Do APIs have UX?

What’s the frst thing that comes to mind when you think of UX?

Interface Design? User Stories? Emotions? You can maximize those things through good design and programming but what about the design and programming of the services your app consumes?

What if you built and deployed a fantastic web app that users just loved but the cloud provider you picked started to cut corners and was randomly losing files? Or you built a social media app with push notifications that worked great for people in certain countries but not others? These are both definitely potential UX problems.

So what makes one API better than others?  Three factors stick out the most to me:

Documentation – It has to be clear to the developers what the API can and can’t do. (Good, working, tested) code examples & debugging functionality really help too.

Robustness – If the API goes down all the time, doesn’t work in certain areas, doesn’t use common standards & protocols, doesn’t adhere to any sort of SLA,, this will impact your users in a very negative way.

Clear roadmap – New Feature’s are great and all but old ones should be deprecated well. Facebook was famous in the past for knee-jerk changes that constantly provided developers (read: users) headaches.

So what’s an example of an API that is delivering great UX? I’d say Twilio is one of them and I’ll use Airbnb‘s implimentation as an examle. Airbnb uses Twilio to anonymously connect hosts and guests during the reservation process. Not only does this provide for a great experiences in terms of privacy,but it’s easy, you’re connected faster than dialing it yourself, and the call quality is always excellent.  Every time. That to me us good UX delivered through an API. (See their documentation and status board for additional proof as well)

When developing your next app remember that UX isn’t just limited your software and design. It’s also the APIs, vendors, and services that you work with.

What are some examples of APIs with Good UX? Bad UX?

[Edit:] A good resource on what APIs are out there, who is using them and how is Programmable Web. They also have a good tool for monitoring an API’s availability

By darylchymko

Code Wrangler and ultrarunner

4 replies on “Do APIs have UX?”

I’ve written a few scripts against Freshbooks’ API, and their documentation has always struck me as very good. All of the request/response values are well-represented, and follow the same conventions across the different classes and methods.

it’s difficult to think of the worst api I’ve worked with, mostly because a terrible ux forces me to give up quickly and forget the service.


I second the quickbooks API, limited docs and always changing without notice. I would also state that some products of massive size “should” have API’s and dont and rely on users to hire programs to try and “figure out” the xml documents the products create… Xactimate is a real good example of this. Xactimate is a massive company with millions of users but they encrypt the users information and store it in a cryptic format making it nearly impossible for users to gain access to ‘their’ information. Notifo would be one of the good ones, its a simple app and simple API that does that it says it will with good docs and examples.


Thanks for the comments guys. I added the Programmable Web resource to the original article. They also have a new (paid) service to monitor the availability of an API.

I’ve personally found the social networks to have the best APIs because their core business involves as much exposure as possible. I’ve found the worst ones to be the ones where they are ‘forced’ to do it or just do it because everyone else is. I’m referring to the companies that depend on keeping your information in a ‘silo.’


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