What is Developer Experience (DX)?
Developer experience is the interaction a developer has with a tool in their journey towards adoption and purchase. It's similar to user experience.
Improving the developer experience is crucial to the success of your developers as it makes your product invaluable to their workflow and empowers them to be more productive.
Below, we’ll explore the importance of developer experience in more detail, explain the aspects involved in making it a success, and see examples of it in developer marketing.
Introduction to DX
User experience and customer experience are terms that have been around for years, but developer experience (DX) has only recently entered the lexicon of software companies. As the developer market has exploded, and with the proliferation of developer tools and the increasing pace of digital transformation, business-to-developer (B2D) companies have no choice but to focus on the developer experience. There are 1004 companies in the developer tools market that ship 1286 product lines for developers and as of 2021, this developer-led economy has been valued at $49 Billion.
Developer experience plays a part in every stage of the developer’s journey towards adoption and purchase. It impacts whether they are willing to read about your product, sign up for your newsletter, start a free trial, regularly use your product, carry out a proof of concept, and purchase a software license. It also affects whether they will actively support your product, answer questions and become an advocate that will refer you to their community of peers.
Why is Developer Experience Important?
Developers have different needs compared to average software users. They often like to figure things out themselves rather than expecting sales reps to take them through the process. They don’t want to call support when there’s a problem but prefer to be able to find a way to fix it through tutorials and documentation. This can lead to a poor experience on the developer’s side if you don’t provide the necessary tools and resources to ensure they can do that.
The approach to selling tools to developers has also turned upside down. Salespeople aren’t selling their products to the C-Suite or IT leaders. Developers have budget influence or authority. They are testing the product first and then making a recommendation to management or, in some cases, they have the authority to make the purchase themselves. If your developer experience isn’t up to scratch, you’ll never get a foot in the door.
Developers are often slowed down by a poor experience and the complexity of their tools. Developer experience is a way to help you stand out from your competitors and to differentiate yourself within your industry. You need to offer the kind of experience that empowers developers to be more productive and doesn’t interrupt their flow. Providing a superior developer experience gets the attention of developers.
When you are targeting a technical audience of software developers, focusing on the specifications and key features of a product through technical enablement is key for winning a group of buyers who know their stuff and aren’t easily impressed by generalized product overviews.
Tips for Building a Great Developer Experience
Developers want products and tools that offer a better experience that makes their lives easier and helps them innovate. The standard for what makes a great developer experience is getting higher, so it’s important that you focus on the tips below to make your product indispensable.
Understand Your Developers’ Responsibilities and Pain Points
Understanding your user base is key to creating an experience that empowers them to do their job better. Find out what they do on a day-to-day basis, what they’re struggling with, and how your product will help them overcome these issues.
It won’t be a one-size-fits-all process of discovery. You’ll likely discover that your potential user base is made up of different types of developers. Create buyer personas to make sure that you understand their needs and challenges. 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.
Journey mapping — an overview of the process that your customers go through in engaging with your company — will also help ensure the experience you provide is right for their needs.
Reduce Product Friction
If you want to make developers’ lives’ easier, then start with the process of understanding and accessing your product. 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.
Frictionless access is crucial to earning developers’ trust because even if your product isn’t perfect, just giving them hands-on access shows that you have nothing to hide and means that developers know exactly what you are offering.
Create a Developer Education Program
Education is not a nice to have when it comes to the developer experience; it’s essential. A developer education program lowers the friction between developers and your product and provides an engaging experience that encourages developers to learn about your product. Educational experiences ensure developers know how your product works and can use all of the features to build things.
Your developer education program should encompass:
- Blog posts and tutorials
- Self-paced courses
- Bite-sized content
- Personalized learning paths
- Interactive documentation
- Software sandboxes and hands-on labs
Host Content in a Dedicated Developer Zone
Providing everything developers need in one place will simplify the experience and enable them to focus on what’s important. It creates a good first impression when users land on your website as they can quickly see if your product might fit their needs and that they can easily access it with minimal friction.
Having a dedicated developer page will also allow you to present technical product content in the tone and detail that developers expect. You should maintain a straightforward tone that is free of fluff and jargon. This will help your content to resonate with your technical audience and increase their trust in your content’s genuine intent to help them along their purchasing journey.
Here are some developer zones you can get inspiration from:
Provide Hands-on Labs
Hands-on labs can make a huge difference to the developer experience. They remove the friction for the developer to get started with a product versus having to download, install, and configure it, which can be a stumbling block, especially when it comes to the younger generation.
Newer developers often don’t have experience setting up virtual machines and are used to interactive browser-based experiences. Developers have come to expect that kind of experience.
Hands-on, immersive education experiences and software sandboxes also improve developers’ knowledge of your products, help them discover their most valuable features, and increase product usage.
They enable developers to try out your product early on in the purchase journey in real-world scenarios and provide a learn-by-doing environment that lets developers analyze your product to determine if it solves the problem they’re working on.
Invest in Community
A great developer experience requires empathy for and understanding of developers’ day-to-day challenges. You need to create a community where developers can share their experience of your product, ask questions and get advice, either from you or their peers. This shows that you care about their needs and the experience they are having and are investing in ensuring they succeed.
To provide a superior developer experience, you want to be a part of that community and have a first-tier reputation for supporting your developers. 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.
Giving developers the ability to ask each other questions about your product builds trust and credibility; it shows you have nothing to hide. 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.
Be an Advocate for Your Developers
By talking to developers regularly, you can get an idea of who is using your product and what they are using it for. You will receive a lot of useful feedback that enables you to form an understanding of who you should be targeting and create more accurate buyer personas.
The goal then is to advocate for these developers, to make sure that their voices are heard, that their problems are being noted, and that they have a good experience with your software. Developer advocates humanize your brand and product to technical users by giving them a point of contact to communicate with, ask in-depth questions, explain projects, and make feature recommendations. They also empower users by showing them how your product can help them solve their challenges.
By using developer advocacy to enhance the developer experience, you can turn users into product evangelists who sing the praises of your product and recommend you to their peers.
Harnessing Data Improves the Developer Experience
When a developer takes a product course, you can collect a lot of granular data about their behavior and then use it to improve the developer experience. This data is also important for the course author and the developer marketing team because they can get information about how developers are performing in their product courses.
They can see where developers are getting stuck and where they are dropping off. This helps them to create better courses and improve the developer’s learning experience.
Developers also get real-time feedback as they go through the content, including knowledge checks and quizzes. They’re validating their understanding of the product in an interactive way that reading a blog post can’t. They can also see the clear progression towards the end of the course, helping to nudge them forward and keeping them motivated to learn more about your product.
Developer Experience in Action
By now, you’ll understand why prioritizing developer experience is important when it comes to engaging your audience. But, what does this look like in practice? Here are some examples of companies that have gone above and beyond when it comes to developer experience.
Chef Software is a Seattle-based software company that builds DevOps automation tools. The company was looking for a software provider that offered hands-on product sandboxes. After implementing Appsembler, the company has improved the experience for DevOps learners. They also built a centralized location for all of Chef’s technical courses with the added enhancement of frictionless product sandboxes:
“Within Appsembler Virtual Labs, learners have all of the Chef software set up,” says Kimball Johnson, Senior Developer Advocate at Chef Software. “Learners can launch commands in their browser using a remotely-provisioned virtual machine. Developers don’t have to install anything on their local machine, worry about setting up a virtual box, or worry about which operating system they’re using. It just works in the browser without any problems.”
Dremio is a next-generation data lake engine that liberates its customers’ data with live, interactive queries. The company wanted to increase their product’s awareness with developers without directly selling to them, as well as reduce the friction between developers and Dremio’s products, and build a body of technical documentation to help developers educate themselves.
Since working with Appsembler, Dremio now offers a more in-depth pre-sales experience for prospective buyers, allowing them to gain better product knowledge before engaging Dremio’s sales team. So instead of asking Dremio what their product did and what were its main features, prospective buyers should begin asking questions that signal higher buying intent and implementation commitment.
Dremio also worked with Appsembler to implement Dremio test-drive, which launched a frictionless instance of Dremio’s software, giving developers immediate access to Dremio’s products.
Choosing the Right Platform
Understanding developers is crucial and you have to learn from your users, working out 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. The developer experience needs to show users the value of your product and the problems it solves.
A developer marketing, education, and experience platform enables you to build frictionless and educational product experiences for developers. It enables you to turn your existing developer documentation into immersive, educational experiences by adding interactive content. This platform also provides genuine, educational content about your product that lets developers experience its features through hands-on learning, all adding to the experience.
Using a developer experience platform to provide this experience will also encourage developers to share your product with their community and become an active community participant that helps other developers learn and adopt your product.