The topic of Developer Experience is becoming increasingly important, why? Simple: a positive developer experience generates more efficient devops teams, and thus, better software.
When one speaks of 'experience' one immediately thinks of the end user of a digital product. However, the experience of those who realise the product - the developers - is also increasingly gaining strategic importance within organisations. We speak in this case of DX (or DevX), Developer Experience.
What is DX or Developer Experience?
DX, or Developer Experience, or DevX, is the equivalent of User Experience when the primary users of the product are the developers. Therefore, the Developer Experience takes care of the user experience of products such as product libraries, SDKs (software development kits), documentation and open source solutions such as frameworks or APIs.
Developer Experience and User Experience share some of the fundamental principles, with differences in the way these are applied. This is because a 'technical' user such as a developer has very different needs than the average user.
Improving the DX is a goal that is pursued for the same reason as improving the user experience. A developer who finds a product with a good DX will be more inclined to use it, promote it and build loyalty. And, bringing the concept of DX inside a company, we will see how a good Developer Experience will have positive repercussions on developer productivity and team harmony.
The pillars of DevX
Just like the User Experience, the Developer Experience has fundamental principles that help us to understand how good it is or how it can be improved, we list them below.
Let's start with the most important feature: functionality. A tool is only as useful as its ability to help its user accomplish a task.
In addition to functionality, the product offered must offer adequate performance in performing the task for which it was designed. It must also guarantee stability and the absence of unexpected malfunctions.
Ease of use
A low learning curve of the tool makes it easy to adopt, use and promote. This trait can be improved not only by designing an intuitive UI (user interface) but also by making accurate and always up-to-date resources such as a knowledge base and tutorials.
The ability of the tool to provide in an immediate and unambiguous manner the information the developer needs to complete the task, speeding up debugging and troubleshooting operations, for example.
Why do you need to improve DevX?
According to a recent study, there is a correlation between developer experience and business results. Organisations that invest in developer experience gain real benefits and can therefore improve their competitiveness.
Improving DevX means having more agile, high-performing and united teams. This last point should not be underestimated, since problems within development teams (and in the relationships between different teams) risk having a negative impact on the product life cycle. Taking care of the Developer Experience allows an organisation to stem many of these difficulties, such as:
"Not My Problem" Mentality: The tendency of team members to take no interest in solving a problem that is not within their sphere of influence.
Toxic Team Culture: An environment where rivalry and ambition take precedence over the goals one has set out to achieve.
Poor Code Quality: Little care is taken to comply with best practices and ensure low product defectiveness.
Meaningless Work: Lack of long-term vision and planning that may lead the team to navigate by sight, carrying out unnecessary activities with respect to the final objective.
Demotivated Team: The climate within the team does not allow its members to work harmoniously, and does not foster collaboration and team spirit.
Disconnect Between Business and IT: The organisation does not recognise the value of long-term investments in the IT department and therefore does not support and invest in new initiatives.
Teams with good and bad Developer Experience compared
An organisation that succeeds in implementing a good Developer Experience - from an organisational point of view with efficient processes and thanks to the tools it makes available to its technicians - benefits in many ways.
By way of example, let us see the distinctive features of teams with and without a good DX.
Teams benefiting from a good Developer Experience
- Greater sense of impact in recognising that their work is contributing to a greater goal and not just to the company's profit.
- Greater sense of ownership and responsibility for the activities carried out.
- The team works towards a common goal, as a team.
- Honesty and harmony in the relationship between team members.
- Ability to make mistakes without fear of repercussions but with the knowledge that you have the support of the team if a critical situation needs to be resolved.
Teams subjected to a bad Developer Experience
- Finger-pointing in case of anomalies or emergency situations.
- Fear of repercussions if there are mistakes in handling a given situation.
- Always tight timelines and a disproportionate workload.
- Hostility and unhealthy competition between team members.
- Diluted responsibilities that lead to unclear who is in charge of certain activities and the resolution of critical situations.
The Role of Internal Developer Platforms
What do Internal Developer Platforms (IDPs) have to do with DevX? An IDP is a layer that sits on top of the technology stack chosen by the development team. It serves to unify and integrate all the tools, so that the various teams can operate in a self-service manner. This is why they play an important role in the DX of development teams.
The use of an IDP has an extremely positive impact on team velocity and serenity as it allows the team to focus on the value of activities and not on the underlying technical complexities. In addition to improving the Developer Experience, IDPs promote productivity, reduce manual operations, and decrease and optimise maintenance costs.
An IDP in practice promotes standardisation, leading the IT department to operate with a higher level of automation and efficiency. For this reason, the adoption of an Internal Developer Platform is often essential to take care of DX.
Tips to improve your team's Developer Experience
Having described the benefits of a good Developer Experience, it is important to understand how it can be improved within an organisation. There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for achieving this, but rather a series of tricks:
- Adopting solutions and tools with the associated technological and platform implications in mind.
- Study and understand the Developer Journey to understand what the obstacles to developer productivity are.
- Shorten developers' feedback loops to improve those iterations that by their nature are short and frequent (e.g. debugging).
- Foster collaboration and remove silos-based organisations that lead to inefficiencies.
- Cultivate a culture where developers, and technical team members in general, feel safe to experiment with new solutions or to bring innovation to the way they work.
Corporate culture based on collaboration
Modern frameworks, methodologies and paradigms are in many cases based on common principles. It is necessary to understand the needs of people within one's organisation as well as those of customers and end users, and to take care of them through collaborative decision-making and organisational processes.
Whether the aim is for fast and reliable software delivery (DevOps), to improve security (DevSecOps), to hold the reins of cloud financial management (FinOps), to make one's organisation agile and results-oriented (Agile methods), or whether the intention is to realise a truly user-centric product (User Story Mapping): people and collaboration must be at the centre.
Having the Developer Experience at heart is another way of pursuing corporate goals, putting people and the relationships between them at the centre.
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