In the modern era of API development, it’s no longer good enough to just create a great API. The developer experience, and how you cultivate the connective tissue between developer and API creator, is just as important, if not more so. Creating a solid developer portal guarantees a cycle of information and education that will level up the efforts of all who utilize your product. The developer portal should be viewed as key to not only your user experience story but the very value and nature of your corporate identity and brand.

Today, we’re going to look at six wonderful examples of developer portals. These are some of the best out there and represent a template for success.

1. Visa Developer Portal

Visa shines in pointing users to helpful resources and practical use cases.

The Visa Developer Portal is an excellent example of a developer portal because it comprehensively describes the API and demonstrates it in practice. This “show, not tell” approach can often result in a cleaner, easier-to-digest experience for developers. Less “digging” is required to find pertinent elements in the documentation.

The API navigation area is well done and quite clean, presenting a few common implementation types and linking to more development implementations. The inclusion of a button pointing to some general use cases is also useful, as it helps developers understand the scope of possible implementations at a broad level.

However, the big win for Visa’s portal is their partner showcase. It showcases particular implementations across many partners, noting how partners solved complex issues using the API. This kind of content is helpful, as it articulates very clear solutions that Visa has enabled. It also serves for some good PR to tie in those partners with Visa and demonstrate appreciation for the quality work that has been done.

More than anything, this approach makes for an abundantly clear value proposition for the new developer when they see existing partners already deriving value from the portal — this is a clever approach to both documentation and public relations.

2. Spotify for Developers Portal

Spotify takes a straightforward approach to structuring its developer docs and reference materials.

The main benefit of Spotify’s developer portal is the strength of its simplicity — it’s straightforward and no-nonsense. This makes it clear what Spotify enables for developers in a simple, easy-to-browse manner. When done incorrectly, this can carry the feeling of lacking polish and care, but when done effectively, as it is done here, it can lend a sense of professional simplicity and clarity.

The portal is laid out so that any user can choose to dive into audio analysis, playback, or recommendations through a simple collection of primers and documentation. Representing the portal information categorically and detailing what is enabled makes for a simpler glance at what can be accomplished. Developers may find this makes it easier to find solutions to statement issues such as “I want to play x on y”.

Speaking of documentation, this is perhaps where Spotify’s portal leans the most on simplistic navigation. The documentation is clearly delineated between a handful of topics, with each linking to very specific areas for specific kinds of users. It guides the user through this portal according to the type of need they have, rather than presuming what the provider believes the developer wants. This makes the experience more cohesive and seamless.

3. Plaid Docs

A tried and true format; developers will find Plaid Docs familiar and usable.

The Plaid Docs developer portal is perhaps the most “developer” feeling portal in this list. The organization feels very similar in theme and structure to how one would expect a developer portal to function. There is a clear navigation system on the left and a generous viewport with content to the right. You can easily grab an API key in the top right-hand corner. All this is deceptively simple, however, as the Plaid solution has many features right below the surface.

First and foremost, Plaid has a bevy of regular documentation and generalized information on offer. The presentation of this content is great, with a clean organization and a very clear funnel for discovering more information. The included Quick Start guide is useful, helping to get users up to speed relatively quickly.

Where Plaid’s portal excels, however, is in their inclusion of a Sandbox section. Providing a sandbox is a great way to teach from doing rather than reading. Plaid’s Sandbox boasts event simulation and live data testing, which allows developers to get a firmer grasp of the underlying system and test their skills and assumptions.

While portals should always serve up reference documentation, it’s incredibly effective to include a system by which users can interact with the documented methods to learn through practice.

4. Wells Fargo Developer Gateway

Wells Fargo’s Developer Gateway funnels incoming developers from general to specific solutions.

The primary factor that Wells Fargo has going for it is the structure of its portal’s ingest. Developer portals are often too broad with the scope of information first presented to the user. Though this can help you discover what you need, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Wells Fargo took a simpler approach, covering the most common generalities first before presenting overly-specific information.

Wells Fargo clearly designed their portal to be a funnel, with elements like the Get Started button and product presentations by use case and general user type. This structure helps guide potential developers from a general solution to a more specific implementation. Generalizing the entry point to Commercial, Consumer and Small Business, etc., also helps define the user wherever they are in the documentation space. The system of linkage resulting from such a structure leads to a digestible, understandable ecosystem.

5. Xero Developer

Xero reminds us that quality design for developer portals matters.

The Xero portal is an excellent example of how content presentation is just as important as the content itself. While the content at the Xero portal is indeed effective and organized well, the premium nature of its design is itself commendable. Xero has made a significant investment in its branding, and the polish behind their portal well-represents this.

Coming into the portal, it’s clear where everything is. This is a crucial facet of portal development that is, shockingly, not always well-served. The experience of navigating the system is easy — it never feels like the system itself is causing strain, which is a key element of UX design, and again, something that is not always addressed well. Notably, the subpages in the system are also excellent, with pages designed to help the exploration of the API offering, a page touting the benefits of being a partner, and other resources.

Ultimately, the Xero portal is a solution that is as polished as it is useful. Too often, you get to choose one or the other: either the portal is beautiful, and the content is bad, or the content is excellent, but the portal is poorly designed. Xero balances those two facets very well.

6. Twilio API Reference

Twilio knows what’s it’s doing. The API reference directs developers to the right tool and then gets out of the way.

Twilio is an excellent example of a different kind of developer portal in that it clearly adopts one particular consumption type and does it exceptionally well. Their developer portal is much more a developer reference system — in that, it is a great success.

Everything that a developer may need to know about the Twilio API ecosystem is clearly delineated on the page, with clear summaries for each item and further links for developers to follow to discover additional information, resources, and REST API documentation. While it’s simple in structure and heavy in text, it provides access to all components. This may be perceived as “less-polished,” but ultimately, Twilio knows what it’s doing and what it wants to be. For that, this portal should be commended.

The left-side navigation allows for a drill-down into particular areas, which is extremely helpful given the breadth of content on this portal. It’s often just as important to guide the path users take as it is to ensure the content they eventually find is of the highest quality. Seeing that Twilio intends their portal to be a reference system, this is perhaps even more important. The system allows for sorting by platform, which is very helpful from a developer experience point of view. Guiding a developer to a particular solution based on the platform they’re building on helps deliver a swift implementation.

Conclusion

Developer portals are critical for the average end-user developer, as they serve as the ingest point for untold possibilities. Curating the information and cultivating a system of interconnectivity and education is critical to continued longevity and health. These example developer portals are wonderful cases where the sponsored organizations have succeeded at a very high level.

What do you think of our choices? Are there other developer portals that we’ve missed? This was not meant to be an exhaustive list, and we’re always on the lookout for great examples — let us know about a few in the comments!