Usability of Educational Technology APIs: Findings and Guidelines

  • Evangelos KaprosEmail author
  • Neil Peirce
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9192)


This paper describes a project that reviewed the usability of existing Educational Technology Application Programming Interfaces (EdTech APIs). The focus was on web-based APIs and the portals through which these are offered to developers. After analysing the state of art with regard to existing EdTech APIs and after conducting a literature review on API usability, a survey was circulated among developers and CTOs of EdTech organisations. The results of the aforementioned three steps were triangulated and resulted in usability guidelines for EdTech APIs. The contribution of this project is twofold: firstly, the production of a concrete set of EdTech API usability guidelines and, secondly, their implementation in a proof-of-concept a portal for two different EdTech offerings.


Usability API Programming 



This research is supported by the Learnovate Centre at Trinity College, the University of Dublin. The Learnovate Centre is funded under the Technology Centre Programme through the Government of Ireland’s state agencies Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.


  1. 1.
    Beaton, J.K., Myers, B.A., Stylos, J., Jeong, S.Y., Xie, Y.: Usability evaluation for enterprise SOA APIs. In: International Workshop on Systems Development in SOA Environments, pp. 29–34. ACM Press, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Beaton, J., Jeong, S.Y., Xie, Y., Stylos, J., Myers, B.A.: Usability challenges for enterprise service-oriented architecture APIs. In: Proceedings - 2008 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, VL/HCC 2008, pp. 193–196. IEEE (2008)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Burns, C., Ferreira, J., Hellmann, T.D., Maurer, F.: Usable results from the field of API usability: a systematic mapping and further analysis. In: Proceedings of IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, VL/HCC, pp. 179–182. IEEE (2012)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Clarke, S.: Measuring API usability. Dr. Dobb’s J. Windows/.NET Suppl. 9(5), S6–S9 (2004)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Dagenais, B., Ossher, H., Bellamy, R.K.E., Robillard, M.P., de Vries, J.P.: Moving into a new software project landscape. In: Proceedings of the 32nd ACM/IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering - ICSE 10, vol. 1, p. 275. ACM Press (2010)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Daughtry, J.M., Farooq, U., Myers, B.A., Stylos, J.: API usability: report on special interest group at CHI. SIGSOFT Softw. Eng. Notes 34, 27–29 (2009)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    De Souza, C.R.B., Bentolila, D.L.M.: Automatic evaluation of API usability using complexity metrics and visualizations. In: 31st International Conference on Software Engineering - Companion Volume, ICSE 2009, pp. 299–302. IEEE (2009)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dekel, U., Herbsleb, J.D.: Improving API documentation usability with knowledge pushing. In: Proceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering, pp. 320–330. IEEE (2009)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ellis, B., Stylos, J., Myers, B.: The factory pattern in API design: a usability evaluation. In: Proceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering, pp. 302–311. IEEE (2007)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Farooq, U., Zirkler, D.: API peer reviews: a method for evaluating usability of application programming interfaces. In: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, pp. 207–210. ACM Press, New York (2010)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Grill, T., Polacek, O., Tscheligi, M.: Methods towards API usability: a structural analysis of usability problem categories. In: Winckler, M., Forbrig, P., Bernhaupt, R. (eds.) HCSE 2012. LNCS, vol. 7623, pp. 164–180. Springer, Heidelberg (2012) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Henning, M.: API design matters. Commun. ACM. 52(5), 46–56 (2009)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ko, A.J., Riche, Y.: The role of conceptual knowledge in API usability. In: Proceedings - 2011 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human Centric Computing, VL/HCC 2011, pp. 173–176. IEEE (2011)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Martens, A.: Usability of web services. In: 2003 Proceedings of Fourth International Conference on Web Information Systems Engineering Workshops, pp. 182–190 (2003)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Nelson, A.J., Dinolt, G.W., Michael, J.B., Shing, M.T.: A security and usability perspective of cloud file systems. In: Proceedings of 2011 6th International Conference on System of Systems Engineering: SoSE in Cloud Computing, Smart Grid, and Cyber Security, SoSE 2011. pp. 161–166. IEEE (2011)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Plunkett, L., Solow-Niederman, A., Gasser, U.: Framing the Law & Policy Picture: A Snapshot of K-12 Cloud-Based Ed Tech & Student Privacy in Early 2014 (2014)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Potter, T.C.: An evaluation methodology for the usability and security of cloud-based file sharing technologies (2012)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Robillard, M.P., Deline, R.: A field study of API learning obstacles. Empir. Softw. Eng. 16, 703–732 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Scheller, T., Kuhn, E.: Influencing factors on the usability of API classes and methods. In: Proceedings - 2012 IEEE 19th International Conference and Workshops on Engineering of Computer-Based Systems, ECBS 2012, pp. 232–241. IEEE (2012)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Stylos, J.: Making APIs more usable with improved API designs, documentation and tools (2009)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Stylos, J., Clarke, S.: Usability implications of requiring parameters in objects constructors. In: Proceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering, pp. 529–538. IEEE (2007)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Stylos, J., Faulring, A., Yang, Z., Myers, B.A.: Improving API documentation using API usage information. In: 2009 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, VL/HCC 2009, pp. 119–126. IEEE (2009)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Stylos, J., Graf, B., Busse, D.K., Ziegler, C., Ehret, R., Karstens, J.: A case study of API redesign for improved usability. In: Proceedings - 2008 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, VL/HCC 2008, pp. 189–192. IEEE (2008)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Stylos, J., Myers, B.: Mapping the space of API design decisions (2007).
  25. 25.
    Watson, R.B.: Improving software API usability through text analysis: a case study. In: 2009 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, pp. 1–7. IEEE (2009)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Winckler, M., Forbrig, P., Bernhaupt, R. (eds.): Human-Centered Software Engineering. Springer, Heidelberg (2012)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Xiong, P.X., Fan, Y.F., Zhou, M.Z.M.: A petri net approach to analysis and composition of web services. IEEE Trans. Syst. Man Cybern. A Syst. Humans 40, 376–387 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Zibran, M.F., Eishita, F.Z., Roy, C.K.: Useful, but usable? Factors affecting the usability of APIs. In: Proceedings - Working Conference on Reverse Engineering, WCRE, pp. 151–155. IEEE (2011)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit 28, Learnovate CentreTrinity College Dublin, Trinity Technology and Enterprise CampusDublin 2Ireland

Personalised recommendations