What is Developer Experience and why you should care

4 min read

As technology moves forward “close to the speed of light” and new products and frameworks are introduced every year, so do change the needs of users. It is easy to think that your own developers or developers using your services will do with whatever you provide them with, truth to be told though, it may be true to some extent.

So in case you struggle with poor performance of developers or high fluctuation of your developer staff, this is the right article for you.

In this article we will look further into what is Developer Experience, how it change the way your business works and why you should consider implementing its principles.

What is DX

So, you have been introduced with a new term — Developer Experience. It means providing developers with everything they need to fully focus on doing their work the best way possible. Developer Experience can be further distinguished between internal and external Developer Experience.

Internal DX

Internal Developer Experience aims to streamline processes within the team of developers and remove any obstacles that developers might face. It covers these areas of work:

If I were to ask you a question — who will do a better job, a person who’s environment is nurturing and welcoming or a person whose job is hard to get excited about? I believe you guessed it yourself. And since developers are one of the most dug up stakeholder groups working on your project, it is important to make them feel happy as well as that their work is important and helps others.

Focusing on your team of developers directly saves costs due to fluctuation and the resources spent when the team is understaffed.

External DX

Now, contrary to internal DX there is external DX which represents ease of use of tools developers use. These tools range from using IDEs, frameworks over APIs of services they integrate and use to SDKs they integrate in their applications. Each of the parts has different metrics that should be followed, but the most important and common one is usability — how hard it is to get onboard, how easy it is to work with it and how good is troubleshooting or support.

How does it relate to UX

If this sounds similar to UX, you are partially right.

Both of these terms aim for the best use of a product or a service. Just like users of e.g. Revolut want the product to be easy to use and have the most seamless experience, so do developers who might want to use your product or work in your company.

In other words, developers are users too!

They use a lot of tools every day, they are consumers of culture and management’s decisions.

And just like users who do not enjoy using a product are going to stop using it and find a better alternative, the same applies for developers. No one wants to work in a company with a toxic culture or use a product with terrible documentation.

But why should I care?

Although the term UX had been for the first time introduced in the mid-90s, it was widely popularized in 2007. That year Donald Norman used it in one of his interviews which has led to undeniably growing popularity and accent on applying it in everyday life.

If you remember web applications before 2010ish, you may remember they were hard to use and sometimes working with them made no sense to end-users. Companies that have invited UX into their applications have survived, the others didn’t.

Every new company that doesn’t have the UX gene in its DNA will fail, no matter how good the idea behind it is.

The market with developers is small so it will only be harder to get qualified developers to hire. If developers don’t like working with your product, they will just not use it, tell their friends and the ‘worth of mouth’ will kill before you even know it.

Even worse is when the talent you already have in house decides to leave. This leads to not only the loss of know-how of someone who has built the systems in your company. Moreover it leads to increased cost over time starting with the sunk cost of hiring a new developer, onboarding the said developer and covering his or hers learning curve of your processes and systems.

So,if you look at the rise of UX, it should be clear to you that DX has the potential to be huge in a few years from now.

Why you should get on board as soon as possible

Jumping on the train of DX sooner will lead to a competitive advantage such as lower fluctuation of developers and better product for your users which will inevitably lead to better sales and revenue.

The companies that failed to adapt or improve their services have failed (e.g. Nokia, Kodak, MySpace or Walmart’s redesign that cost them billions of dollars). The ones that have innovated (one example for all — Apple Inc.) have grown over time to success.

So focusing on the inner workings of your company and the service you provide to your end users (developers) go hand in hand. Combined these two will lead you to bigger sales and better reputation in your field than your competitors.

Examples of companies that are doing well in terms of DX

When it comes to companies that have great External Developer Experience we have to mention Stripe and Heroku. Since both of these companies aim directly at developers, who happen to be the end users, they have mastered the art of providing great experience to them. Just look at their documentation and integration flow that should even make sense to non-technical people!

Framework-wise we should mention Vue. Even though it is an underdog of FE frameworks, people love using it for its capabilities and tools surrounding the core libraries — e.g.VueCLI.

So will you jump on the DX train after learning that your company might be missing out on a lot?

Learn more more about DX Heroes services, gain some DX knowledge, or just let us know about your experiences in the comments!

Prokop Simek
Prokop Simek

With more than 12 years in software engineering, I use my expertise to link business and technology for our clients.