LightBox is a data-rich company—parcel data, tax data, zoning and smart location fabric, commercial listings, environmental concerns, and natural hazards, to name a few. All this information resides in a single place, the LightBox Data Platform. The challenge is creating access to it. To simplify that task, we’re building a rich set of APIs to make our data available to external and internal users through an easily discoverable, documented developer portal.
APIs play a critical role in our client’s product development strategies as there is a growing need for flexibility and customization of their workflows. On top of this, there is a trend toward automated solutions that free developers to focus their time on where they can add the greatest value.
An increasingly engaged API developer community is forming at LightBox. Our developer portal offers a one-stop-shop where they can discover our capabilities and offerings with an interface that’s consistent, accessible, and intuitive. Our APIs have a more significant visual impact, offering more clarity about what they do and allowing developers to get projects underway quickly.
Self-Service, Fast-to-Market, and Discoverability: Three Qualities that Define the Developer Portal
With the new developer portal, LightBox is looking to accomplish several things. We want to create a self-service space where developers can discover LightBox APIs and LightBox data independently, with all the information, documentation, and samples they need. There is a section for best practices and a data dictionary to help users understand various fields without calling our support team. Customers will quickly discover what they need and put it to work.
Speed and discoverability are central elements of the portal, which are especially useful for clients with compressed timeframes for getting a product to market. For example, a client building an app for hunters won’t be an expert in property data, but property data is essential. With our APIs, they can focus on their area of expertise and not worry about the rest. Working as partners, we can supply the necessary tools to help them build an application and take it to market.
The User Forum: Interaction that Offers Insights, Answers, and Ideas
LightBox has a diverse client profile across industries such as technology, government, oil and gas, commercial real estate, environmental consulting, broadband, and more. People in these fields may do different things, but when they’re working with our APIs, they’re all developers.
We plan to add a user forum to the Developer Portal. I want to build a community where a commercial broker working on a lease application or a government employee working on a fire prevention application and LightBox internal developers can share best practices, code samples, and ideas. That back-and-forth benefits customers and is a winning proposition. This is a powerful way to communicate—people can respond, comment, and provide guidance to others outside of the organization, whether they are our clients or partners using the same APIs. It’s the ultimate kind of collaboration, where users with challenges can raise a concern on a forum and get help from the community. We can guide our product development accordingly.
We know a lot about what we do, but we don’t expect to know everything, and we don’t have answers for every problem that could come up—especially since we have such a broad group of people using our APIs. Users can come to the portal to get answers without contacting their sales rep or customer support directly through the community. We’re going to benefit greatly from this strategy.