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December 16, 2020

Building for the next 1,000 developers

Pritee Tembhekar & Joe Christiani

The intersection between financial services and technology can be complex and difficult to navigate. Before Plaid built its first API, our founders, like many of you, were just developers trying to build a fintech app. But they soon realized how challenging it could be to facilitate connectivity to the financial ecosystem and enable consumers to access and share their data. Their experience has driven Plaid from the beginning. 

Since then we’ve worked on providing you with the building blocks that enable you to create digital apps and services that are used by millions of people every day. Our vision is simple: make it easy for innovators to build fintech products (using just a few lines of code) that help people live better financial lives.

The fintech ecosystem is rapidly changing. That’s why we recently embarked on a listening tour with our developer community, from solo entrepreneurs to engineers working at more established companies, to understand their challenges and pain points. Over the past few months, we spoke to over 45 people across more than 25 companies. We thought it’d be helpful to share our learnings and give you a glimpse into how it’s shaping the things we’ll be working on next. 

More code samples to get you started

Developers want to learn by coding, not by reading. Jennifer Yip, founder of budgeting app Lunch Money, told us that when she built the first prototype of her app, she wanted to get hands-on to see how the API worked. “The way the Plaid docs were structured made it easy for me to dig into the code,” she said. “Once I got the integration up and running, I could then use the docs to understand the more complex parts of the API.”

This resonates with many of the developers on the Plaid team—we’ve all found ourselves in the same position, looking to try sample code without needing to read complex documentation. We know first-hand that getting to that a-ha moment–when you run code in your app and it works for the first time–is priceless. 

In 2021, we’ll be working to make it even easier to be hands-on from the very beginning. That includes things like adding more code samples to our documentation, and improving our Quickstart and Postman collection

A more comprehensive testing environment

Going live with your app is a magical experience—it’s the moment of truth for all the hard work you’ve put in. Plaid can power a core part of your app, which means it’s important the integration works seamlessly for all users, depending on what accounts they have or where they bank. Bill Schreiber, a software engineer at LendingTree, told us, “It's difficult to grasp the breadth of the data that will be returned until we actually see it, and the testing experience had more generic data so it was difficult to evaluate outliers.”

While we currently provide some tools to help you test your integration with Plaid’s APIs, we know there’s more we can do to make it a truly comprehensive experience. Next year, we’ll be investing in making our sandbox testing environment more robust by providing data that more closely mimics real-life data, so that you can feel confident about launching your integration from day one.

A more streamlined troubleshooting experience

We know it can be frustrating if you’re not able to resolve issues for your users quickly. Today, we offer troubleshooting data in the developer Dashboard, with institution status and event logs, which enable you to search for specific user activity and see real-time institution health. However, that data is currently siloed from other third-party services that you may be using in support workflows, which can cause friction.

The team at You Need a Budget told us, “We’ve built a web page for our support team, and it would be great to add Plaid data with an embeddable iframe or using APIs. We don’t want support agents to have to access too many different tools."

In 2021, we’ll explore making data on your Plaid integration interoperable with more types of tools to enable a more streamlined troubleshooting experience. In turn, we hope this will help you improve how you support your users.

Share your feedback with us

This listening tour was just the beginning. We’re going to be more open with you about what we’re tackling and why, and in the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more about what you can expect to see from us.

In the meantime, don’t be a stranger! Say hi to us at our new Twitter account, @PlaidDev, and meet Plaid’s Developer Experience team. Let us know: What else do you want to see from us? Do our takeaways resonate with you? What else can we do to improve your experience with Plaid?

We look forward to hearing from you!