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Monday, March 21, 2022 at 11:45

API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface. It works as a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other securely.

When you use an application connected to the Internet, it sends data to a server. The server retrieves that data, interprets it, performs the necessary actions, and sends it back to your device. The application then interprets that data. Finally, it is presented to you, the user, in a universally understood and easy-to-use way. All of this happens via an API. It shares data, resources, even software across different applications without compromising privacy and maintaining a layer of abstraction.

Modern APIs adhere to standards (typically HTTP and REST) that are developer-friendly, easily accessible, and understood broadly. They are treated more like products than code and designed for specific audiences like mobile developers. According to MuleSoft, APIs have become so valuable that they comprise a large part of many businesses' revenue, like Google, eBay,, Amazon, Expedia, etc.

What Is API Documentation?

API docs, or API description documents, are the collection of references, tutorials, and examples that help developers use your API. API documentation is the primary resource for explaining what is possible with your API and getting started with it. It also serves as a place for developers to return with questions about syntax or functionality.

API documentation is hosted in a special section of your website or its API-focused portal. It should be easily discoverable and widely accessible for software developers. There are several API documentation browsers that conveniently help developers to search and access API documentation offline, such as Dash. Dash is a handy API documentation browser with 200+ ready-to-use docsets and code snippet manager for macOS.

Other API documentation browsers worth checking out are mentioned below:

  • DevDocs: Open source API documentation browser with instant fuzzy search, offline mode, keyboard shortcuts, and more. Written in Ruby and JavaScript.
  • Devhelp: Developer tool for browsing and searching API documentation.
  • Qt Assistant: Tool for viewing on-line documentation in Qt help file format.
  • Doc Browser: API documentation browser with support for DevDocs and Dash.
  • Zest: FOSS Docs Browser with DevDocs and Stack Overflow. You can find what you need without Internet access.

Why Document APIs?

Documentation is the foundation for good developer experience. Documentation of API allows improved user adoption. More people will easily find value in your services if your documentation is correct, leading to better growth and adoption. It also increases awareness as more users adopt your APIs. In addition, good documentation decreases the amount of time spent onboarding new users, be it internal developers or external partners. And finally, it helps your internal teams know the details of your resources, methods, and their associated requests and responses, making maintenance and updates quicker.


What Types Of API Documentation Are There?

API documentation has several types of content. It should be accurate, educational, and inspire usage. Some documentation shows developers what is possible while considering an integration, while others describe the API's functionality.

API documentation can roughly be broken down into three types:

  1. Reference and functionality
  2. Guides and tutorials
  3. Examples and use cases


How To Document Your APIs?

There are several ways to get started with documenting your APIs. It all depends on which method of API design you have settled on. Suppose you are building your API from scratch. In that case, many tools can be found on the web, like OpenAPI, Swagger, etc., that can help automate the documentation process, making it easier for you, or your team, to maintain and update your documentation.

API Documentation Best Practices

To take your API documentation to the next level, mentioned below are some best practices for comprehensive and maintainable API Documentation:
  • Ensure that you have someone watching out for how developers experience your documentation.
  • Involve multiple teams to gather diverse perspectives. This helps you understand what exactly is needed in your documentation. You will find great insights from engineering, marketing, product, support, etc.
  • You need to check whether your references, guides, and examples are as complete as they should be. Look for type and topic coverage. If areas of your API aren't covered well in one or more types of documentation, use that information to determine where to focus future efforts.
  • Include documentation in your existing processes as well. Your documentation should evolve along with your APIs. Automate where possible and make sure you consider whether new references, guides or examples should be included with new feature launches.
  • It would be best to acknowledge that your documentation is a work in progress. It doesn't need to be immediately perfect. You have to look for ways to improve one section or type at a time.

Over time, you will have excellent API documentation alongside these best practices.


Documentation is the key to a great experience when consuming your API. It enables consumer satisfaction and allows your API adoption to increase. This article is to help you understand API documentation to its core and implement its best practices.