturity of the API. In that way, maybe segment the different contestants, and to be able to celebrate, where they are on the journey, right. Where we don’t ever want to penalize someone, for having one API versus many APIs, we want to be able to encourage every devportal creator and maintainer because we know it takes a lot of work.
Best Use of API Gateway Integration
I think this made the jury wonder ‘What’s under the hood here?’ because as an API consumer often the API gateway is not apparent. What were the criteria you ultimately used to judge this category? What information could we have gathered from nominees to make this process easier?
Liz: Well the tough ones, it doesn’t generally apply to all API types. Some businesses can simply provide a plug and play API solution. This we know is a lot more complexity. Things really have to be architected really well, securely, resiliently. They also have to simplify this complexity for their end user. As we’re looking at this, we kind of kept these things in mind, looking at really great solutions that kind of demonstrated that they took in mind the complexity, security, those additional needs, but also did a really good job of explaining that and then building end user trust through that great portal experience.
Emmelyn: We talked initially about potential criteria such as, is there a sandbox environment? What was the experience from test to production? How seamless was the experience and as Katrien and Flavio, and Liz mentioned, the more seamless it is, the more the dev portal, you know, organizers and creators and maintainers had to work to obfuscate that complexity. We looked at the onboarding journey with tools such as friction logging to publish your API. How easy was it? For example, to get a test key or even a real key and to create a, we liked the fact that some of them already populated different sample apps, and then can we really access the actual integration, which we couldn’t. And so the second part of your question was right. We put together some objective questions to get more information about what’s under the hood.
Flavio: I would just have a small note, I mean, and thank you guys for organizing this and for having as a jury, because I think we were really honored and it’s really special what we have been able to see the special needs category because as Katrien says, if you go as a user to a developer portal, if the work was done well, then it’s completely seamless for you. It’s just clicking a few buttons and everything is working perfectly. But what we have seen behind the scenes, in some cases, it’s a complexity that we really don’t imagine between different departments, different companies, different everything. So it was really amazing to see what people are doing. As things that are beyond our imagination out there.
Final Thoughts from Jury Group Three
Now I open up the floor for any other comments or any other commentary that you’d like to add? Is there anything for next year’s DevPortal Awards for our audience to benefit from?
Emmelyn: So I absolutely love all of the write-ups for each of the categories. I hope that because this jury did a great job of capturing our notes, what delighted us, what was surprising in a good way. We hope that maybe in the future, there’s quite a bit of self-service for folks who are kind of self nominating or for others who nominate the work of others who are too humble to nominate themselves, that, you know, there’s some kind of pre. Just because you’ve done such a great job of the DevPortal Awards that it’s grown to a place where it really inspires people as they’re maybe starting to even gather what they need to launch a dev portal all the way to companies like Mercedes-Benz who have been a part of the portal awards for many years, to continue innovating. I just wanted to mention and thank you so much for being open to all of our feedback. We hope that future panels will get to experience what we have to continue to contribute in and learn together because it’s not easy to maintain these portals as all of us have experienced.
Katrien: Yeah, maybe I can add on that, even if it’s indeed, as you say, I mean, it’s not easy to, to make those portals, but I think also if you, if you look at the nominations, if you look at, the information that was provided, I think, a lot of the nominees put a lot of efforts also in the nomination itself. I think we really had, we had the obligation towards all the nominees really to go through that thoroughly and to, to put also the efforts in there because, as Laura once mentioned, it’s really about a celebration of what everybody’s doing. And I really liked that. And it’s true. So it’s, from certain moments, we’re like, can we now maybe think that we have a tie and there was no way to choose. And sometimes it was really difficult. But I think that’s a lot of kudos really too, to everyone who puts effort in nominating themselves or others. As you mentioned as well.
Emmelyn: And I wanted to add to something Flavio mentioned earlier about SDKs and libraries. One thing that I saw across portals, is companies, even Barclays, et cetera, using things like postman collections, someone else was using read me, and other tools to help quickly expose both documentation, being able to try out the APIs in a way. Typically maybe a team that manages the devportal, you know, it could be very small or that’s not their full-time job to maintain the devportal. And so being, having ways to quickly expose things, because as they’re responding to our questions as a panel, right? Think about the fact that they’re also serving the audience that’s consuming and using the devportal, which is a lot of work. And so I was very impressed and I think it’s going to be a trend going forward. To see more companies use tools to help them more quickly reach their audiences’ questions.
Diliny: Very, very insightful. Thank you. There is something also strategic in nominees nominating themselves for specific categories because, from behind the scenes, I saw that there was a pattern, there are some returning nominees who kind of know where their strengths are and then other new nominees who maybe didn’t realize that they could have probably won in a different category had they nominated themselves for it. I’m hoping that this Interview and the previous interview that we had will contribute towards the knowledge for next year, so that developer portal teams can nominate themselves with a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of hope that they’re going to come up in the final few.
Flavio: Just a small thing. I mean, not, not the recommendation or anything, but just the curiosity. I was really surprised about a number of industries that are participating. Right. So we’re not talking only about technology companies anymore. I mean, we go from, I dunno, banks and fintechs and, automotive, right? Emmelyn mentioned Mercedes, logistics. I mean, It’s amazing how this trend, let’s say it’s spreading across multiple industries, and I’m really curious to see the new industries that are going to also adopt it and will appear in the next few years.
Thank you again Emmelyn, Katrien, Flavio, and Liz for taking the time for both being on the jury and for meeting with me today. Thank you as well to our jurors from the last interview, Tom, Ellis, Lukas, Bob, Michael, Katalin and Sophie.
Last year we interviewed the 2020 DevPortals Award Jury to find out What goes into an award winning developer portal.
Want to learn more about the 2021 DevPortal Awards Jury? Check out their current works or follow them on twitter!
- Docs By Design - Bob Watson
- Medium - Emmelyn Wang
- Katrien Van Gijsel
- Sophie Rutard
- Cloud Objects - Lukas Rosenstock
- Cherryleaf Podcast - Ellis Pratt
- ResearchGate - Michael Meng
- Idratherbewriting.com - Tom Johnson
- Flavio Geraldes
- Liz Couto
- Katalin Nagygyörgy
For more information about the current DevPortal Awards jurors, please see the Jury page on DevPortalAwards.org.
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.
Diliny is a Senior Business Product Manager at Pronovix. She focuses on understanding the capabilities of developer portals. Diliny carries out a wide array of research on topics centered on developer portals and the needs of API Teams who manage them. She holds two master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering and Science.