Learn the essential elements needed to build a stellar developer experience, why it matters, how to show the impact of DX and DevRel on the business, and the important role community can play.
When developers make up your primary audience and customer base, providing a strong developer experience (DX) is of utmost importance. The goal of delivering a great DX is to make it easier and more enjoyable for developers to build, test, and deploy high-quality software.
DX also significantly impacts how satisfied developers are with your product or project and how likely they are to recommend it to their peers. Companies must focus on the needs and wants of the developers they serve to build and refine a stellar DX.
Your user community is a valuable resource for understanding if you’re delivering a great developer experience and how to enhance it further. Meeting these technical users in the places they already hang out online is also a great way to learn more about their professional and personal aspirations, topics of interest, and what they’re looking for in their tech stack.
To help you offer a stronger developer experience and drive greater product adoption or participation in your project, we’ve put together this guide to answer questions such as:
To connect directly with peers who are building great developer experiences, join the Uncommon Community Slack where 1,500+ community and DevRel professionals exchange learnings and best practices.
Developer experience consists of all the elements that affect the environment in which developers work. This includes the tools and platforms they use across planning and production, the resources made available to them, and the culture in which the developers work.
Fostering and delivering a great DX is essential for building and maintaining successful software projects. It can help ensure that developers are productive, satisfied, and motivated, leading to higher quality code, faster development times, and overall better outcomes for developers and their project or organization.
From an organizational standpoint, a strong developer experience leads to higher satisfaction, engagement, and retention, so cultivating a great DX is a non-negotiable for companies that want to keep their developer team happy and thriving. This is especially vital given the increasing demand for top tech talent: Job openings for developers are projected to grow 22% year over year through 2030.
For companies offering developer tools, providing a great developer experience is required if you want to activate your user-led flywheel through strategies like product-led growth (PLG) or community-led growth (CLG). A poor DX will prevent even the most skilled developer from implementing a product or tool, and companies run the risk of losing early users (those using a free tier or trial) before they have a chance to see the full value of a product.
To build tools that developers love using from day one, companies must gain as much insight as possible into how the developers using their offerings think, feel, and work. That’s why community is an essential ingredient for designing an excellent DX, as developers frequently turn to communities to ask questions, acquire new knowledge and skills, and learn more about products and services.
Head over here for more information about the defining features of the modern developer experience.
When thinking about the puzzle pieces that need to come together to form a great developer experience, consider the audience you aim to serve and how they like to try, assess, and adopt new tools.
While each individual will have their own opinions, here are a few reminders about the shared preferences of many developers:
Developers are critical thinkers and independent problem solvers who live in the world of the tangible. As such, many desire a practical experience focused on helping them enhance their skill set and increase their output to ultimately receive recognition from users of their software and peers for a job well done.
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the essential elements that make up a great developer experience that can help developers achieve these goals.
Ultimately, the best way you can empower developers is to ensure they have easy access to these essential elements so they can chart their own course to success. Then if they need additional support, most developers' preferred method to engage with your company’s product and team will be through a community of peers.
Developers will often look to chat apps, forums, and social media first as a way to vet the tool, ask follow-up questions, and search for pre-existing answers. An active community can speak volumes to developers evaluating a product and will help them be more successful while deepening their adoption.
Check out this article for more details on the essential elements that make up an excellent developer experience.
While the nuances of designing a great developer experience are unique to each audience, certain tried-and-true best practices can be applied to any DX initiative.
Start by mapping out all of the steps a developer takes when using your product so you can identify areas where the experience can be improved. From setting up the tool to using it to deliver code to production, there are sure to be some friction points that must be smoothed out.
According to Developer Relations: How to Build and Grow a Successful Developer Program by DevRel veterans Caroline Lewko and James Parton, the typical developer journey map contains five stages. In each stage, the developer has a specific question they are looking to answer about the product.
As you consider the journey for your product, be mindful that the developer must be satisfied with the answer at each stage to move on to the next.
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As mentioned above, thorough documentation is vital to making sure developers understand the best way to use your solution for their projects and products. Developers are creatures of habit—turning to documentation is often an instinctual reaction when they want to learn more about a specific feature or product functionality.
If writing comprehensive documentation or building out what you have sounds like a big undertaking, examine some of the overlooked resources that could be leveraged to create simple, digestible documentation for your developers. For example, community contributors and advocates are often some of the most skilled at explaining how to use your product, which means their advice and insights could be repurposed into helpful documentation.
To ensure your product is a natural fit for your ideal developer's tech stack, consider the tools your developers are already using and what other technologies might be on their “wish list.” This can provide much-needed context about how they work and how your product can be best integrated into their existing workflows.
For example, you might consult resources such as Stack Overflow’s Annual Developers Survey for greater insight into the tools, environments, and collaborators that different types of developers encounter on a regular basis.
Like most people, developers strongly dislike manual, repetitive tasks that detract from the work they really want to be doing. That’s why automation presents a valuable opportunity to save developers time and free them up to focus on more interesting and valuable projects.
Tools that automate low-level or tedious tasks are loved by developers because they:
When it comes to community, Common Room enables you to easily manage standard interactions with members through Workflows. These automated and customizable direct messages help you welcome new members into the community and regularly engage with your community at scale.
When designing or refining your developer engagement strategy, personas are an effective framework that help you thoughtfully interact with the different types of developers and what they’re looking for in a great DX. Personas also enhance your DevRel and community-building efforts by shining a light on developers' wants and needs that aren’t directly related to your product.
Traditional developer personas take into account the developer’s role within the organization, technical expertise, development process, and the type of projects they regularly work on. While these are all important factors you may or may not already have documented, it’s equally important to consider what typically motivates different developers beyond their job titles. For example:
When you center personas around motivation rather than titles and responsibilities, you will unlock insights that can be used for more meaningful conversations with members and in the community overall.
For more insights on developers’ motivations, how they think, and meaningful incentives, check out this article on how to build developer personas.
Educating, empowering, and enabling developers to get the most out of your community and product will ultimately drive business results that are sure to receive recognition from key stakeholders and executives—if you can articulate the impact effectively.
Developer Relations can (and should) play a critical role in supporting a company’s go-to-market initiatives and success. In order to leverage developer experience to improve customer value and sales outcomes, you have to not only understand key personas and their motivators, as discussed above, you must understand the specific roles community members can play in your organization’s success.
Here are some examples of the ways in which DevRel benefits the business through a great developer experience:
When your DevRel program positively influences other parts of the organization, it’s much easier to earn stakeholder buy-in, budget, resources, and support from other departments.
Some of the key business benefits of a strong DevRel program include improvements in:
Use community metrics and analytics to measure and track your progress against these business-impacting outcomes.
Read this expert blog to learn more about how DevRel drives business impact and the activities that winning programs regularly practice.
Common Room combines machine learning-powered insights with powerful reporting tools to help DevRel teams better understand the developers they serve while scaling and measuring program impact. Common Room helps you: