API usability for developer-first products

Written by Stephanie G.

Published on Thu Aug 26 2021

It’s 2021, and developer experience is coming more and more into focus. In fact, companies are hiring product managers specifically with the goal of improving their developer experience. Staying close to your customer matters in every industry. Though it feels harder to get feedback as developers are expensive and specialized, Usabl is focusing on helping businesses see their customers in action. In the following post, we’ll review how people are currently getting feedback on the usability of their API’s. In doing so, we’ll review some of the ways developer-first companies are staying close to their customers.

First, let’s start by looking at API-first companies and how big the market is getting in general.

The API-first industry

Here’s Venture Beat talking about the API market in general and the impact it’s having on companies:

APIs can be a massive revenue driver. As of 2015, Salesforce generated 50% of its revenue through APIs, Expedia generated 90%, and eBay 60%, according to Harvard Business Review. That’s because of the enormous market — there are an estimated 19.1 million API developers in the world, with only 11% of developers in one recent survey claiming they don’t use APIs in any capacity.

With the success of “API-first” companies like Stripe and Twilio, which are now valued at $95 billion and $65 billion, respectively, companies are investing in new API-first strategies at a record pace. As McKinsey notes, APIs, which were once largely limited to technical domains, have become a significant engine of business growth, allowing organizations to monetize data, forge partnerships, and open new pathways for innovation. 

Venture Beat


Usabl’s vision is to improve the developer experience. Usabl believes that usable products are really important and that the market is finding it hard to get great developer feedback. From working with customers, we have head stories about how within the first 20 minutes of using your product, developers need to have a clean and easy ramp and be able to accomplish their task.

How Usabl works is on the basis of writing tasks. In this fashion, we allow companies to freeform write out the questions they are looking to answer. Some include:

  1. Our bread and butter: Is your API usable?
  2. What do developers think about my product vs. competitors? How are they using competitive products?
  3. What are potential “points of friction” for developers using my product

All of these and more are uncovered in video. The best part is the value you can get from these videos can be very extreme. For example, in asking developers to complete tasks you can:

  1. Get feedback before implementing features: saving you developer time and leading to a new roadmap
  2. See firsthand how developers use your product including any stopping points
  3. Constantly be in touch with your customer

Find out how to test your developer experience by looking into our getting started guide here: Writing your first test.

You can also just Request a demo today.

Here’s an example of a task to get started working with Usabl

  1. Number of testers requested: [FILL IN]
  2. Number of minutes per test: [FILL IN]
  3. Description of task (“you” refers to the usability tester):
    1. In this task, assume you are a [PERSONA] attempting to [GOAL]. You’ve decided to use [PRODUCT NAME] for this task
    2. Read through our conceptual documentation [INSERT LINK] for the [API NAME].
    3. Describe what kinds of projects you could use this API for.
    4. Now that you have familiarized yourself with the concepts, read through our Getting Started [INSERT LINK] guide.
    5. Now, open up your favorite integrated development environment (IDE) and do the following:
    6. Describe your impressions of the task. What was hard or easy, and what changes would you suggest the product team make?

Other companies focused on the broader user testing market


Usertesting.com has been around since 2012 and is well-known in the general testing space. They’re Enterprise plan sits at $24k a year for unlimited tests. Usertesting benefited from the growth in the user experience and user researcher fields over the last decade.


Maze is a startup that let’s you test your product based on Figma designs alone. They allow you to send a link and for users to complete a “series of missions and tasks.” Maze is focused, like User Testing, on websites and apps.