With the rise of API companies and technical products focused on developers, there is increasing focus on their developer experience. Product managers, marketers, and engineers alike have an interest in evaluating and improving how a developer uses their technical product.
What is Developer Experience?
While there may be many definitions, it can be summarized in a single sentence:
Developer experience is every interaction related to your API or dev tool.
Simple to state, but executing on that vision is harder than it seems. The surface area of developer tools is much larger than most products. Some of those “interactions” might happen on local machines, which can’t be directly measured.
When you get inside the details of those interactions, you’ll see the far-reaching concepts that impact developer experience: the clarity of your positioning, the usability of your site, the readability of your documentation, and more.
A good developer experience may begin before someone reaches your website and continues through Hello World, a working prototype, and the rest of a developer’s relationship as a customer.
Quantify Your Developer Experience
It’s tempting to go with your gut on DX—you know “good” when you see it, right? You’ll find more opinions within developer experience than truths, which is to be expected. Qualitative feedback from developers is important and you should always seek it out. Yet, even within subjective measurements, you can find numbers to tell you how you’re doing.
We created the DX Index so you can determine how you measure up against an ideal developer experience.
The DX Index is a 1-10 rating based on 13 weighted criteria. Among the most significant elements are:
- Libraries available in popular languages
- Prominent, in-depth getting started guides
- A self serve solution (no “demo” or “call us” required)
- Clear pricing available so developers know what it will cost
Using all the factors, we calculate a score, the DX Index. The higher the number, the better the score. Since there’s always room for improvement (and trade-offs to consider), even the top DX APIs like Twilio and Stripe only score 9 of 10.
You can work with EveryDeveloper to calculate your own DX Index, or read on to see how developer experience impacts the entire journey.
Great DX is Long Term
Some of the best developer companies have entire teams—or multiple teams—dedicated to developer experience. That’s a long term investment, which pays off over many, many developer interactions.
Don’t mistake developer experience for just design, just onboarding, or just documentation. It’s all of those things, plus more. Despite the 13 criteria we’ve used to create the DX Index, developer experience is not a checkbox you can complete a single time. It’s not 13 checkboxes, either.
To do DX right, you’ll need to understand and continue to return to the entire developer journey:
- First impression
- First experience
- First success
- Last touch
Each of these moments on the journey are covered individually, from first impression to the developer’s most recent touchpoint. Together, and with the supporting interactions between them, these make up the entirety of a developer’s experience with your API or dev tool.
First Impression: Word of Mouth and Navigation
Great developer experience begins before your website. When an API, tool, or workflow is elegant, developers can’t help but tell each other.
Once a developer discovers your site, they will quickly look find the area meant for them. Ideally, there is a link in the top navigation, footer, or other prominent location.
The goal of these early impressions is to confirm you solve their technical problem and move them swiftly into the first experience. A self-serve, free account or trial can quickly help a developer evaluate whether your product is a fit.
First Experience: Onboarding and Getting Started
A new developer is probably still trying to understand your product when they first start to use it. Their job is to experiment through trial and error, through just-in-time learning. Plus, they’re probably still skeptical about whether your product can solve their problem.
A quickstart or getting started guide can help developers, before or after signup. It provides the steps to Hello World. It shouldn’t cover everything, but just enough to get a small win.
A logged-in dashboard experience can provide similar guidance, with the added benefit of knowing the developer’s context. Based on the data in their account, it can suggest the next step.
First Success: Use Cases and Sample Apps
Hello World is a great first step, to show developers how your product works. However, more is requires to truly reach first success. Great developer experience will outline potential use cases, then help developers quickly make progress on a solution.
A great developer experience provides a complete sample application alongside each use case. With language-specific versions, a developer can easily jumpstart a prototype of the problem they’re looking to solve.
A positive first impression, quick first experience, and helpful first success could be enough to convince a developer to champion your product. Now you need to keep them through the push to production and ongoing maintenance.
Last Visit: API Reference and Support
Developer experience does not stop when code is complete. Software is never finished, so there will always be opportunities for a developer to interact with your product. The fewer the snags in their path, the higher the likelihood that they think of you positively.
Developers will return frequently to a reference of functionality, which should be kept accurate and updated. It’s far too common for developers to wrestle with a problem that can eventually be traced to inaccurate documentation. A great developer experience uses automation and intention to avoid these sorts of snags.
Another way to identify and bypass developer issues is to provide excellent support. When developers know who to ask, they’ll gladly share their negative experience—which allow you to remove them before others get caught.
Assess Your Developer Experience
When you work with EveryDeveloper, our team will provide a DX Index score, as well as specific recommendations for how to improve in the 13 Elements of Developer Experience.