A developer community platform is different from other online community platforms: a developer community centers around solutions. Developers engage in a community to solve problems, exchange knowledge, and find tools that help them do their jobs better. Your platform should be a highly interactive environment weighted toward coding and best practices in the field.
Despite their significant shared commonality, no two developer communities will be the same. Your developer community should reflect the sense of culture within your organization, and engage and inform developers in ways specific to your business.
When you’re shopping for a developer community platform, whether it’s a public-facing or private community, here are our five top tips to guide your evaluations.
1. Look for a provider that’s all about developers. This tip bears repeating. Look for a provider that really knows developers and developer relations, not just the technical architecture and popular functionality of community software. The best community platform will be created by a provider that understands the minds of developers—what drives them, turns them off, and engages them.
AnswerHub, for example, empowers developers to communicate in oft-used environments such as Stack Overflow and Quora, which they enjoy using. Staying close to this familiar layout and functionality minimizes their frustration and helps developers hit the ground running.
2. Vet the must-haves. Developer community platforms are highly customizable. You can shape them to meet the unique needs of your business, most notably through SDKs and APIs.
However, to satisfy developers’ need to interact, learn organically, and share and solicit knowledge, good developer communities include the following must-haves. Explore how each of these is implemented in the community.
- User-generated content. Developers don’t want to sift through useless information. They want high-quality, expert, user-generated content.
- Sample code and apps.
- Tech support and customer service. It should be professional and speedy.
- Forums. Developers need a place to come together, ask or answer questions, get support from their peers, and express opinions or concerns.
- Knowledge gathering and sharing. Give developers the ability to share code and collaborate easily, regardless of where they are or what time it is.
3. Inspect the incentives. Like all communities, developer communities require incentives for participation. Developers favor gamification. Recognizing and rewarding their quality contributions with reputation points and badges can go a long way toward keeping developers involved and engaged.
4. Get analytics that measures up. In successful developer communities, engagement and knowledge sharing is closely monitored. At a minimum, ensure your community platform can track metrics such as page views, number of questions, number of answers, response times, upvotes and downvotes, and new users.
5. Seek out manager and administration tools. Your community manager should have all the tools to run a vibrant, branded community. Look for tools such as content segmentation to organize your content and control who can see it, advanced moderation to monitor and moderate the content on your site, role-based permissions to restrict access to functions and content by roles, and other more granular permissions.
These tips aren’t meant to be all-inclusive. There are other things you should evaluate in a community developer platform, such as integrations with other knowledge and collaboration tools, and compatibility with mobile devices.
Lastly, you should check references and ask for a demo. Hear what other companies and developers using the community platform have to say. Then test drive the functionality and usability of the community yourself.