A developer’s first impression of your product matters. What value do they see in it? Are there any features that jump out to them immediately? What journey are you taking your users on?
Onboarding is one of the first experiences developers have with your product, whether you’re launching a SaaS product, an API, an SDK, or anything else. You want to impress your users straight away and prevent churn, so it’s crucial you onboard them right.
But how exactly do you onboard developers? In this guide, we’re walking you through:
- What is developer onboarding?
- Benefits of a successful developer onboarding process
- Elements to include in your developer onboarding
- Developer onboarding best practices
- Developer onboarding checklist
What is developer onboarding?
Developer onboarding is all about getting new developers up to speed and acclimated to a software environment. It helps developers quickly understand the product, tool, technology, platform, codebase, etc., they’ll be working with, which sets them up for success.
Onboarding developers allows them to get the most out of your product, which can have a positive impact on things like user activation and retention.
A comprehensive developer onboarding program should include both technical and non-technical aspects. For example, developers should be equipped with the necessary documentation and access to tools and systems, as well as the opportunity to provide feedback.
Developer marketing and developer onboarding go hand-in-hand; you must create targeted messaging and use marketing resources to attract developers, educate them about your product, and guide them in getting started.
At the end of the process, developers should have all the necessary information, resources, and support they need to understand your product’s functionalities and integration possibilities.
Benefits of a successful developer onboarding process
There are many advantages to setting up a great developer onboarding process, both for you and your product’s users.
A well-designed onboarding process accelerates product adoption by providing developers with clear and structured guidance. It helps devs quickly understand the product’s features, functionalities, and integration methods, and enables them to use it efficiently.
By providing hands-on tutorials, examples, and use cases, developers can swiftly grasp how the product can solve their specific challenges and improve their workflow, reducing the time it takes for them to get value from the product.
Improved product understanding
When you provide comprehensive onboarding materials and resources, developers gain a deeper understanding of the product’s capabilities, its API documentation, SDKs, and other relevant resources.
This knowledge equips them to use the product to its full potential and explore advanced features that can drive innovation in their projects.
A successful onboarding process provides developers with integration guidelines, code samples, and best practices. This helps them seamlessly integrate the product into their existing development environments, frameworks, or systems.
Smooth integration reduces friction and technical hurdles, enabling developers to focus on building their applications rather than troubleshooting integration issues.
By familiarizing developers with the product's tools, libraries, and resources, onboarding facilitates faster and more efficient development workflows.
Developers can leverage the product's features and functionalities to streamline their development process, automate tasks, or leverage pre-built components, resulting in increased productivity and faster time-to-market for their applications.
Access to support
An effective onboarding process includes access to support channels such as documentation, FAQs, forums, or dedicated developer support teams.
This enables developers to seek assistance, get answers to their questions, and resolve any issues they may encounter during the onboarding phase or later stages of using the product. Prompt and reliable support enhances the overall developer experience.
What’s more, because developers get the knowledge and resources they need, the volume of basic support queries also goes down, meaning you can save time and money.
Continuous learning and updates
A successful onboarding process includes mechanisms to keep developers informed about product updates, new features, and enhancements. This ensures developers stay up to date with the latest product capabilities and can leverage new functionalities to improve their applications or address evolving development needs.
Better community engagement
Engaging developers in a community of peers who are using the same product fosters knowledge sharing, collaboration, and networking opportunities. Developer communities provide a platform for exchanging ideas, sharing best practices, and seeking advice, creating a supportive environment for developers to learn from each other and enhance their skills.
Increased satisfaction and retention
If you provide a positive onboarding experience, you can boost developer satisfaction and increase the likelihood of long-term product usage. When developers feel supported, informed, and equipped to utilize the product effectively, they’re more likely to become loyal users, advocate for the product, and continue to find value in it over time.
A successful developer onboarding process helps create a positive impression and allows your product to stand out from the competition. Make sure you’re offering a seamless experience so your product becomes more attractive to developers and increases its market appeal.
A standardized – and thorough – onboarding means that developers are more likely to use the product as you intend, which leads to more consistent and optimal implementations, as well as satisfaction with the product.
Fewer abandonment rates
Satisfied users who find value quickly through effective onboarding are more likely to continue using the product and renew their licenses or subscriptions. This means that developers are less likely to abandon your product if they have a clear and straightforward path to mastering it.
Efficient resource allocation
With fewer developers getting stuck or needing help, you can more easily (and efficiently) allocate resources, as well as focus on advanced support instead of addressing basic problems and issues.
Another benefit to take into account is that a successful onboarding process can also introduce developers to advanced features or premium tiers of your product, meaning you can potentially upsell and boost revenue.
Elements to include in your developer onboarding
So, what exactly do you need to include in your onboarding process to ensure the best results?
If you provide technical documentation in your onboarding that explains how the product works, the APIs, libraries, SDKs, and other relevant resources, developers can better understand your product’s capabilities, integration methods, and best practices.
This means offering step-by-step tutorials that walk developers through the process of using your product or platform, as well as blog posts, videos, webinars, and docs.
These resources allow you to showcase common use cases, showcase code snippets, and provide practical guidance for developers to get started quickly.
They also provide developers with the knowledge they need to evaluate the product and understand its potential applications.
Sample code and examples
Sample code showcases how developers can implement the features/functionalities of the product, as they serve as references and templates for users to understand and adapt to the product’s specific requirements.
Developer tools and SDKs
Tools like SDKs and command-line interfaces streamline the integration and usage of your product – with libraries and pre-built components that simplify the development process.
Support and community resources
Support channels, forums, and developer communities where developers can seek assistance, ask questions, and engage with other devs, provide a platform for knowledge sharing, troubleshooting, and collaboration.
Testing and sandbox environments
You can provide access to testing environments and sandboxes where developers can experiment, validate their integrations, and evaluate the product’s behavior without impacting production systems.
The same goes for free trials and demos – elements that can lead to higher customer satisfaction.
Updates and release notes
This means keeping developers informed about updates, new features, bug fixes, and changes in the product through release notes or changelogs.
You’re helping developers stay up-to-date with the latest enhancements and ensure compatibility with devs’ existing integrations.
Make sure that you’re crafting marketing messages that resonate with developers, highlighting what makes your product unique and how they benefit from it.
The messaging should focus on how the product solves specific needs and challenges, or enables developers to build innovative solutions efficiently.It helps to build trust with developers, drive product adoption, enable developer advocacy, increased engagement, and more.
Clear value proposition
This helps developers to understand why they should consider adopting the product and how it can enhance their development projects.
Developer onboarding best practices
Effective product onboarding is crucial for user adoption, engagement, and retention. It’s not just about teaching developers how to use your product, it’s about making them see its value, ensuring they continue to use it long-term.
Here are some best practices to consider when creating a developer onboarding experience:
- Understand your users. Segment them based on their behavior, needs, roles, etc., and ensure you’re always keeping their perspective in mind. Tailor the onboarding process for different audiences too.
- Highlight the value proposition. Quickly show people the main benefits and unique selling points of your product.
- Interactive tutorials. Instead of lengthy manuals, user guided tours, tooltips, and interactive walkthroughs that guide devs as they engage with your product.
- Progress indicators. Use checklists or progress bars to show developers where they are in the onboarding process and what’s next, which helps them feel motivated and gives them a sense of achievement.
- Personalization. Customize the onboarding experience based on your audience’s preferences, roles, or past behavior. After all, a tailored experience feels more relevant and engaging.
- Clear calls to action. Ensure that every step has a clear and concise CTA, which helps guide developers on what to do next.
- Provide help and support. Integrate FAQs, chatbots, live chat, or video tutorials for people who may have questions or face challenges.
- Feedback loops. Encourage users to provide feedback during and after the developer onboarding process. This helps you to identify areas of friction and continuously improve.
- Use different formats. Consider using a mix of videos, infographics, animations, text, etc., because different people learn differently.
- Mobile responsiveness. If onboarding is available on mobile devices, then the process needs to be optimized for smaller screens.
- Test and iterate. Regularly test your developer onboarding process, from A/B testing to user feedback, so you can improve the experience.
- Set expectations. Let people know upfront about the time and steps involved in the onboarding, which helps them allocate appropriate time and reduces drop-offs.
- Offer a way out. Allow developers to skip parts of the process if they’re already familiar with or prefer to explore on their own.
- Follow up post-onboarding. Engage developers after the initial onboarding with emails, notifications, or in-app messages to reinforce learning, highlight advanced features, or offer further assistance.
- Stay updated. As your product evolves, make sure the developer onboarding process reflects those changes. Update the content to match the current version of your product.
Developer onboarding checklist
When onboarding developers to a new product, you need a systematic approach to ensure they get the most out of it – and can dive into using the tool immediately (and effectively).
The focus is on helping users understand, engage with, and realize the value of the product as quickly as possible.
Here’s a checklist you can use (or get inspired by) to onboard developers to your product:
- Identify your developer personas.
- Tailor the developer onboarding process based on user roles or needs.
Setup and installation
- Guide developers through account creation and initial setup, providing clear download and installation instructions.
- Offer resources or troubleshooting guides for common setup issues.
- Offer optional settings like two-factor authentication or personalized profile setup.
- Give detailed installation instructions to developers, segmented by operating system or environment.
- Guide developers through initial configuration, explaining the significance of each setting.
Initial onboarding experience
- Send a welcome email, message, or notification to new users.
- Give an overview of the product’s main value proposition.
- Provide a brief video or infographic that summarizes the product’s capabilities and benefits.
- Offer a guided tour of the main interface.
- Introduce key features via guided tours, pop-ups or tooltips for new users.
- Allow users to skip or revisit the tour if they want.
- Highlight key features, tools, and settings.
- Offer hands-on exercises or sample projects.
- Offer a hands-on coding tutorial or workshop to get developers acquainted.
- Use interactive pop-ups or modals for quick lessons.
- Allow developers to build a small project or module for using the product.
- Provide feedback on users’ code or setup.
- Guide users through profile creation.
- Offer prompts to complete essential tasks (e.g., setting up a profile picture, linking to other accounts, etc.)
- Show progress bars or checklists to motivate users.
- Reward developers with badges or points for completing tasks.
- Implement in-app surveys or feedback prompts.
- Encourage users to report bugs or share their experiences.
- Prompt developers to offer feedback after the initial onboarding tasks.
- Inform them about regular webinars, updates, or advanced tutorials so they can boost skills.
Documentation and resources
- Direct users to a well-organized doc hub.
- Showcase essential sections like API documentation, SDK guides, and integration instructions.
- Offer sample projects or code snippets.
- Provide access to comprehensive FAQs or knowledge bases.
- Explain how to raise support tickets or seek direct help.
- Offer live chat, email support, or a help center.
Integration with development tools
- Offer guides on integrating with popular integrated development environments, version control systems, and other DevTools.
- Provide plugins or extensions if available.
- Send periodic emails with tips, tricks, and best practices.
- Notify users of new features, patches, or updates.
- Engage developers through events, hackathons, challenges, and more.
- Monitor load times and address any lag issues.
- Ensure that user data is saved and syncs correctly.
Retention and growth
- Suggest features or tools based on user behavior.
- Highlight lesser-known features that add value.
Upsell and cross-sell opportunities
- Introduce premium features or related products, or offer information on them if you have them.
- Offer trials or discounts to loyal users.
- Provide a seamless path for trial-to-paid conversion or unlocking additional capabilities.
- Introduce developers to the community, online forum, or chat group.
- Encourage sharing and collaboration among users.
- Share success stories or use cases from the community.
Check-in and re-engagement
- Send a reminder to users who haven't logged in for a while.
- After a specific time period, send developers a follow-up email to gauge their experience with the onboarding process.
- Offer advanced tutorials or integration guides based on developers’ usage patterns.
- Offer incentives or rewards for returning users.
Onboarding isn’t just a preliminary step; it’s the foundation of user retention, satisfaction, and long-term success. A well-structured developer onboarding process delivers value and helps to forge strong relationships right from the first interaction.
Make sure you’re delivering experiences that aren’t just efficient but also memorable. Remember, you’re not just guiding developers through features, you’re also starting a long and, hopefully, fruitful relationship.
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