3 essentials in an API get-started guide
Developers may need to hook their application up to an API so that the app can get data from somewhere, or share data with another app, or request a service such as displaying a message to the user. The getting-started guide is one of the most important parts of an API documentation set. Often the developer can find their way around an API with just the getting-started guide and the reference documentation.
A getting-started guide for an API (Application Programming Interface) helps a developer get their application interacting with the API.
At a minimum, a getting-started guide tells developers how to:
- Download any tools required, such as an SDK (Software Development Kit) or a code library.
- Get any necessary authentication credentials for their app, such as an API key.
- Fire up a hello world app. This is a program that does very little. Typically, it prints “hello world” to a web page, a screen, or the developer console. The purpose of a hello world app is to make sure the developer has all the tools and configuration required before they can start developing.
Here are some examples of API getting-started guides:
- Google Maps Android API
- Google Places API for iOS
- GitHub API
- Heroku Platform API
Interestingly, if you examine API documentation on the Web, you’ll come across a few different types of guides called “getting-started guides” or “quick-start guides”. It’s an overloaded doc type. 🙂 For example, some quick-start guides take the form of a tutorial, leading developers through a simple use case for the API. The resulting app is something more than a hello world app, and is useful for developers who need information about what the API does (typical use cases) as well as the authentication and setup steps.