Your Software Development Kit is the Key to Build Better Products


Finding the right software development kit is a crucial part of building out your technology stage and creating a better product experience for your team.

The software development process is often long and always complex. Efficient delivery of value to your customers depends on a backbone of internal infrastructure your team uses. With so much complexity to contend with, it’s no surprise that 21.1% of respondents in a 2019 Stack Overflow survey listed “inadequate access to necessary tools” as their greatest challenge to productivity.

The software development kit (SDK) is one of the best ways to solve the problem of an inadequate toolset. The comprehensive set of tools available in an SDK ensures that your team can execute on 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 leverage an SDK isn’t always easy. You need to understand the available software in the SDK itself and how those features integrate with your current technology. When you choose the right SDK for your team, it provides all the technology you need to create value for customers quickly.

What Is an SDK?

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 (APIs) required for a given project or task.

Many SDKs will 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.

This may sound similar to an application programming interface, but SDKs and APIs are actually quite different:

  • An SDK is a set of tools, often including APIs, that teams can use to create software for a specific project.
  • An API is a way of integrating two separate pieces of software together.

Basically, APIs are conduits between different pieces of software, while SDKs are more complete out-of-the-box solutions that include all the components you’d need to create a specific type of software.

Stream’s Messaging API and Chat SDKs are a great example of how the two concepts overlap. Used for developing chat interfaces across a number of different platforms and app categories, our SDKs include tutorials in 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 our SDKs. 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 our back-end infrastructure.

The type of SDK you use will determine exactly what’s included, but each one 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 on 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 makes moving through 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. This means your team doesn’t have to spend the time working through multiple installs or digging through disconnected documentation to move forward with their work.

Software development kits also include documentation, best practices, and installation support, which provide a lot of valuable context your team can use to make implementing these tools easier. This increased knowledge scales 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, create continuous value for customers, and execute on individual tasks, that increases 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 can decide what SDK is best for any given project, you need to understand your project’s technical requirements, your current infrastructure, and your team’s specific needs. When you have clarity on these things, it’s easy to identify the SDK that fits best for your objectives and justify the cost of implementing a new suite of tools for your business.

In that way, 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. Getting their feedback on the current state of your technology helps you collectively identify any areas for improvement to both processes and existing tools. This understanding helps you set specific requirements to guide your research.

Feature Availability

Use your product development strategy to help nail down the requirements for your project as well. That makes it 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 this new technology really 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 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

Software development kits provide your team with the tools and context they need to add value throughout the product development process. Choosing the right SDK makes it easier to add new features and iterate on products—all without sacrificing quality for your customers. When your relationships are built on the ability to provide continuous value to customers with each release, making the process as seamless as possible is key.