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Do’s And Don’ts For Building A Developer Community

Support your developer community. Developers want to create successful stuff instead of try and error.
Support your developer community. Developers want to create successful stuff instead of try and error.

The great thing about the software tools today is, that most of them provide an API for developers. People can enhance, connect or create new products with the API. But how can you support developers and build a developer community or developer ecosystem? This Do’s and Dont’s list will help you to navigate through the unlimited possibilities of activities.

Don’ts for building a developer community

  • Not knowing for whom you do it all! If you’re not a developer, learn who they are and how they behave.
  • Building obstacles like up-front registration processes.
  • Not using tools developers use (Github, StackOverflow, Twitter, Pastebin).
  • Not Updating the documentation according to the releases.
  • Setup the community tools and don’t have dedicated employees (developers!) who are actively participating and answering peoples requests.
  • Setup the community tools and wait for developers. There are thousands of projects and tools out there. As with everything, you need to get attention and spark interest (AIDA). Adapt your developer community to your product: niche product vs. highly scalable – cost-effective/best customer relationship/best in class.
  • Having not-working examples, outdated SDKs or just fiddling code which only work in 0.1%.
  • Making the libraries or SDKs not accessible. Put the code on Github, put Java libs in the Maven central repository.
  • Let the developers find out that you broke the API. Instead, proactively inform users about the uptime of the product and API with statuspage.io.
  • Being impatient – Don’t forget: Overnight success takes years!
  • Create processes and governance around your API – developers want to have fun.
  • Not listening to feedback from the community.

Do’s for building a developer community

  • The most important thing for a developer is providing an appropriate documentation about the API. What is appropriate? Enough to understand, but not excessive nonsense. For example, Strava has a nice comprehensive API documentation.
  • Examples and tutorials lower the learning curve.
    Examples and tutorials lower the learning curve.

    Beyond the API documentation go further and provide a set of example code to see how it works and how to start.

  • Have a developer portal with all the necessary tools (e.g. Wiki, Bug-Tracker, Code Repository). Take one they are familiar with, e.g. Github.
  • Extend the developer portal with interactive features, where developers can help each other.
  • Forums and Mailing lists are still okay but, consider up to date tools like Slack or Hipchat.
  • Respond fairly quick to developer tickets. Of course, the developer would like to have an answer within seconds, but 24h is nice if the response is helpful.
  • Have a one-step registration to use the API (not for documentation).
  • Give developers a sandbox where they can test the limits.
  • Are you still interested in building a developer community?
  • Maintain ready to run examples and SDKs in various programming languages as open source projects. If you do your job right (and have a good product), the developer community will start own examples, libs, and tools. Encourage them, promote them, give them Kudos.
  • Developer Community Meetups: Get in contact and listen to them.
    Developer Community Meetups: Get in contact and listen to them.

    Partner with strong people in the developer community. Make them Developer Advocates/Evangelists/whatever.

  • Create a buzz about your developer communities products in blog posts, conferences, industry fairs, social media, print magazines.
  • Start regular meetups, hackathons, developer roadshows. Go as global as your developer community.
  • Ah, you see, it costs a lot of effort and also some money – but the Do’s are still going on:
  • Create a certified developer program to educate developers how to use your API and tools the right way. Assess and certify them, so they can promote themselves.
  • Provide an (at least kind of) marketplace where developer community products can be promoted.

Yes, building a developer community is nor easy, quick or cheap. But at least you don’t have to find out this by yourself. Good luck. Feel free to add your advice in the comments. I plan to update the list.

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