Designing the new Twitter developer experience
By Alyssa Reese 12 August 2020
By Alyssa Reese
12 August 2020
We recently announced Early Access to the new Twitter API and shared our plans for the future. As part of building the new API, we've also completely reimagined the developer experience – starting with the redesigned developer portal, updated docs, and new support section that all roll out today. Since everyone likes to peek behind the scenes, here's an inside look at our design process as we've been rebuilding the developer portal, your new home for all things Twitter API.
We’ve been doing a lot of listening to developers...
In the past two years, we’ve interviewed hundreds of developers, opened up a feedback forum, released surveys all over the world, experimented in the open, tested our ideas with hundreds of people, and even invited developers into our offices to co-create with us (don’t worry we gave them lots of snacks).
You see, we want developers to get moon-eyed when they talk about our documentation. To have error messages that are so helpful they’re almost as pleasant as getting a handwritten letter in the mail. Our aim is to be a company that other developer platforms reference when they are looking for inspiration (and we know we have a way to go). We know that it takes hard work to reach that level of excellence and that it starts and ends with listening to you, and acting upon your feedback.
Tell us about yourself
In late 2018 we kicked off a global study with the core question of understanding what developers were trying to accomplish with the Twitter API.
We learned so much, including that you are an amazingly talented and diverse group of people! Within our vast community of active developers, there were people working to help businesses succeed on Twitter, building consumer apps, doing academic research, learning how to code, and even one person who used the Twitter API to make a doorbell . We'd been using a one-size-fits-all approach to developers that treated everyone like they had commercial intent. That approach was not serving people’s needs and we needed tailored solutions for different types of developers.
Twitter Developer Labs
As we set out to improve, we decided that building behind closed doors wasn’t going to cut it. We built Twitter Developer Labs to put early-stage and experimental endpoints out into the world so you all could tell us what you loved and what you hated. We learned a lot that has been incorporated into the fabric of the new Twitter API.
Developers + Twitter employees + design = ️
After receiving hundreds of pieces of feedback through these methods we decided to up the ante and invite some developers into our offices to design with us. We knew our developer portal needed a drastic overhaul, so we hosted a co-creation workshop where developers told us what was most valuable to them in a portal experience. Since we like to draw — and we like to make unsuspecting people draw — we even asked them to draw what they imagined this portal to look like.
Designing alongside developers in person is a very different experience than simply running a user test or survey. You can generate ideas that build off of each other. You can cycle through the process of creation and feedback a dozen times in an hour and it blurs the line between who is the creator and who is giving feedback. We loved this new way to work with our developer community and are already daydreaming about our next co-creation workshops.
The most common themes that developers asked for were:
- Access to an active and engaged community of other developers building with the Twitter API.
- A sandbox tool where you can play around when first getting started.
- Resources based on skill level and language.
- A quick and easy process to get to their first request.
- Quick and clear access to all the relevant documentation. In fact the most common thread across every developer interview we've done is that success or failure with our API hinges on the quality and ease of use of the documentation. Give the people their docs!
We took these insights to heart. Some of them are built into the foundations of what we are releasing today, and some of them are areas of work we’re excited to invest in more in the future.
Ta da! Enter the new developer experience
At this point you’re thinking “okay but what did you do with all that information?” While we have so much more to build, we have taken some critical first steps on our path to improve the experience of all kinds of developers using the Twitter Developer Platform. We’ll talk in depth about our improvements to the developer portal below but don’t forget to check out how we improved the technical foundation of the API as well.
It’s now easier to get started in the new developer portal. Our onboarding wizard has drastically simplified the process of creating your first App and getting API keys — getting you what you need faster. We reduced our initial App creation process from 10 fields to 1 so that you can get to the good stuff and start trying out the API quickly.
We’ve also included an API demo tool that lets you look at the structure of different requests and responses before you even open up your terminal. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Contextual documentation links
We know you don’t have time to go hunting around for the right documentation so now we’re bringing the docs to you, linking relevant and helpful information throughout your setup and App management journey.
Docs to swoon over
Since #docsarelife, we have been working hard to improve our documentation. We introduced an updated navigation system, improved landing pages to help you find relevant content more quickly, a new centralized tools and libraries section, and more. We even changed our visual formatting to improve readability so you have less strain on your eyes and brain.
A centralized support page
We know building things can be hard. While we can’t come to your house and give you a hug, we can help you find guidance and answers when you’re stuck. We’ve launched a brand new support center to help answer your questions and point you in the right direction if you run into problems. It contains a large number of resources thoughtfully curated by our developer relations team to help you get unstuck fast.
You’ll have to come try out all the new stuff to discover everything we’ve added. Keep an eye out for other improvements such as easier App settings management, added security for your keys and tokens, and the ability to generate a bearer token with the click of a button.
Our work is nowhere near finished. We will continue to grow, listen deeply, incorporate your feedback, and improve our developer experience with each new release. You can get access to the new developer portal today, where you’ll also find all of your existing Apps, Twitter Developer Labs, and our existing premium APIs. Check it out and feel free to tell us your feedback. We’re listening.