API Management: Choosing the Right Developer Portal for Your Business

In this decision guide, Shawn Smiley, CTO at Achieve, helps you choose the right developer portal to build a successful API program. Plus, Achieve introduces a new product, DP Boost—a lightweight Drupal developer portal that allows your team to engage, adapt, and innovate with your APIs with ease.

Choosing the right developer portal for your business is crucial. The developer portal often serves as the foundation of a successful API Program—it's a place for your developer community to thrive and grow, and houses your API products. When you use Apigee to manage APIs that you build, it often comes down to a simple choice: the integrated developer portal that comes with the license, or a Drupal developer portal. 

Of course, when purchasing an Apigee license, the integrated solution for setting up a simple customizable portal is attractive. For businesses looking for a basic developer portal, with simple documentation, limited branding/theming, search, and navigation, the integrated Apigee portal will suffice. 

However, when it comes to even slightly more complex needs—maximizing API adoption, user engagement, or anything beyond what would be considered a ‘basic developer portal’, for example—Drupal is your answer. 

Example of Drupal Developer Portal (source)

Choosing a Developer Portal  

Achieve and Pantheon have extensive experience dealing with this decision. Pantheon’s WebOps platform powers over 600 Drupal-based provisioned portals, Achieve has built over 50 developer portals, and both companies have come across countless organizations looking for a  developer portal that meets unique business requirements. Over the course of these engagements, Achieve developed DP Boost. This lives within Pantheon's WebOps platform, and is a lightweight Drupal developer portal that allows your team to engage, adapt, and innovate with your APIs in 2-4 weeks. 

Below are two models that can be quickly referenced to give you a starting point in making this decision. First, Apigee provides a decision tree graph that can be used as a simple indicator when trying to decide which portal fits your business needs.  

Second, in a recent joint Webinar Series, Achieve & Pantheon discuss this exact topic and take a deep dive into each option. Below is a succinct model built by Achieve and Pantheon to further help with your decision: 

Addressing Your Business Needs

While models, graphs, and decisions trees can help guide decision making, it is your business needs that will ultimately have the final say. With that in mind, we’ve developed a simple ‘checklist’ on both the Integrated Apigee portal and the Drupal developer portal below. It will help you map either portal to your unique business needs. 

The Integrated Portal 

An Integrated Portal is only a viable option if ALL of the following are true:

  • You only need to display API documentation using the default doc rendering.

  • You have open API specifications uploaded into Apigee Edge for ALL of the APIs that you want to publish.

  • Each API in Edge is part of only one API product.

  • Any additional content for the portal is relatively unchanging static content.

  • Your branding of the portal consists of only a few simple color and font changes.

  • You don't have any kind of approval or registration workflow for developers or applications.

  • You can use Apigee Edge developer authentication or a simple authentication only integration with an external SAML based identity provider.

The Drupal Developer Portal  

You need the Drupal developer portal if ANY of the following are true:

  • You need access control beyond just anonymous/authenticated for any API documentation.

  • You want to deploy commerce solutions for monetization.

  • You want to have an advanced site search.

  • You have a large product catalog and require tagging and navigation.

  • You want enterprise quality branding and have detailed branding/styling requirements. 

  • You have a registration or application approval workflow.

  • You want to have any dynamic or frequently updated content.

  • You want to publish a robust content plan dynamically or using custom roles.

  • You want to have control over content at the user and team level.

  • You want to integrate the portal with external services and infrastructure.

  • You need SSO for role-based activity.

  • You want modular page layouts for content creation.

  • You want analytics published to the portal user or aggregating for the portal admins.

  • You need advanced analytics and custom monitoring solutions.

  • You want multi-tenancy for multiple orgs within a single portal.

  • You want multi-key requests with custom workflows.

  • You need globalization and language services.

  • You need to quickly replicate and scale with multiple portals while mirroring things like branding, configurations, and integrations. 

For even further information, this web page from Apigee provides a detailed checklist of the differences between the integrated and Drupal developer portal

Integrated vs Drupal Developer Portal

The guidelines, models, and graphs outlined in the above show that there is a need for both the integrated and the Drupal developer portal. The position of your business, your API program, and your API goals are the key indicators that should guide you toward your best option. 

To summarize, the integrated portal is a great option for customers who (1) are first getting started with a portal strategy to make API management more accessible internally or externally (2) have a straight forward out of the box portal. For customers who are looking to iterate and grow their portal strategy, who have customizable needs, and who are looking to accelerate and maximize API adoption, Drupal and Pantheon’s WebOps platform is best positioned to support agile changes and customizations with ease.

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