What Is Developer Experience

What Is Developer Experience?

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Developer Experience eBook coverWe’ve just released a new eBook, Developer Experience! Be sure to pick up a free copy for our top insights on crafting quality developer experiences. Below is the preface.

Developer experience, sometimes abbreviated as DevX or DX, is similar to user experience (UX) but focuses on the experience developers have while using a software tool. A tool’s DX is a benchmark for how usable or intuitive the service is. And whereas DX used to be viewed as an afterthought, it’s now becoming more of a necessity to stay relevant in today’s digital economy.

What sets DX apart from UX is the frame of interaction. DX goes beyond the standard graphical user interface to consider the holistic developer journey across all interaction points, whether it’s the reference documentation, command line, SDKs, libraries, API endpoints, or sandboxes. Generally, a service with quality developer experience is well-documented and comes with a solid getting started guide and sample code for common executions.

Naturally, software tools have varying degrees of developer experience. For example, if one method or parameter is not fully documented, an engineer might have to expend wasteful energy to guess how to interact with it. Or, incompatibilities between the reference and production behavior can cause frustration, leading to unhappy consumers.

Developer-Facing Tools

Developer experience can encompass various developer-facing tools, such as web APIs, cloud-based platforms, or open-source projects. Some of these developer-facing tools and products include:

  • Software Developer Kits (SDKs) and code libraries
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
  • Open-source code repositories
  • Code libraries, sample code, or tutorials
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and CloudOps
  • Specifications and open standards

It’s not just public SaaS that can benefit from DX — it’s in a company’s best interest to ensure their internal tools have quality developer experience too. Investing in DX can increase developer satisfaction and reduce burnout, improving employee retention.

Considering The Developer Journey

If we consider the entire developer journey throughout these tools, there are many areas in which the experience could be positive or negative.

To begin with, how easy is it to find the service? Developers may come across it through word of mouth or a simple keyword search and command-line install. Or, they may discover it through curated lists and registries. This is known as discovery.

Next, the onboarding phase could introduce friction or create a seamless experience, depending on the quality of documentation and reference materials. Are there code tutorials or sample apps for the most common use cases? How quickly can users get to their first Hello World? (For APIs, this is commonly known as Time To First Call (TTFC)).

Then comes the actual testing and production behavior. Does the tool behave as intended? Is it reliable? How easy is it to maintain, and what is ongoing support like? Many non-functional operational aspects could affect DX, such as rate-limiting, the developer dashboard experience, or costs.

What to Expect in Our eBook, Developer Experience

Developer Experience eBook cover

Developer Experience is live on LeanPub and Amazon for a small fee.

In our eBook Developer Experience, we’ve collected our top-performing articles on developer experience from the past couple of years. The Nordic APIs writing team has shared countless insights on what it takes to create usable software that developers love and that makes them productive.

First, we’ll look into improving the initial discovery and onboarding process to avoid leaky funnels that drop potential consumers. Then, we’ll investigate how to enhance knowledge sharing with stellar documentation and helpful sandboxes. We’ll cover techniques to measure the success of your developer journey and iterate it over time. Lastly, we’ve included many ways to retain consistency throughout a suite of APIs.

Popular public APIs continue to set the bar for developer experience expectations. And although the particular focus of this eBook will be on API user experience, these tenants could certainly be applied to improve the developer experience of many other flavors of software services.

Enjoy Developer Experience!

I truly hope this volume helps your journey to create more usable developer-facing tools. And if you like what you read, consider following Nordic APIs or signing up for our bi-weekly Newsletter on API design and strategy. Our blog is also open to submissions from the community if you would like to share your insights with a broader audience.