How can I improve my developer experience? 

by Alastair Wilkes in

Five steps to curate a better developer experience for happier developers.

Developers are natural innovators. They thrive when they have the security and time to use their skills to develop. But most developers don’t have the luxury of spending quality time on innovation or developing code. Developer experience combines social and technical systems a developer uses to plan, produce, and monitor software engineering.

By curating a great experience through thoughtful processes, practical tools, and productive collaboration for your teams, you can make an ordinary job into something amazing they want to return to each day. Nurturing a developer mindset of excitement and innovation is incredibly important for your entire organization. But most teams don’t know where to start when asking, “how can I improve my developer experience?”. 

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Five approaches that answer “How can I improve my developer experience?”

Developer experience is all about finding opportunities to establish automation, create better collaboration, and minimize bottlenecks that slow teams down. Here are five steps that an organization can take to improve developer experience

1. Know thy enemy: Identify existing and potential risks to your developer experience

The first step to improve developer experience is identifying any potential risks that could sabotage your DX efforts. Flag and prioritize triggers that negatively impact your developers to give you a starting point. Common issues that plague developer experience include overtaxing your team and bottlenecks that slow your pipeline.

⚠️ Overtaxed development teams

Developers have a lot on their plates, especially with the rise of DevOps and the shared responsibility that comes with it. It can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming when they have to do manual tasks that could be performed automatically instead. And to make matters worse, many development teams are understaffed, making it more likely that these manual tasks will overwork individuals.

⚠️ Bottlenecked pipelines

When a development pipeline suddenly clogs up at a certain point, it can frustrate developers. Bottlenecks could happen for a few reasons, including inefficient testing (waiting on a test for hours or even days), too many manual checkpoints, or inaccurate test results.

2. Go back to basics: Incorporate the fundamental building blocks of developer safety

A developer-safe work culture makes software engineers feel safe from common development risks. Incorporate the fundamental building blocks of developer safety to establish a healthy environment where developers are better supported and thrive.

  • A CI/CD pipeline to reduce human error and create a faster feedback loop for your team.
  • Efficient unit test cases to detect anomalies and prevent accidental bugs from getting shipped with your final product.
  • Disaster recovery plans help safeguard data and reduce offline time as developers rebuild a production environment after a mishap. (Plus, they minimize developer fear of repercussions.)
  • Authentic, honest team collaboration that fosters camaraderie, not competition.
  • Remove the risk of developers getting slowed down by ineffective tooling and infrastructure.

3. Break down the biggest bottlenecks: Improve test selection

Bad test selection leads to major bottlenecks. And destructive tests can come in many forms: flaky tests that return unreliable results, huge suites full of irrelevant tests that take hours to complete, or degrading tests that show consistent entropy over time.

Solve these issues by keeping a close watch on your test suite's state and retiring anything that’s degrading or returning false positives/negatives. Only run the tests that matter in each instance. Your developers shouldn’t have to run your whole test suite after every single commit. This wastes time!

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4. Keep your eyes on what matters: Start measuring developer experience

To ensure that your developer experience efforts are helping, start measuring them. You can measure developer experience with general SDLC metrics like deployment frequency, velocity, change failure rate, and team health. But your developer experience metrics won’t be complete without test data.

With testing being one of the SDLC's biggest bottlenecks, measuring your test suite's entropy will help indicate when developer experience is harmed. To start, track the number of flaky tests, look out for an increase in test session time or test session failure, and identify if there’s been a decrease in test session frequency. 

5. Set your team up for success: Adopt the right developer experience platform 

Despite how mission-critical developer experience is to the success of engineering organizations and product success, there are limited tools that focus on measuring and impacting developer experience.

Traditional development platforms fall short of improving the big picture of developer experience. A true developer experience platform focuses on more intelligent, accurate empathy-driven metrics that directly correlate to improving developers' daily lives and overall organizational health.

Adopting a true developer experience platform can make your goals a reality. But what is the “right” platform for your team? Look for a platform that identifies inefficiencies, produces health metrics beyond outputs, provides flexible options within the platform and enables straightforward implementation (think turnkey SaaS options). 

Get Started Fixing Your Developer Experience with Launchable

Software engineers' happiness and a positive developer experience depend heavily on a culture that limits developer burdens. Depending on where your organization is in the journey to improve your developer experience, it's possible that your bloated development lifecycle currently detracts from your developer experience. Your test suite can harm software engineer happiness and stifle product velocity. That’s where Launchable helps teams launch fearlessly.

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Launchable dramatically reduces wait times for testing, enabling developers to concentrate on innovation and deliver better-quality software more quickly.

Improve test quality using Predictive Test Selection by ranking tests based on their likelihood of failing. With your dynamically selected subset of tests, Predictive Test Selection helps to reduce long-running test suites significantly, giving your developers time back in their days (and nights!). 

More intelligent testing combined with Launchable’s Test Suite Insights further aids developer experience by fixing test suite entropy. Unlike standard output-focused metrics, Launchable gives test suite health metrics so teams can monitor and adjust testing based on factors including flakiness, test session duration, test session frequency, and test session failure ratio.

Although many teams seek to answer “how can I improve my developer experience?”, they often face solving this problem manually. Help your developer experience with Launchable’s turnkey, CI server agnostic platform today.

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