Saturday, September 19 On the Developer Experience -

On the Developer Experience

I had a great brainstorm a few weeks back with the members of the Developer Evangelists meetup on the topic of the User Journey, or as I’ll call it now, the Developer Experience. The main problem we wanted to solve was how we convert new users into experts or awesoms users. In many ways, a Community Manager and/or Developer Evangelist is responsible for driving user adoption and making users successful, so this is a topic near and dear to all of our hearts. I walked away with three key things that help improve the developer experience:

Great Product


In this post, I’m going to explore how you can leverage a great product for a positive developer eperience.

Great Product

Across the board, everyone agrees that for new users to become successful over time, the product needs to be easy to get started with and enjoyable to use. Jon Gottfried mentioned that his company, Twilio, has an entire team dedicated to “DevEx”, or Developer Experience, to ensure that users continually have a positive experience with the Twilio API and partner products so they continue to use the service. As APIs proliferate, the ones that are dead simple and provide the most utility will gain the most traction.

But what about documentation? Developers rely on quality documentation when using developer tools, especially open source tools. Nginx was first released in 2004, with no documentation. The first documentation was released in 2006 by Aleksandar Lazic, but Nginx was still widely used even before the the documentation was released. It placed 22nd on Netcraft web server survey in 2006. Now it is the 3rd most widely used web server after Microsoft and Apache.

If we think of documentation as marketing, the marketing at a huge impact on Nginx’s adoption. Nginx, however, was fairly widely used before the documentation. Why? Parsimony is the rule. Nginx was easy to use and had certain functions already built in and easy to configure compared to Apache. If a developer was frustrated with Apache, all they had to do was read the config file for Nginx and easily implement a new web server.

Developers are smart. They are problem solvers at heart, so if they find a tool that looks like it’s going to make their lives easier, slowly early adopters are going to figure out how to use it. You don’t need to much marketing to get your early adopters, you just need a tool that works well.

As a more personal example, I speak with MongoDB users every day. These people are often contributors, user group organizers or community evangelists. When I say “thank you so much for contributing to the community,” they always respond with, “Thank you to 10gen for making MongoDB open source.” The developers don’t care about the marketing. They care about ease of use, productivity and accessibility.

Work on making your product fit for an awesome developer experience. If you build it, they will come