The context here is for documentation for frontend tooling, libraries, etc.

When writing such documentation we often refer to a 'user' as in 'When the user clicks X button, such and such occurs'. The user in the context is the person visiting the web application via their web browser, and they don't necessarily have any technical expertise.

We also might refer to the user of some code, or an API, like 'the user needs to provide their API credentials first, and then call the function', or 'In order to use this library, the user must also be using version X of such and such tool'. In this case the user is a developer.

Usually what 'user' refers to is ascertainable by context, but still, it's a little confusing. Is there better terminology that can be used/is used that is less ambiguous?

  • 4
    Maybe use "developer" and "end user" ? Dec 9, 2022 at 2:35
  • Developer may work, but an API typically has a developer who writes the API and other developers use the API without modifying it.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 13, 2022 at 12:17

3 Answers 3


The end-user and the developer are using two different pieces of software. The developer is using the API to create the application and the end-user is using the application produced by the developer.

Someone else has produced the API so the developer has the same relationship to the writer of the API as the end-user has to the developer's app so there is no need for a different term.

The situation is analogous to the difference between wholesale and retail sales: to a retailer customers are people who buy individual items but to a wholesaler the retailers, although they usually buy in bulk, are customers.


Taking a wider viewer , we have 4-5 groups or terminologies :

API Provider : The Company which Designs , Develops , tests & markets API Products [ eg Stock Price API , Currency Price , Weather API ]
API Developer : Somebody working for the API Provider concentrating on technical Issues.
API Customer : The Company which buys the API Product from the API Provider [ eg Banks ( using the Stock Price or the Currency Price ) or News Aggregators ( showing the weather ) ]
API Consumer or API User : Somebody working for the Company which bought the API Product , concentrating on technical Issues.
End User : Ordinary users who visit the Bank Web-Page ( to buy Stocks or Currency ) or the News Web-Page ( to view the weather , among other Items )

Sometimes , the API Provider & the API Customer are API Partners working towards the End User.

Here are some references :


Agree with @BoldBen's answer (+1), there is also another case. Specifically, when you are documenting the instructions for a wiki (or something like that), it's better to refer to users as "contributor".

Moreover, depending on the case, Designer/Coder/Programmer may be better terms than Developer.

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