How SDKs and Community Drove Contentful's 2000% Growth In Two Years

This case study is the first part of our series on 8 Real World API Strategies and The Keys To Their Success.

This case study looks at the strategies employed by Contentful, a content management service completely managed via APIs. Users can upload and store content, create website and mobile interfaces, and set rules about what content should be displayed in each channel, all via API. Developers pay to use the API through on a tiered subscription basis, calculated on the number of content projects and amount of content that is being managed.
Contentful saw month-on-month growth throughout 2014 and into 2015, at an estimated rate of over 2,000%, based on number of visitors to the API as a product website. 
After some initial publicity when moving to a general availability release, Contentful has since been able to drive adoption of its API product through its GitHub library of SDKs. This has also led to community members creating specific API wrappers and tools based on Contentful’s SDKs that have also been regularly downloaded by new users. A community forum attached to the Contentful developer portal also sees high engagement levels with regular engagement by the Contentful team. Toward the end of 2014, an iOS SDK also helped bump developer adoption rates significantly. 
The case study demonstrates that SDKs are an essential tool for encouraging adoption. This may be particularly true of an API as a product business, where developers expect some consistency in being able to use the official SDKs as the main route for accessing an API’s endpoints. Leveraging GitHub to encourage community contributions and to share SDKs has also been a driver in customer adoption. 
Contentful is a leading API business that is worth monitoring as it continues to maintain its strong developer adoption growth rates. Contentful is now looking to maintain growth by utilizing new strategies, such as offering an expanded user interface for non-developers who need access to the APIs, and providing more integration and importation tools to allow businesses with existing content assets to seamlessly migrate to the Contentful service.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.