Not so long ago we had our first brainstorming session about the open API project. We carefully considered several points that would motivate the developers to stay and create awesome applications using the XING API. More importantly, however, we thought about the points which might discourage them and eventually make them leave. By the end of the session we had a long list of things to do.
It all started with the vision
We sorted the points down, analyzed them, studied them and within days we locked ourselves in an onsite location, dedicating all of our time to the Open API. We set the vision for our developer portal site “A scalable and sophisticated developer site with a strong focus on transparency, convenience and innovation that will empower external developers to create compelling applications“.
The team sat together and wrote user stories fitting this vision for almost one day. We narrowed down the whole theme and focused on delivering a Minimum Viable Product by setting a deadline. Then began the task of prioritizing the user stories: We were determined to deliver the minimum viable product as fast as possible to the outside world.
Once the user stories had been prioritized, we defined the technical specifications and narrowed down all the technical feasibilities, including interdependencies within the other standing teams which we depended on. Hence, we were able to stay focused on our target and didn’t have to worry about eventual non-feasibilities that are often detected at the last stage.
Getting it done
Our team consisted of only 5 people the day we started with the brainstorming a few months back. According to our roadmap, we needed for people to speed up the development and also to be prepared for the time after the launch. As we work with Kanban and consider development and testing as one phase, the development phase was very exciting. Most of the time it is QA and developers pairing and giving feedback for the user stories which have been developed then and there. As far as the transparency in this process is concerned, our kanban board says it all.
Since everyone was busy with a different module, we introduced a weekly review meeting for the whole team, so that everybody would stay in the loop as to where we’d stand. We went through the finished modules of the developer portal, collected suggestions, added more user stories, removed some user stories which we found out could never be an MVP, looked into usability and constantly sought for things that could be improved. Thus, it was easy from the project management side to make a clear determination as to how long we would need to finish the rest of the stories. Immediately after the review meeting we did the backlog grooming to define the size of all the cards and bring them to the wall.
A different view
Once we realized that we were getting close to the final stage, we asked the QA experts working in the different project teams to do an exploratory testing session for our developer portal. The main focus of this testing was to explore the developer portal for bugs and usability issues. Fortunately, nothing critical was found during this session.
The plan had been conceived in such a way that a session based testing would be done within the API team, just to explore the API Explorer. Since all these API calls had been tested, we were almost sure that nothing critical would pop up. So there was a 45 minutes session to test all the calls and a 15 minutes debriefing immediately after the session, just to discuss our findings. As mentioned before, there was nothing critical, but we did have to fix some bugs real quick, since we only had another 2 days left before the release.
And in the end
Once we were sure that everything was working as expected, we released the code and tested the whole developer portal in production. Thanks to a lightning test session carried out by my team, we were fortunate enough to quickly fix some misbehavior we noticed. Now it’s open for about 1,200 developers who registered with us at the first stage via the coming soon page.
So now we are collecting feedback from various channels such as the XING developer group, Twitter, email etc. and we’re further enhancing our developer portal. It’s not too late yet, so if you are a non-beta user and would like to get notified, please register at https://dev.xing.com and follow us on Twitter to get the latest news. To all the beta users out there, please keep sending us your feedback; it is greatly appreciated.