5 Steps for Enhancing Software Developer Experience

Take these five actionable steps to improve the job satisfaction of your software developers.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology analyst

June 25, 2024

5 Min Read
developer using multiple screens to write code
Alamy

Once upon a time, the main goal of businesses that built software was to deliver a great user experience. But today, developer experience has become just as important at many organizations, which increasingly focus on ensuring their software developers are satisfied with their jobs.

But how, exactly, do you do that? Let's explore by discussing what developer experience means, why it's important, and actionable practices for enhancing developer experience.

What Is Developer Experience?

Developer experience — sometimes called DX — is the sense of satisfaction that software developers gain while doing their jobs. It builds on the concept of user experience, which refers to how satisfied customers are with software they use.

Many factors affect developer experience. Some of them are technological, such as how easy it is for developers to gain access to the tools they need to write or test code. Others involve organizational culture — things like whether developers feel they are able to interact with their colleagues efficiently and whether the meetings they attend are a good use of their time.

Why Is Developer Experience Important?

The simple explanation of why developer experience is important is that in a world where "every company is a software company," developers play a critical role in enabling business success — so the happier your developers are, the more effective your business is likely to be.

Related:What Is a Software Developer and What's the Best Way to Become One?

The longer answer to why developer experience matters today involves understanding some recent trends that have affected software developers. One is the shortage of skilled tech workers that occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As companies struggled to hire and retain skilled tech talent, investing in developer experience became more of a priority. And interestingly, commitments to DX seem to remain strong despite the recent layoff trend.

Another factor that explains why developer experience has become so topical of late is the ever-increasing complexity of technology. Today's cloud-native software stacks include many more tools and layers than the software environments that predominated a decade or two ago. This can make it more challenging for developers to do their jobs because they have more complexity to contend with when designing, writing, testing, and deploying applications. In the face of this struggle, finding ways to make it easier for developers to work efficiently has become more important.

5 Ways to Improve the Developer Experience

So, how can businesses improve the developer experience? The answer will vary from one organization to another, of course. But in general, the following practices can help developers feel productive and valued.

Related:5 Ways to Maximize Your Software Developer Salary

1. Invest in platform engineering

The most common strategy that companies use today to boost developer experience is investing in platform engineering. Platform engineering is the practice of creating what are called Internal Developer Platforms, or IDPs, which allow developers to obtain the tools and environments they need quickly and easily.

For smaller businesses with relatively consistent technology stacks and environments, platform engineering may be overkill. But if you have developers who need to work with a range of different technologies, platform engineering and IDPs help increase productivity and reduce frustration.

2. Avoid unnecessary meetings

One guaranteed way to frustrate developers is to ask them to attend meetings that they feel are a poor use of their time and that distract them from coding.

Thus, a simple way to improve the developer experience is to avoid unnecessary meetings. "Unnecessary" is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but managers should carefully evaluate how important a meeting is before scheduling it.

3. Group meetings together

When meetings are necessary, scheduling them in close proximity can help improve developer experience.

The reason why is that, when meetings are clustered together, teams gain longer blocks of meeting-free time when they can focus on work. If developers have to attend a meeting every other hour over the course of a day, their ability to get into the "flow state" and write code is limited. But if all meetings happen at the start or the end of the day — or, even better, if they're reserved for just one or two days a week — engineers can devote longer stretches of time to the work they feel best about.

4. Quantify the value of developer work

It's easy to talk in generic terms about how important software development is for the business. But to feel truly appreciated, developers should be able to view quantifiable data about how much value they bring.

Businesses can do this by tracking metrics about the business value of work developers complete. For instance, how many new customers does the company gain after developers implement a new feature? Data like this helps developers recognize in a concrete way that they are making an impact.

5. Regularly ask developers what they want

Last but not least, soliciting feedback from developers is critical for enhancing their experience. Many businesses may feel that they offer developers ways to share what they like and don't like about their jobs and workflows, but few companies have a systematic process in place for this purpose. For that reason, organizations should consider holding regular meetings where developers can discuss their experience with management, for example, or dedicating a Slack channel to feedback about developer experience.

Conclusion: Happier Developers, Happier Companies

Investing in developer experience offers plenty of benefits for developers and businesses alike. To reap those benefits, however, it's important to do more than pay lip service to developer experience. Companies must take actionable steps, like those laid out above, to enhance the job satisfaction of their coders.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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