API Products

5 Oct 2022 by Scott Middleton

API Products and API-as-Product refers to APIs that are developed and managed like products. Getting an understanding of what API Products means within your team will help you understand each other better and, ultimately, build better APIs faster.

If you’re familiar with product management, product ownership or digital products then you might think API Products doesn’t warrant definition however, many people developing and managing APIs haven’t had to manage products before or think about them in the same way that, say, a Software-as-a-Service or consumer app product manager has. 

What is an API product? 

An API product is a single API or bundle of APIs that your customers choose to acquire from you, in order to obtain the benefits that access to the product and its features brings, so your customers can reach the goals they believe those benefits will help them attain.

Let’s focus on a few important parts of the definition and how they will help you succeed:

  • Customers: your API product needs to have a clear understanding of who the customer is and your value proposition to them
  • Benefits: your API product needs to provide benefits, ideally benefits that match the customer value proposition.
  • Goals: ultimately your API product must help your customer achieve a goal. You need to know what this goal is and, ideally, that goal matters to your customer.

Examples of API Products

Some examples of API Products are:

  1. Stripe – Stripe’s core, original product is a payment gateway that lets any business handle credit card payments from their website or software. 
  2. Contentfula headless Content Management System that you interact with purely via APIs – adding content, getting content and updating it via API.
  3. Algolia – an API for searching your content so that you can put search into any application that you develop.

Differences with other types of APIs

Treating APIs-as-Products is just one way to treat them. There are also APIs that are infrastructure or features.

An Infrastructure API provides a building block for others to build features, functionality and products on. Examples of this are an API for starting a service on your organisation’s infrastructure or an API for performing a back-end administrative task like clearing old data.

A Product Feature API is an API that doesn’t deliver the customer’s desired benefits and goal. An example of this is an API for tracking a parcel, the product is transporting your goods to your door and the tracking API is a feature that brings the benefit of an ecommerce company being able to tell their customers where their parcel is.

Knowing which type of API you are working with will help you make sure it succeeds. You’ll think and act differently for an infrastructure API, to a feature API to a product API. You will want to use different disciplines, levels of investment and frameworks to deliver the best possible API. 

Just keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science, you can use product disciplines on any API. 

Also, the way you treat an API can vary from situation to situation. For example, in one organisation an API to search internal data may be seen as infrastructure but for another company it might be the product that they offer.

More reading

  1. Product-led Approach
  2. API-as-Product Assessment Framework
  3. Why You Need Product Management

Scott Middleton
CEO & Founder

Scott has been involved in the launch and growth of 61+ products and has published over 120 articles and videos that have been viewed over 120,000 times. Terem’s product development and strategy arm, builds and takes clients tech products to market, while the joint venture arm focuses on building tech spinouts in partnership with market leaders.

Twitter: @scottmiddleton
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/scottmiddleton

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