Creating the best developer experience (DevEx) is paramount, but it can also be a challenge. Overall, DevEx is a critical factor in the success of technical products, as it directly impacts the experience and satisfaction of the developers who use them.
What is developer experience?
Developer experience refers to how developers feel when working with a particular technical product, tool, or service. DevEx includes the entire developer journey, from the initial evaluation and testing to the ongoing use and maintenance of the product.
The term developer experience emerged in the early 2010s as a response to the growing importance of developer communities in the tech industry. Before this, the focus was primarily on user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX).
The rise of cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms led to a growing need for developers to integrate and customize these services. As a result, companies began to realize the importance of providing a positive experience for devs using their platforms and tools.
The concept of developer experience was first popularized by companies like Heroku, which promoted the idea of a developer-centric platform. Heroku emphasized the importance of providing a simple, intuitive, and productive experience for devs building applications on their platform.
Other companies soon followed, and the concept of DevEx began to gain traction as a key factor in the success of developer-focused products. Today, DevEx is seen as crucial for companies that rely on dev communities, and it’s a pivotal factor in attracting and retaining top developer talent.
Developers look for tools that are easy to use, well-documented, and provide quick and accurate results. They also want access to helpful support and resources that can assist them in solving any issues.
A positive DevEx can also lead to increased productivity, faster innovation, and better software quality. To improve developer experience, companies may focus on providing excellent documentation, great user interfaces, seamless integration with other tools, and proactive support. They may also gather feedback from their developer community to understand developer pain points and opportunities for improvement.
What makes a great developer experience?
Daniel Palma, Data Engineering Manager at Brooklyn Data Co., considers bad documentation, the lack of free trials, no community support, and no preparation for software engineering practices, huge mistakes when trying to offer developers the best experience.
So, what makes a good DevEx? A.K.A., what are some developer experience best practices to keep in mind?
As Palma says, “You don't have to create a community, but make sure you do your best to enable the creation of one and support and nurture it to your best abilities — the members will be your best friends in business development.”
Developer communities can have a huge impact on organizations. For example, in our State of Developer Marketing 2023/24 Report, 50% of our respondents said their communities allow them to gather developer feedback, which is a huge benefit of belonging to groups like these.
Having a robust and responsive support system in place, as well as an active community with clear guidelines, can greatly enhance developer experience. So, ensure you have access to expert help, forums, and user groups.
Great code and APIs
In order to offer a fantastic experience to your developer audience, you’ll want to provide well-documented code and APIs, since this helps developers to quickly understand how to use your product or contribute to a project. Some even use AI tools, like ChatGPT, to help build code samples.
However you decide to create it, quality is vital, as it will impact the experience of the users. So, ensure they:
- Are easy to understand and use,
- Cut down the time developers need to spend on figuring out API functionalities,
- Showcase how to create clean and efficient code,
- Cover common use cases and help developers avoid mistakes, and
- Create confidence and trust in your product.
“Incorrect documentation is often worse than no documentation.” – Bertrand Meyer, Professor of Software Engineering and Provost
Having documentation is a vital component of the product development process—it also equips developers with the tools they need to easily use a product, API, or platform. Technical documentation can be used to onboard new users, provide customer support, and so much more.
All documentation should be accurate and reviewed often, up-to-date, and easy to read. The inclusion of graphs and other visuals can help to make your docs more accessible and digestible.
Offering a free trial can be extremely beneficial for orgs. They allow developers to have experience using your product, which is crucial since devs enjoy a hands-on experience.
They also reduce the risk of developers feeling like they wasted money on the wrong product—with a free trial, your audience gets to test out the product’s features and functionalities, and understand whether they’re suitable to their needs without having to commit financially.
And, by letting developers play around, you help them build a case for your product with the stakeholders in their business. Win-win.
Free trials can lead to increased trust and credibility as well, since orgs are showing how much they believe in their product and are willing to let it speak for itself. You can also gather feedback from developers by allowing them a trial of your product, which can help you to streamline DevEx.
And, of course, you make it easy for developers to become advocates by providing a high-quality trial experience too.
The right tools
Another important element of great developer experience is tooling.
For example, effective frameworks that simplify common tasks and onboarding tools for a smooth process, managed APIs, low- or no-code experience to make workflows easier, and more, help you to offer a great DevEx.
“The success of a product isn't just about creating a brilliant solution—it's about ensuring that users embrace it with open arms. Yet, product adoption and onboarding often pose challenges for product teams.
“The steep learning curve of some tools leaves users feeling baffled. On top of that, unhelpful onboarding experiences make it even harder for them to become proficient with the product.
“So, how can product teams overcome these challenges? By using the right tools that help understand how users interact with their products and optimize the onboarding process for a smoother product experience.” – Hasanpasha Abdulov, SaaS content specialist
You can also consider hiring a Developer Experience Engineer; they specialize in creating efficient experiences for developers by helping the product development process, for instance.
A smooth, as well as quick and easy setup, is crucial to provide developers a good experience with your product. Users should be able to get up and running with minimal setup time, so ensure that your product’s installation process is easy, your getting-started guides are clear, and there are minimal configuration obstacles.
On top of this, every tool and platform you provide needs to perform efficiently, with minimal lag or downtime—reliability is crucial to make sure developers can work without interruption.
While your tutorials and guides should minimize the need for support, developers may still have questions or may encounter issues—so, in order to offer a great experience, ensure you’re also providing access to responsive and helpful support.
From community forums and chat support to detailed FAQs and troubleshooting guides, there are several ways to make sure developers have everything they need to use your product.
After all, good communication is invaluable. In fact, in our State of Developer Marketing Report, communication was considered the most essential skill for developer marketers, with a representation of 92%.
In order for developers to have the best experience with your product, you’ll want to continuously improve and update it (based on feedback and industry standards, for example). This way, devs have access to the latest features and security updates.
This can be hard work if you’re responsible for several products—like 28% of our survey respondents, who support five or more products in their company—but necessary.
Seamless integration with other tools
The ability to easily integrate with other tools and services in the developer’s workflow is crucial, especially as developers use several products. This includes compatibility with common development environments, version control systems, and deployment platforms.
Benefits of a strong developer experience
Investing in developer experience has several benefits for companies, developers, and end users. By providing a positive, efficient, and productive experience for devs, you can drive success and growth in today’s fast-paced tech landscape.
Here are a few reasons why you should prioritize developer experience:
- Increased adoption and retention: a positive experience makes developers more likely to adopt and continue using your product—so, user-friendliness, effectiveness, and overall satisfaction are key for long-term adoption.
- Better product advocacy: when developers are happy with your product, they can become advocates, recommending it to peers and within their networks. This type of marketing is invaluable and can lead to your product reaching a wider audience.
- Valuable feedback and improvement: developers are technically savvy and can provide insightful feedback; if they have a good experience with your product, they’re more likely to provide constructive feedback, which allows you to improve and tweak your offerings.
- Building a developer community: a great DevEx helps in building a strong, loyal community around your product.
- Cut down support costs: if developers find your product easy and intuitive to use, they won’t need as much support, which reduces the burden on your support team and associated costs.
- Increased productivity: if your product is well-designed and user-friendly, you’re helping developers to become more productive, and they’ll spend less time figuring out how to use a tool or platform and more time on actual development work.
- Competitive advantage: nowadays, there are many products offering similar features, so having a great user experience can help you differentiate yourself from your competitors.
- Great reputation: by providing a fantastic DevEx, you can help enhance your brand’s reputation and, considering developers talk to each other and get recommendations from their peers, this can help you boost product sales/subscriptions.
Developer experience metrics
Measuring developer experience involves a combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics, which help you to understand how developers interact with your product, their satisfaction levels, and any areas for improvement.
Some key developer experience metrics include:
This metric measures how many developers start using your product over a given period of time, with a higher rate indicating interest and perceived value in your offerings.
This tracks how many developers continue to use your product over time. Higher rates suggest that customers find ongoing value in your product.
Usage metrics include data on how frequently developers interact with your product and how frequently they use it, which can involve tracking feature usage, session length, and activity patterns.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
This metric gauges the likelihood of developers recommending your product to others; you can use surveys for this by asking a simple question: “How likely are you to recommend your product to a friend or colleague?”
Developers then rate it on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being ‘not at all likely’ and 10 being ‘extremely likely’. Their responses are grouped into:
- Promoters (score 9-10): developers who are enthusiastic about your product and likely to recommend it to others.
- Passives (score 7-8): developers who are satisfied but not particularly loyal or enthusiastic about your product.
- Detractors (score 0-6): customers who are unhappy with your product and may even speak badly about it to others.
The formula to calculate this is: % promoters - % detractors = NPS
The resulting figure can range between -100 (everyone’s a detractor) to +100 (everyone’s a promoter).
Issue resolution time
This metric is all about the average time that takes to resolve issues reported by developers, with faster resolution times helping to improve the overall developer experience.
It’s also important to measure the activity and engagement within developer forums, social media, community groups, etc. Active and positive engagement often indicates a healthy experience.
API performance metrics
If you offer APIs, monitoring their uptime, response time, and error rates, for example, is essential. A good API performance is often critical to developers, and can help you provide a solid experience.
This evaluates the effectiveness of your documentation, which can be measured through feedback surveys, usage patterns, and the frequency of updates.
Feature request implementation
You’ll also want to track how often and quickly features requested by developers are implemented—it’s important to show responsiveness to the needs of your audience, and this can help you give developers that experience.
Customer support metrics measure how effective your support team is in assisting developers. You can track things like first response time, satisfaction with interactions, and resolution rate.
This is the rate at which developers stop using your product. A lower churn rate indicates higher satisfaction levels and loyalty.
Creating a developer experience team
Having a developer experience team is a key step for orgs wanting to make sure developers have a positive and efficient experience with their software, tools, and platforms.
A DevEx team usually consists of a cross-functional group of people who bring a variety of skills and expertise to the table.
Some roles you can have in your team include:
- Product managers
- User experience designers
- Technical writers
- Developer advocates
- Support team
- Quality assurance specialists
You’ll want to create the best possible experience for your developer audience, from content to a smooth onboarding process, in order for them to stay satisfied with your offerings and company.
We can help you ensure a solid experience—check out our membership options (both Pro and Pro+) and what we’re offering, which you can use to apply in your day-to-day, such as access to courses, a free ticket to our in-person summit, exclusive content, hours of ondemand video, and so much more.
You can also join our Slack community to network with other marketers and developers, discuss topics like DevEx, and stay up to date with the latest trends in developer marketing.