Your Software Development Kit is the Key to Build Better Products

6 min read

Developing software is no small feat. It’s a long and complex process that requires time, research, and resources.

Frank L.
Frank L.
Published December 14, 2020 Updated March 24, 2023

And to ensure you deliver the best value to your customers — start by evaluating the internal infrastructure your team uses.

A software development kit (SDK) is a helpful toolbox for improving the value of your product offer for customers and improving the software development process for your team.

The software development kit is one of the easiest ways to solve the problem of an inadequate toolset. The comprehensive set of tools available in an SDK ensures that your team can execute their work as effectively and efficiently as possible. And that increased efficiency will translate to shorter time-to-market and higher-quality products for your customers.

But understanding how to get the most out of an SDK isn’t always easy. You need to understand the available software in the SDK, how those features integrate with your current technology, and the benefits of using an SDK.

What Is a Software Development Kit?

Software development kits are a collection of tools developers can use to create applications for specific platforms, systems, or devices. A good SDK will include all the software, documentation, libraries, and application programming interfaces (API) required for a given project or task.

Many SDKs also include code samples, implementation guides, and comments from developers that provide additional context on how the included tools integrate with your current tech stack and product development process.


While SDKs offer the instructions and materials to build an application, an API allows data to be sent and received by two different platforms that may otherwise not be able to communicate with each other.

In fact, 98% of enterprise leaders believe that APIs are key for digital transformation and to expand product offers for businesses growth.

SDK can contain APIs, as they have all the tools to build a software, which sometimes means communicating with other platforms. However, APIs do not contain SDKs.

It’s helpful to think of SDKs as the tools, plans, and materials for building a house and APIs as the pipes and wires that connect the house to external utilities.

Learn more about the difference between API and SDKs.

API and SDK example

Stream’s Messaging API and Chat SDKs are great examples of how the two concepts overlap.

Our chat SDK is used to develop interfaces across a number of different platforms and app categories. The development kit contains a variety of popular front-end languages along with a chat UI kit with five unique front-end designs appropriate for different use cases.

Any combination of these SDK components used to implement chat will always layer on top of the same core API. Some teams prefer to develop their own custom front-end components from scratch using only the API but not the SDKs.

However, for a chat app, the opposite isn’t possible — think of the API as the foundation of any chat software you’d build — your gateway to utilize and communicate with your back-end infrastructure.

The type of SDK you use will depend on the project you want to build. Each SDK is built to provide an out-of-the-box solution for development teams working on a specific project.

How SDKs Help Your Team Build Better Products

Your team can use an SDK to get vital software functionality off the ground quickly. Instead of spending time creating new tools or integrations for your business, team members can focus their valuable time and resources on optimizing customer-facing products and features.

The right technology and documentation also make the product development life cycle more methodical. Software development kits provide core functionality that scales with your team and makes it easy to understand how various bits of technology come together to build something of real-world value for your customers.

Stream’s Chat UI SDK, for example, brings together five different user interfaces for various customer use cases.

A good software development kit typically comes in a single, easy-to-install package. That way, your team doesn’t have to spend time working through multiple installs or digging through disconnected documentation to move forward with their work.

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Software development kits also include documentation, best practices, and installation support that provide valuable context for your team to quickly implement a solution using the provided tools. And an SDK’s tools and instructions scale as your team grows, making new hire onboarding and education less complicated.

Ease of use also makes for a better overall development experience for your team. When it’s easy to integrate new tools, you create continuous value for customers and save time executing individual tasks. In the long run, that increases developer buy-in for projects and frees up time that could otherwise cause bottlenecks or delay your release.

How to Choose the Right Software Development Kit for Your Team

Before you decide which SDK will add value to your product, there are three things to keep in mind:

  • Understand your project’s technical requirements.
  • Understand your current infrastructure.
  • Understand your team’s specific needs.

Once you clearly understand the scope of the project and team needs, it will be easier to identify the SDK that fits best with your objectives and justifies the cost of implementing a new suite of tools for your business.

Choosing the best SDK for your team involves many of the same considerations as other build vs. buy decisions. When you’re able to make the right choice, you can easily maximize the value of your new SDK throughout the product development process.

That’s why it’s important to begin the process of choosing an SDK by speaking with your developers. Get their feedback on the current state of your technology to collectively identify any areas for improvement for both processes and existing tools.

With developer feedback and your product’s objective in mind, you can set specific requirements to guide your research.

Feature Availability

Use your product development strategy to help nail down the requirements for your project. That way, it’s easier to vet individual SDKs against your requirements from a business perspective.

The software development kit you choose has to include all of the tools or features you need without costing your business more money than it’s worth.

Perceived Strain of Installation on Your Team

Choosing the wrong SDK can actually take away from your team’s ability to execute on their work. Any unused features will add to your tech debt and require developers to spend additional time working around something they’re ultimately not going to use.

Monetary and Resource Costs

Running an analysis of monetary and resource costs will help you understand which SDKs add the most value for their price.

While many software development kits are easy to install by design, implementing new technology only works when the features match up with your team and business needs.

Continued Usability for Your Business

It’s also important to understand how to use the new SDK in your current project as well as future ideas.

Implementing a solution for one project that doesn’t scale is a sunk cost and can negatively impact your revenue. That’s especially true for SDKs with a high monthly recurring cost. You don’t want to be on the hook for an ongoing payment for an SDK you used once and never again.

When you bring all of these considerations together, it’s easy to see how the right SDK can help your team but also how the wrong SDK can end up hurting them. Making the right choice is all about weighing the options and identifying the highest return on investment (ROI).

The Right SDK Helps Your Team Add Value for Customers Faster

Using an appropriate SDK makes it easy to add new features to your product without sacrificing on quality. You can keep adding value for customers with each release while keeping the development process as seamless as possible.

At Stream, we’ve applied years of engineering experience and customer feedback to developing best-in-class SDKs for in-app messaging and activity feeds.

Our chat and activity feed SDKs cover all of your team’s needs with highly functional and data-rich starter kits. That way, you have complete control over your app’s design while you improve your applications offer by adding notification feeds and chat features.

For example, Hopin, a shared experience platform, improved its virtual events by adding a chat solution. Hopin was able to use Stream’s React Chat SDK in six months and improve its user engagement and satisfaction metrics during virtual events.

The trick to improving products fast with scalability and optimizing developer resources is to use an SDK that fits your company’s objectives and team needs and helps you reach your product goals.

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