Six Ways to Accelerate Time to First "Hello World"

Adam DuVander
Jul. 31 2012, 12:30PM EDT

If you want to attract developers to your platform, obviously great API documentation is important. But that's really only one piece of the story. The reason clear docs are great is that they enable that first test of an API, the "hello world." There are several ways to accelerate that process, as described in the five keys to a great API. Below you'll find six ways to reduce that TTFHW, or time to first hello world.

1. Make it clear what you do

Before developers read a single line of your docs, they want to know whether your API can solve their problem. What's your elevator pitch and can you condense that into a dead simple web page?

2. Offer free or trial API access

We think APIs can charge developers when value is provided. That's a good thing. An even better thing is letting developers have a taste of what your platform can do.

3. Fast, automated signup

There are a lot of reasons you might want to manually provision every developer. If you can avoid it, automate this process. Don't make them wait to try you out.

4. Clear, accurate documentation

It may not be the only answer, but documentation is still an important way to get developers to hello world. Want to dig deeper into docs? Check out the six pillars of complete developer documentation or the results of a survey about what developers want from documentation.

5. Copious code samples

Giving raw RESTful docs reaches the most developers, but if you can give language-specific examples, they'll be able to get up to speed much faster.

6. Provide tools

Whether it's a dashboard, a debugger or some sort of explorer, if you give developers a way to play with the API they can evaluate what you're offering much faster than if they need to set up their development environment or download an SDK.

These are six of the ways to accelerate the TTFHW. What other methods have worked well for you?

For other tips, see what makes a great API.

Adam DuVander Hi! I'm Developer Communications Director for SendGrid and former Executive Editor of ProgrammableWeb. I currently serve as a Contributing Editor. If you have API news, or are interested in writing for ProgrammableWeb, please contact editor@programmableweb.com Though I'm a fan of anything API-related, my particular interest is in mapping. I've published a how-to book, Map Scripting 101, to get anyone started making maps on websites. In a not-so-distant past life I wrote for Wired and Webmonkey.

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[...] 6 Ways to Accelerate Hello World: Ask any programmer if they would like to try your API and chances are that they will ask you how much time will it to register, download and do a Hello World. If you are talking more than 15-20 minutes, chances are that you need to go back to the drawing board. The article lists down how you can create this positive and absolutely necessary experience of getting new developers to write their Hello World with your API. [...]