What is developer experience (DevX)? pillars and best practices
Developer Experience (DevX) refers to the experience developers have when working with a technology platform or solution, or their general experience while working at a team. There are two main types of DevX:
- External Developer Experience refers to the experience external developers have with a product or service. This includes the ease of use, documentation, and support provided by the platform, as well as the overall quality and reliability of the platform.
- Internal Developer Experience refers to the experience that internal developers have. This includes the tools, stack, and development processes provided by the organization.
DevX is distinct from a traditional user experience (UX), which is concerned with end users’ experience when they are using a product or service. DevX focuses on creating a positive experience for a developer, while UX focuses on making a product or service easy to use and enjoyable for the end user.
There are several key elements that contribute to a good developer experience (DevX) - whether external or internal:
- Documentation: Good documentation is essential for developers to understand how to use a product, a service, or an internal service effectively. This includes code examples, API documentation, and guides on how to use the product or service.
- Tooling: Developer tools and frameworks should be well-designed, easy to use, and take into account the technology stack and ecosystem used by the target developer audience.
- Support: Developers should have access to support resources such as forums, knowledge bases, and customer support teams to help them resolve any issues they encounter.
- Community: A strong developer community can be a valuable resource for developers, as it provides a place for developers to share knowledge, ask for help, and collaborate on projects.
Why is DevEx important?
Importance of external DevX
Here are several reasons why companies providing products or services used by developers should invest in a good developer experience (DevX):
- Increased adoption: A good DevX can increase developers’ adoption of a product or service, as they are more likely to use a product or service that is easy to use and well-documented.
- Positive reputation: A positive DevX can help a company build a good reputation among developers, leading to increased loyalty and advocacy among developers.
- Competitive advantage: A good DevX can give a company a competitive advantage over its rivals. Developers may choose to use a product or service with a good DevX over one with a poor DevX.
- Improved productivity: A good DevX can help developers be more productive, as they can more easily understand and use the product or service. If developers have a hard time working with an API or product, they will prefer other alternatives.
Importance of internal DevX
Here are key reasons why companies with internal software development teams will benefit from improving the developer experience for those teams:
- Increased productivity: A positive internal developer experience can lead to increased efficiency, as internal dev teams can work more effectively and efficiently with the tools, processes, and technologies at their disposal.
- Better code quality: Internal DevX promotes collaboration and communication, and leads to closer adherence to an organization’s development guidelines and conventions. Therefore, fevelopers are more likely to produce high-quality code, which can improve the overall quality of the organization's software applications.
- Faster time-to-market: A positive internal developer experience can help organizations to deliver software applications more quickly, giving them a competitive advantage in the market.
What does it take to create a positive developer experience?
Let’s discuss the most important elements of developer experience, both from the perspective of external DevX and internal DevX.
There are several pillars of successful external developer experience (DevX):
- Usability: Usability refers to the ease of use of a product or service. A product or service with good usability is intuitive and easy to use.
- Findability: Findability refers to the ability to find the information and resources that developers need to use a product or service effectively. This includes documentation, code examples, and support resources.
- Credibility: Credibility refers to the trustworthiness and reliability of a product or service. Developers need to trust that a product or service will perform as expected.
By focusing on these pillars, companies and organizations can create a DevX that is effective for developers, leading to increased adoption and success of their products and services.
The important elements of internal developer experience include:
- Tools and technologies: Access to modern and effective tools and technologies, such as integrated development environments (IDEs), version control systems (VCS), and collaboration platforms, can improve developer efficiency.
- Processes and workflows: Clear and streamlined processes and workflows, such as agile development methodologies, can help developers understand what is expected of them and get their work done more quickly.
- Collaboration and communication: Effective collaboration and communication within the team, such as regular team meetings, code reviews, and pair programming, can help developers work together more effectively and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
- Professional development: Opportunities for professional development, such as training and certification programs, can help developers stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and best practices and improve their skills.
Developer experience best practices every software team should know
Implement a developer portal
A developer portal is a website or online platform that provides a range of resources and tools for developers, whether they are external developers using a company's products or services, or internal developers working on a solution or platform. It is an important part of creating a good developer experience (DevX) because it provides developers with a central location to find the information and resources they need.
A developer portal typically includes the following elements:
- Documentation: Detailed documentation on how to install, set up, and use the company's products, including API documentation.
- Tools and resources: Frameworks, libraries, repositories, code templates, and other resources that can help developers get started with the company's products.
- Community support: A forum, online group, or internal communication method such as a Slack channel where developers can ask questions and get help from other users.
- Support resources: Information on how to get support from the solution vendor (for external developers) or from IT or other supporting personnel (for internal developers).
Shorten developer feedback loops to enhance workflow
Providing faster feedback for developers is important for a positive developer experience because it can help to speed up the development process and reduce frustration for developers. A rapid feedback loop also forms the basis for a CI/CD development process with rapid iterations.
There are several ways that companies can provide faster feedback for developers, including:
- Integrating with CI/CD tooling
- Providing access to automated testing tools to identify and fix issues quickly
- Enabling easy monitoring of production systems
- Improving communication within and between development teams
Learn more in our detailed guide to developer workflow (coming soon)
The role of documentation
Well-designed documentation is an important part of developer experience (DevX), both external and internal because it helps developers understand how to use a product or service effectively or how to contribute to it. Good documentation includes code examples, API documentation, and guides on how to use the product or service.
Here are some best practices for building documentation that is effective for developers:
- Make it easy to find, whether through a search bar on the developer portal or clear navigation. With Swimm, documentation actually finds you - right in the IDE, when you browse through code that has relevant documentation. Read more about Swimm’s IDE plugins here.
- Use clear and concise language, avoiding jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to some developers.
- Provide code examples, which can be very helpful for developers, as they can see how to use the product or service in a real-world context.
- Include API documentation, essential for developers working with APIs and should include detailed information on how to use the API, including request and response formats and error handling.
- Keep it up to date to reflect the latest version of the product or service.
- Get feedback from developers to see what works well and what could be improved. This can help ensure that the documentation meets the needs of developers.
Use Swimm to promote a positive developer experience for internal development teams
With Swimm, developers enjoy documentation that is always up to date, so they can trust it to be accurate. Using Swimm’s IDE plugins, the documentation finds the developers - so they get prompted with relevant information right when they need it, within the IDE.
As explained in this post, documentation greatly contributes to having a positive DevX. Without Swimm, documentation is often lacking as developers hate investing time in writing something that will soon become obsolete or that no one will find. Since Swimm makes documentation up to date and easy to find, it makes sense to write documentation that greatly affects the developer experience.