Learn API Technical Writing: JSON and XML for Writers
This is the first in a series of courses for technical writers who want to learn how to write API documentation. This course teaches how to document structured data, focusing on the two most popular structured data formats: JSON and XML. If you are new to API documentation, this is a great place to start. No programming experience is required, but technical writers with programming experience who want to know more about structured data will still find it useful.
What are APIs?
APIs (Application Program Interfaces) define how software systems talk to each other, and API documentation is a rapidly growing field. There is a strong need for writers who can understand APIs and explain them so that software developers can understand how to use them. API writers get to be in on the cutting edge of technology in high-paying positions.
What is in This Course?
By the end of the course, you will understand what APIs are, why they are important, and how to read and document structured data. In this course you'll find:
- Eight videos that:
- Provide background information on APIs and structured data
- Break down sample JSON and XML files to show you how they work
- Show real-time, narrated writing of JSON and XML documentation
- Four hands-on exercises to lead you through building and documenting JSON and XML files
- Two text-based lectures about useful software tools
- Five short quizzes to keep you on your toes
- PowerPoint presentations as a resource for every video lecture
The course takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete, depending on how fast you are with the exercises.
- Teacher's background and credentials
- What are APIs?
- Why is API documentation important?
- JSON, XML, and how they compare
- Class overview
- Data types
- Boolean values
- Structured data
Please answer the following questions about data types.
For this class, you'll be creating JSON and XML files. This lecture recommends some tools you can use.
- The history of JSON
- Basic data types
On completion, students will be able to read and understand JSON files.
Note that this for this (and all video lectures), the PowerPoint presentation is included as a resource.
This lecture is actually a hands-on exercise. Create a JSON file according to the given specifications.
Please answer the following questions about JSON.
- How JSON is used for both requests and responses
- Documenting a JSON element
- Documenting acceptable values
- Documenting element nesting
This lecture is an exercise where you will document three JSON files.
Answer these questions about JSON documentation:
I suggested using indentation in tables to indicate nesting. More recently, I have seen a different approach using sample JSON. This short article describes this approach.
- What is XML?
- Tags and content
- Namespaces and Comments
On completion, students will be able to read and understand XML files.
This lecture is an exercise where you will create three XML files according to specifications.
Please answer the following questions about XML.
- Differences between XML documentation and JSON documentation
- Documenting attributes
- Using multiple tables
On completion, students will know the basics of how to document XML.
This lecture is an exercise where you will document two XML files.
Answer the following questions about XML documentation:
Covers what kinds of tools are available for documenting JSON and XML.
- Why use structured data for documentation
- Using JSON to describe APIs
- Using XML to describe XML (XSD)
- Disadvantages to this approach
- Review of everything you've learned in this course
- What is the next step for learning to document APIs
Learn how to document REST APIs.