#AskADev: The ABCs of Developer Learning

In this month’s edition, we’ll share some great answers on how developers like to learn.

We know developers have an inclination, and even preference for, self-teaching. We asked them what that means for companies building products for developers, and what lessons they should take from it.

Our question answerers this month include a dev with app development experience, another with a cloud consulting and custom solutions background, and one former dev, who is a popular DZone Zone Leader.

Let’s learn how they like to learn.

John Vester, senior architect/practice lead in application architecture and design, CleanSlate Technology Group (a cloud consulting and custom solutions company)

“When I have to learn a new technology, language, API or framework, I always want to see the “hello world” example. In fact, over the weekend, I had to convert a JSP to use ThymeLeaf. The first thing I wanted to see was the target framework implementing a relatively simple example.

“I am not one to sit and watch videos. I would prefer a detailed documentation set with several examples to help me reach my goal.”

Jo Stichbury, DZone Performance and AI Zone leader, former C/C++ developer, and freelance tech writer

“There are some brilliant tools out there for supported and interactive learning. But nothing beats working with a mentor or having someone to bounce ideas around with. You can do this remotely if the community is supportive, but often, learners run into snark and feel demeaned by their comparative ‘ignorance’.

“I think one of the key things is to build a community around people that understand how to behave online and influence the tone of the discussion. It doesn’t matter how great your answer is if you’ve demotivated the person who asked the question. Tools need great people behind them (or some smart and empathetic Bots!).”

Our final response comes from Lukasz Madrzak, chief engineer at Redstudio.ie, an app and web design and development firm.

“A lot of developers that I’ve met would learn how to program before beginning formal programming education at college. That means self-teaching comes easily to us. As much as we love learning new programming languages, we hate having to learn new tools or new interfaces. We expect everything to be as intuitive as hailing an Uber. Therefore, if your company’s newest product is here to replace something that’s tested, works well, and we know how to use it, (make sure) it doesn’t have a steep learning curve.”

Madrzak goes on to note:

“I think the companies shouldn’t waste too much time on many custom visual components in their product and instead focus on clear and effective design. Simplicity trumps complex. That’s why we can see many designers moving away from the overloaded UI of Photoshop to a re-imagined and simplified, yet very powerful Sketch application. As Steve Krug said, ‘Don’t make me think,’ and it applies to non-devs as much as us, devs.”

Krug aside, we hope these answers made you think about how devs like to learn.