In 2015, DocuSign owned most of the eSignature space. The API economy, however, threatened their position. By integrating a company’s API into their product, developers connect that company to new audiences not accessible via traditional marketing approaches. New competitors to DocuSign were capitalizing on this trend, scooping up market share as they went.
When Brad Brooks joined DocuSign as Chief Marketing Officer, he quickly recognized this threat. “We’ve all seen how APIs and developers have transformed entire industries,” said Brooks. DocuSign had an API, but only opened it up to high-volume enterprise customers. It had to adapt or it would suffer at the hands of companies that offered developers an accessible and easy-to-integrate solution.
To protect and grow DocuSign’s bottom line, Brooks reached out to Intentional Futures. “I hired iF because developers were a very different kind of customer, and DocuSign needed to reimagine itself from an outside-in perspective to really do the job right.”
Over the course of this project, we uncovered what it takes to be a developer-first company and serve developers in ways that work for them. Since then, DocuSign overhauled their developer engagement program, redesigned their website to better serve developers, and saw the number of DocuSign API integrations increase dramatically.
To understand DocuSign’s newest audience and translate learning into recommendations, we took a two-step approach:
We conducted a landscape analysis, including a diverse set of companies that developers had cited as developer-friendly. After identifying the most attractive features of each program, we audited DocuSign’s own web experience with those traits in mind.
We dove into the minds of developers to understand the values that guide their daily decisions and work. We drafted and tested messaging that highlighted DocuSign’s strengths in order to learn what developers considered most and least important about API and eSignature integrations.
What does it mean to be developer-first?
First impressions matter. When it comes to APIs, our research confirmed that developers make a lot of fast judgments about a company and their APIs. Devs want to be able to quickly find clear information on capabilities, accessible documentation, and reliable support. What turns them off? Things that slow them down, like flowery marketing language and being asked to provide a phone number before attempting anything.
Fortunately, DocuSign had all of the technical components developers wanted—robust technology, solid documentation, and helpful tools for understanding how one might implement the API. But those components needed to come to the foreground in a big way.
To more deeply understand the values that guide the decisions and work of developers, we set up conversations with 29 developers in the Bay Area, inquiring about how they engage with APIs and the companies that offer them.
Developers are searching for an API to execute a specific task. If you barrage them at the beginning with other things your API can do, they might leave.
Community forums show developers not only how their peers experience the API but also how the company would address their issues or questions if they were to implement.
More than anything else, developers just want to try your tech out for themselves to answer the paramount question—can this API do what they want it to do?
Our research resulted in these guidelines, which helped DocuSign’s web development team design a new developer-first web experience.