The Importance of Listening to Developers

Listening to developers has always been important, but perhaps never more important than it is today.

When it comes to developing products, no one knows a product inside and out better than a developer. Developers know a product’s advantages, flaws, uses, and potential uses. It’s their job to know, and it’s in their bones to know.

Listening to what developers have to say has always been important, but perhaps never more important than it is today, in the omnipresent digital age.

Every day the computer and networking industries become more software-driven. Meanwhile, the Internet of Things (IoT) industry is swelling. Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be more than 20.8 billion connected IoT devices worldwide. From cars to clothes to products yet to be identified, billions of IoT devices will be developed that require programming, from the device down to the item or app that collects and displays the data to end users. The competition will inevitably mount among the many new and existing players in the field.

In a nascent industry such as IoT, developer communities are essential. People with software and engineering skills must be able to develop, explore, and guide ideas into reality, and develop and fine-tune existing products into better products. The developer’s knowledge and input are hugely important.

In any industry, nascent or not, you can’t risk alienating developers. Ignoring their input signals a lack of trust, and trust is the bedrock of good manager-developer relations. They need to trust in your product and what you tell them about your product.

The last thing you want to do is jeopardize the knowledge base that keeps maintaining and developing your products. You also need to keep developers invested and interested in what you’re doing. You need to listen to them.

For that, you need an online community. Communities facilitate listening. Good communities make it easy for developers to contribute and collaborate with other developers, and they provide much-needed formality in the process of soliciting and gathering developer input. Remember, the easier you make it to collect their feedback, the faster you can get the information to your product management and engineering teams.

Improve Their Experience, Too

Good communities not only acknowledge the contributions of developers to the products and platforms they help develop, but also continually look for ways to improve the developer experience. Improvements shouldn’t be made in a vacuum; they should be made with input from the developers themselves.

For instance, a community manager sends out a brief survey asking developers about their recent experience developing a particular platform. The survey isn’t only seeking to hear what the developers liked but also what they didn’t like, what frustrated them, and what they wish had been done differently to make their experience better. The manager follows up with several of the survey responses to dig deeper into the developer concerns.

Then, the manager acts on those concerns, making the following improvements in the developer community:

  • Overhauls the developer documentation architecture to simplify navigation and make the most popular reference documents easier to find
  • Increases the amount of sample code
  • Implements a process to ensure that SDKs sync with the latest product updates and bug fixes

Community improvements run the gamut, and there are no one-size-fits-all rules or guidelines. The main thing is to give developers the opportunity to voice their likes and dislikes and make sure their input doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Voices You Can’t Ignore

Developers’ input helps you ensure your product meets your customers’ expectations and solves their problems. Their input helps you provide amazing customer experiences, and improve customer retention. Their input is one of your most valuable sources for your product’s viability and longevity.

You need to listen to developers and give them a community where they can contribute and collaborate, and where you can easily solicit, collect, and act on their vital input.