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Digital Publishing: Best Practices for Building SDKs

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Digital publishing has gained traction in recent years and continues to evolve. More traditional publishers like book publishers have expanded to digital media, which now accounts for 65% of all eCommerce. Publishers are shifting their business models from print to digital and building digital publishing solutions on top of traditional assets.

By publishing mobile apps, making available content in different formats, and providing an easy to use content management system, publishers can capture a wider audience and keep customers engaged longer. In addition to building and publishing mobile apps themselves, publishers can also leverage an online SDK or a set of software development kits (SDKs) that allow developers to integrate their mobile content into a publisher’s app or website.

What Is an SDK?

building sdksAn SDK includes all of the components that an application needs in order to function correctly, such as an analytics tool, a front-end app, a set of APIs, or various types of add-ons. Ideally, an SDK should incorporate libraries, tools, implementation samples, relevant documentation, process descriptions and examples, developer usage guides, and any other additional resources that would make it easier to create an app.

Best Practices for SDK Creation

sdk creationSimplicity

Any SDK is only useful if an average developer can use it. The use of excessively complex codebases and methodologies can kill an SDK and its associated projects. Maintaining simplicity in all phases is the key to success.

Many SDKs remain unpopular because they are too difficult to integrate and developers simply can’t take full advantage of the functionality provided by the SDK. Once the SDK is integrated, the developer starts looking at the APIs. Don’t try to be “innovative” by adding new conventions that developers may be unfamiliar with.

Defaults are essential as they help to keep the code simple and reduce configuration. The defaults you provide (either implementation or configuration) should reflect the way you expect developers to use your SDK.

Usability

It’s essential to ensure usability since an SDK is valued by its function. There are many ways to do that. You can provide a user guide to explain how your SDK works. Ideally, a developer should be able to start within 10 minutes of the introduction.

What exactly is your target language? At a minimum, you should be able to interface with the majority of your users with your system in a way that is understood by at least 90% of them. If your SDK supports several languages, you need to make sure that it’s supporting each of them correctly. It means that you should use correct file types, encoding systems, etc. However, don’t try to win it all from day one. Do what fits the majority of your potential audience.

Sampling

Create a basic project in GitHub to demonstrate to developers how your SDK works. Show the easiest way to integrate with it. Quite often developers use such projects as their main source of documentation, so provide inline comments and write code in a self-explanatory way as possible.

Get a few sample users to check your system out. Doing this will help you better understand your users’ problems with your application’s design. If they are not able to adequately answer the frequently asked questions posed by your users, it might be time to overhaul your user interface.

Evaluation

Evaluate the quality of the tooling that your SDK has to offer. If you find that the tools available to you are inefficient or unable to implement the most basic features you require, consider acquiring new tools as a part of this step.

Find a voice for your product. Find someone to talk about your product. They might be interested in your product as a potential addition to their company, or they might be selling a completely different system. Either way, you should spend as much time as possible talking to these people. This can help you establish connections and deepen your understanding of your customers, ensuring that you have the most accurate understanding of your users in order to fully meet their needs.

Documentation

Poor documentation of both the SDK and its functions can break the workflow. It is important to have ample documentation not only of the API but of the SDK too. This will be the primary source that developers, both seasoned and those with little experience, use as a point of integration. Make sure the documentation is clear to developers with any experience. You may want to use ReadMe files and changelogs for that. They can help you explain the current version of the SDK. Don’t forget to provide an overview of your SDK. You can provide a sample use case that will explain a typical SDK usage.

Publishing

Make sure your SDK can be accessed in the proper way. If your audience is interested in open-source development, you may want to publish your SDK as an open-source project on GitHub or similar repositories. If you want to ensure private access to your SDK, then you need to make sure it’s protected by some kind of secret or authentication mechanisms.

You can also publish your SDK offline, allowing developers to access it without an internet connection. There are many ways to do that, from creating a simple PDF file to building a desktop application. Again, you should choose a publishing method after thorough consideration of your audience and their needs.

Bottom Line

Building a poor SDK means that there will be poor communication between developers and users, and the development process will be filled with guesswork that may not be accurate. Get a basic understanding of all the requirements of your intended audience. With this in hand, you will be better prepared to implement a system that is equally adept at communicating your needs to those users as it is at implementing your own designs. In particular, understanding the requirements of your intended audience will ensure that your SDK provides developers with a more well-rounded experience. This will, in turn, ensure that your audience will be as knowledgeable of the system as you are, and that, as a result, they will be more inclined to interact with the system as it is intended.

 

 

 

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