Twilio Kaizen: New Signup Process Aims at Developer Experience

Adam DuVander
Jul. 16 2012, 08:12AM EDT

We already use Twilio as an example of documentation done right, but the company thought it could do better. The company now provides a unique telephone number for every new signup to use immediately with the Twilio Voice API and Twilio SMS API. Previously there was a single shared number that required a pin. Now Twilio is showing off one of its core features immediately and making it much simpler to get started.

"This is one of those continuous improvements things," Twilio's Andrew Benton said of the new signup process. "We're proud of having complicated things and making them simple."

Benton waffles between the joke title of Chief Economist (he dropped out of a PhD program at Princeton in economics) and Lead Engineer for Developer Experience. The latter gets at where Benton has been focusing lately. Twilio has had a developer-friendly approach for some time, but Benton saw a chance to make it a little bit better. Kaizen, as the Japanese call it, is the idea of incremental improvement--small changes over time making a big difference.

Giving a new telephone number to every new user is a small change with a big impact. It solves several issues for Twilio. First, it onboards new developers much faster and makes it easier to convert them to paying customers--no changes are needed to their code. It also should reduce support requests about the sandbox. There was a lot of confusion, because some tutorials for Twilio used the pin in examples and others didn't. Now there's one way to use Twilio.

The improvements continue. Coming up Twilio will be focusing more heavily on client libraries, the way most developers use the API. The documentation currently shows the underlying HTTP request, with examples defaulting to cURL.

Adam DuVander -- Adam heads developer relations at Orchestrate, a database-as-a-service company. He's spent many years analyzing APIs and developer tools. Previously he worked at SendGrid, edited ProgrammableWeb and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101.

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