6 Developer Experience Best Practices
Crafting the best experience for developers requires you to adopt a different mindset than with a traditional user experience. Instead of treating developers as leads, you need to approach them as a workforce that’s eager to learn, improve, and utilize the best tools that solve their problems.
This approach involves helping developers understand and experience the value of your product and the problems it solves. It’s very hard to get someone to buy your product if they don’t understand why they would use it.
You have to learn from your users, understanding what they are going to find most valuable, and what is going to bridge that gap to an experience that is much better than the one they currently have.
Below we’ve detailed the steps you need to take to create a developer experience that will help developers see why they need your product and what it can do for them.
1. Create Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas
You can’t create a great developer experience if you don’t know who your developers are and what they need and want. Different developers have different learning styles. Some might want to learn face-to-face with an instructor, while others will want access to self-paced courses or to watch videos and use tutorials. They also have different levels of experience and will use your product for different use cases.
Creating buyer personas gives you the insight you need to build targeted and personalized experiences and learning paths that are tailored to your different users. To build these personas, you can use surveys to understand developer demographics and work out who the developer is, including their goals, background, and skill level.
2. Reduce Product Friction
Time is precious within the developer community, which means you need to make it as frictionless as possible for developers to reach a live experience of your product. Make sure your product isn’t only accessible behind a gated sales demo as you’re creating an unnecessary barrier between the developer and your offerings.
If you want to create a superior developer experience, start with making the process of understanding and accessing your product as easy as possible. Don’t put roadblocks or obstacles in the way of them getting started. Make sure they can quickly access any materials they need and enable them to test your software in a way and at a time that suits them.
Developers aren’t going to spend a lot of time downloading, installing, and configuring your product or entering data. Don’t gate your product, create a lengthy sign-up process, or insist developers must sit through sales demos before they can get up and running. Reducing the friction between your product and developers will enable them to test your software in a way and at a time that suits them.
3. Offer Educational Content
To understand and be able to use your product to its full, developers need educational materials that teach them how to use it. They will often read copious amounts of uninterrupted, continuous documentation to get up to speed.
By turning your existing developer documentation into immersive, educational experiences, you can transform the developer experience and improve developer growth, developer adoption, product usage, API calls, and built applications.
Consider adding interactivity into your developer documentation with:
- Live API calls
- Discussion forums
- Hands-on sandbox environments
- Sample code
As well as interactive documentation, provide self-paced training to provide an experience that empowers developers to get the most out of your product. Developers can revisit the content as often and as many times as they like as opposed to instructor-led training where if you miss the training, then you miss out on the content and don’t get the benefits. If they find a particular module difficult, they can spend more time on it. If they find other modules easy or irrelevant to their role, they can speed through them or skip them altogether.
These courses also allow you to collect a lot of granular data about the developer that isn’t possible if you only provide blogs or static tutorials. You can see where developers are getting stuck and where they are dropping off and use this data to create better courses and improve the developer’s learning experience.
4. Set Up a Dedicated Developer Zone
Once you’ve created educational content, host this in a dedicated developer zone that speaks the language of your users. A dedicated developer page will allow you to present technical product content in the tone and detail that developers expect.
Maintaining a straightforward tone that is free of fluff and jargon will help your content to resonate with your audience and increase their trust in your genuine intent to help them along their purchasing journey.
5. Provide Hands-on Product Experiences
Providing hands-on product experiences can make a huge difference to the developer experience. Developers want to learn about your product by trying it out, not by reading about it or watching a video. Instead of static demos, they need interactive learning experiences and to be able to use your product in real-world scenarios to see if it will solve the problems they currently face and make their lives easier.
Offering a sandbox environment and interactive product learning experiences enables your users to quickly understand how your product helps them. They get access to a learn-by-doing environment in a way that minimizes friction around the product. You can also make these learning environments more personalized and tailored to users’ training.
6. Invest in a Developer Community
Building developer communities is an important aspect of the developer experience. Creating a community gives users a place where they can seek help regarding your product. If your company takes part in technical conversations and adds value as product experts and thought-leaders, you can gain the trust of developers and build a reputation for prioritizing your developers’ needs. Even when the developer community’s feedback is negative, you want to hear what they are saying and understand their concerns so you can improve their experience.
Enabling peer-to-peer discussions creates transparency about your product’s capabilities and limitations because developers have higher confidence in their peers’ first-hand experience with your product than what your marketing collateral says.
There are several ways you can create an engaged community, including scheduling regular events (in-person or virtual); setting up a dedicated portal to promote community discussions, and creating message boards for users to share ideas.