Developer experience.

By Filippo Conforti on August 22, 2023

Developer experience refers to the overall feelings and perceptions that developers have when interacting with a technical product, such as an ecommerce platform. Until recently, it was considered a nice to have, but not a key factor in choosing a new technology. Companies used to choose their solution based on factors that were considered more important, like customer adoption, analyst recognition, and cost. A decision was then communicated to developers who would have to implement the selected solution, adapting their skills and preferences accordingly. A top-down approach, with the "top" being the company executives and the "down" being the developers.

Developers want to be heard

Throughout the years, top-down decision-making processes have determined the success of many vendors. A turn-key solution with everything included out-of-the-box has made it too attractive to be influenced by developer concerns. In the end, an ecommerce platform is just a piece of software, and it is the developer's responsibility to develop and manage software. Programming language, architecture, and development environment have always been considered secondary details that will be eventually resolved during project execution.

However, as history has shown, turn-key ecommerce platforms simply do not exist, at least not in the enterprise space. Business owners have realized that the features they need aren't included in any box. We have all become familiar with replatforming projects that take two or three years to complete. Getting a project done on time and on budget is a myth that no one has ever lived. Suddenly, the “Nobody Gets Fired For Buying IBM” safe bet isn't as safe anymore, and CIOs have stated paying more attention to their developers' voice.

Developers want to go headless

In headless commerce, the frontend and backend of an ecommerce platform are decoupled. Developers are undoubtedly among the main proponents of this architecture. But why is that? There are many reasons, but the developer experience is certainly one of the most compelling.

The separation of the frontend and backend not only speeds up their websites, but also gives them the freedom to choose the technology they like best. With the right APIs at their disposal, developers can build anything they want. Additionally, they can experiment with new stuff, whether it is a new framework or an AI-based shopping experience.

First and foremost, headless commerce brings huge benefits to an organization and has a direct impact on the business. Having a happy developer means shipping new features faster. Whenever you A/B test two variations of a website and prove one converts better than the other, for every day that you delay releasing the version that converts better, you're literally losing money. It's even worse, when you lose a talented developer that moves on because of frustration with legacy tech, you're giving your competition the upper hand.

Developers want to work from anywhere

The remote working trend has gained momentum after two years of pandemic and has become irreversible in many instances. Most developers would change jobs if they had to return to work. Others would find another company if they had to work with unappealing technology.

Working from anywhere has made the developer experience much more relevant, going from a nice to have to one of the most important factors in the decision making process. The traditional, top-down decision-making process is giving way to a developer-first, bottom-up approach.

Talent acquisition and retention will be a challenge for companies that don't adapt. A decade later, software really ate the world. Developers have become the new rock stars, and the noise sound of their mechanical keyboards can be heard everywhere.

Developers are also responsible for the developer experience

I recently came across the blog of Addy Osmani, a software engineer at Google working on Chrome. As Addy wrote in one of his articles, "good code is like a love letter to the next developer who will maintain it". Essentially, code quality is an intimate form of communication between developers that spans time and space. It's a romantic way of saying that developers are also responsible for the experiences of other developers.

To quote his own words, “coding is an act of creation, not unlike writing a poem or painting a picture. The beauty of our creations, however, is not judged solely by the elegance of our algorithms or the efficiency of our code, but by the joy and ease with which others can build upon our work. As developers, our task is not just to solve today's problems but also to ensure we do not become tomorrow's problem.”

As someone who designed an API for developers—and as an incurable romantic—I relate to the parallel between coding and creativity very well. Any organization that wants to grow and take their brand and business to the next level must invest in developers and ensure they're always motivated to write beautiful code.

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