Developer Experience

UX = User Experience, DX = Developer experience, what is that?

developer working from home

Developers are expensive and difficult to hire. Attracting and retaining developers is easier if your company has a good developer experience.

Developer Experience (DX) is the interactions and motions that the developer goes through when working towards a goal, ticket, software release. It is like User Experience (UX), except in this case the user is a software developer.

It is the experience of using the tools, the environment and systems during the development of software. I can talk about this as a provider of a platform with deployment and a build and test system. We want an environment where the developer can just ‘do their magic’ without drama and blockages. To me this means self service to tools, and providing access to the tools without obfuscation. The journey to shipped product goes through a lot of tool chains, build, test, deployment, and feedback like metrics and logs, when the thing is running.

Golden Paths

Golden Paths and guardrails to help developers along an easy route to delivery. Often with highly opinionated tools and frameworks, which are provided with a wealth of support and examples. Spotify has an open source platform called BackStage, which is gaining traction because it allows developers to spend more time developing, rather than thinking about infrastructure.

For the old skool, I have mentioned Heroku many times before when describing platforms and scaling 12 factor apps. The IT industry making endless remakes of Heroku, but some are still missing the point. Developer experience is more than just deployment.

The golden path is an easy to follow set of steps, providing a system where most of the decisions about tooling are set. This enables a quick route to programming the software application, enabling fast results and less frustration for the developer. The support is already there for them. The examples are there to copy. The other teams can provide support because they have already done it.

The tools are maintained by a dedicated team of DevOps, Cloud, SRE or whatever you fancy calling them. Enabling the developers to do what they do best, and with self service for everything else. Calling on the Platform team, when they see a gap in the tool or service, so the platform team can make things even easier.

DX Gaps

An example of a platform that looks good, but is now closing is cloud.service.gov.uk. I don’t know the reasons behind the decision to close it, but I do know there were gaps in the Developer Experience. The stand out one is observability. Expecting the Developers to setup, support and use external services immediately takes away the convenience of using your platform.

Conclusion

Developer experience is more than a buzzword. It must provide the whole solution. Developer relations and a close feedback loop with the platform team is essential to ensure maximum adoption of the platform.

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