Developer time is expensive, both for the companies and for the individuals. Every API should be built to save developer time. One way to gauge how well a company achieves this is by considering the Time to First Hello World, often lovingly abbreviated as TTFHW. There are a lot of ways to decrease that time and I’ll cover three of them in this post.

Explore Interactive Documentation

There’s no faster way to understand an API than to make a few calls and look at the responses. That’s why we added the API workshop last year. This feature, once considered a nice-to-have, has nearly become a requirement. Knowing the potential calls–and how they work–sets a developer up for success.

For anyone looking to implement interactive documentation, there’s even an open source project to get you started.

Simplify Code with Client Libraries

To get immediate attention in any foreign city, there’s nothing quite like speaking their language. The same is true with developers, except that it’s a programming language that they’ll notice. Client libraries wrap common API calls in methods that can be plugged directly into the developer’s code. Restaurant API lists the times to first hello world on its site and figures libraries cut out one third of a developer’s time.

SendGrid has five official libraries and a handful contributed by our helpful community.

Reproduce Complete Sample Apps

There’s nothing quite like a live app to show how an API works. Even better is when the source code to that app is open sourced, so that developers can have an easy starting place. Hosting the code on Github meets a common developer workflow. In fact, platform-as-a-service companies meet the flow from the other direction for deploying apps, which means developers can piece together working example apps relatively quickly.

Facebook has taken it a step further by pushing a custom sample app to Heroku. In a couple clicks, developers can see their own instance of a working app and make changes.

These are just a handful of the ways to decrease the TTFHW. What are your favorites?

Adam DuVander speaks fluent "developer" while serving as Developer Communications Director. He helps SendGrid connect to coders of all stripes. Previously Adam wrote for Wired, Webmonkey and edited ProgrammableWeb, the leading resource for APIs.