16:00-16:30 / Bob Watson, PhD: The Inverted Funnel of Developer Documentation

Getting started is a critical point in your customer’s journey with your API. It’s their first hands-on experience a potential customer and it’s your first indication of their engagement with your product. But, you can’t forget that for your customer to be successful with your API, they must complete their journey and deploy a successful product that uses your API. Here’s how documentation can help.

These are some of the elements that support the customer’s journey and the questions they answer.

Landing page/portal - Q: What is this product?
Hello World - Q: Can I make it work?
Tutorials - Q: How will it solve my problem?
Reference topics - Q: How do I get this specific interface to do exactly what I need it to do so I can ship my product?
Reference topics are the content that everyone loves to hate, but it’s your API’s “in case of emergency” reading.

What’s a customer emergency? Not being able to finish their app because your documentation let them down!

How to prevent it? 1. Understand the customer’s development journey with your API 2. Provide the documentation that supports them through that journey 3. Think of the product completion funnel. The customer: a) considers all sorts of options (wide end) b) successfully completes their product (options winnowed down to the narrow end) 4. The documentation for that journey has the opposite shape. a) One portal and maybe a couple of landing pages (narrow end) b) Many reference topics there to answer a specific questions (wide end) 5. The key to your customer’s success rests on your familiarity with how they will apply your API and how your documentation is there to help them along the way.