Should Products Ensure Developer Happiness?

Over the past while, I’ve been fully immersed these days into figuring out how to build Marvin.  In doing so, I’ve been researching products, services, or even technology that would help me do it. While diving into each one and evaluating whether to proceed in using them, I’ve found myself looking for the very same thing in each one.  That is, are they working to ensure their developers are happy?  Would I be happy working with them?

One of the biggest gaps that I’ve been looking to fill is the financial transactional information.  To do that, I’ve been evaluating Plaid, Xignite, Yodlee, and Finicity.  All are very capable and established services.  However, of the 4 services, Plaid is the only one that makes me feel that they care about developers. They have a healthy set of SDKs, great documentation, and their dev portal is welcoming.

Companies from all over are beefing up their engineering and development teams.  In many of those technology focused companies, the decision makers are those who are working directly with the product or service, the developers.  Developers normally choose the product that is the most effective at helping them achieve their goals.  Many products today continue to focus on selling to the business minded person, focusing on the features and pricing.  While that is certainly not a bad strategy, they tend to completely avoid the developers who would be working with the product or service.

I believe we are reaching the tipping point where you need to appealing to developers and their happiness in order to succeed. Many products brand themselves as a platform, normally with some externally facing API.  Those that don’t have an API likely have it near the top of their roadmap.  The API can serve multiple purposes: to bring a richer experience, to share data with other tools, or to build new functionality which isn’t supported within the parameters of the service. The market is flooded with technology companies, each trying to cater to a niche. While that company is using your product or service, their goals may be different, which is why they look for API access to enable them to perform their own business logic.

Whether the product is looking to cater to an industry that can be considered fast and loose like the gaming industry or heavily regulated industries like the financial industry, think of the developers!  Developers tend to be a vocal bunch Stack Overflow, Reddit, Quora, or any other forum. These exist to help each other, but also provide others the opportunity to see how the integration would be should they choose that product.

Developer happiness is a push that companies are starting to embrace.  Even as I updated WordPress to 4.8 today, this headline caught my eye:

With the market being as saturated as it is today, focusing on developers can set you apart from the rest. To focus on developers, it requires more than marketing. Like end users, UX is important. UX for developers means a clear and simple API, beautiful SDKs, great documentation, terrific sample libraries and tools to help them test. With a great platform and happy developers, integration processes are simpler and all teams as a result are happy.

As Ballmer would say “Developers, Developers, Developers!”