What Does it Take to Deliver the Best Developer Experience? 

by Alastair Wilkes in ,

Five key tenets to foster happiness, productivity, and speed for the best developer experience.

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - The first sentence of Leo Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina. 

The Anna Karenina principle states that a deficiency in many factors dooms an endeavor to failure. While Tolstoy was talking about the key components families need to be happy, his principle also rings true for developer experience.

For a software development organization to deliver the best developer experience, all critical ingredients must be in place. The right tools, systems, and cultural practices can increase developer productivity and happiness.

What does it take to deliver the best developer experience? There are five keys to providing the ultimate developer experience. Understanding how the fundamental tenets can deliver the best developer experience will foster happiness, productivity, and speed for your developers and the entire organization. 

1. Comprehensive understanding of the developer’s journey

To serve up an outstanding developer experience, organizations must empathize with developers and understand the developer’s journey.

Like a customer journey, the developer journey identifies the path a developer experiences throughout the software development life cycle. By considering the standard routes and pitfalls of the developer’s journey, an organization can focus on delivering the best developer experience by making that journey stronger, smoother, and overall better.

Good questions for organizations attempting to understand a developer’s journey and improve developer experience include:

  • What are all of the tasks developers must complete to achieve an end goal?
  • What are the common pain points hit during workflow?
  • What are the emotions (positive and negative) developers experience during the SDLC?
  • What tools do they use and need?
  • How reliable and effective is the feedback loop?
  • Who interacts with the developer, and how often?
  • What would make the developer’s life easier?

Understanding the developer's journey is all about understanding their job's nitty-gritty, daily aspects. By understanding exactly how a developer fulfills their function at an organization, leadership can work to implement tools and practices that deliver a better developer experience

2. Development feedback loop optimization

For many developers, slow test times and massive test suites are the ultimate bottlenecks and a constant, irritating issue that bogs workflow. After all, for every change, developers must run a series of tests and test suites, which compounds the delay in the feedback. 

It’s critical to start running the right tests at the right times to cut testing times for the best developer experience. Launchable’s Predictive Test Selection ranks tests by importance to code changes, helping developers create a unique subset (based on this ranking) in real-time. With Predictive Test Selection, developers can run a fraction of a test suite while remaining confident they will uncover failures or errors.

Shorter, smarter testing times = happier developers.

3. Collaboration that fosters community and resource sharing

To create happy, productive developers, organizations must foster a workplace of collaboration and camaraderie. One of the most effective ways to do this is to spread out and share responsibilities across a team so that no single developer is “to blame” if an issue occurs. 

Encouraging this kind of teamwork also helps to create a developer-safe workplace, where developers feel inspired to take risks and try new tactics. It’s important to remember that a work environment is also a social atmosphere. Creating an atmosphere of collaboration is mandatory to create the best developer experience.

4. Fostering innovation

Fostering innovation and a culture of experimentation is another crucial component to building the best developer experience possible.

At heart, developers are problem solvers. Most developers relish the opportunity to tinker, try new techniques, and experiment their way to a solution. 

However, developers often get bogged down in rote, manual tasks simply because that’s how they’ve always been done. See: running a gauntlet of tests for every single change or running legacy tests

But by creating a culture of innovation and experimentation, whether by proposing new tools to shorten testing times or encouraging swift failure, a workplace driven by innovation is like Nirvana to developers. 

Pushing for innovation empowers developers to do their best work and to take chances on measures that could speed up workflow velocity and ultimately release times. For the best developer experience, encourage getting a little weird and thinking outside of the box. 

5. A proactive measure of feedback

The proactive feedback measure is often a lower prioritized but essential aspect of delivering the best developer experience. The unfortunate reality is that most developers would probably have a tough time answering questions about the basic health of their test suites. 

Test suite entropy is hard to detect and directly impacts developer experience. Often teams have to rely on gut-based decisions about test suites and battle flaky tests as a pervasive issue. Launchable’s Test Insights was born to help developers better understand their test suites' health to make better, data-based decisions.

  • Quickly identify the top flaky tests in a test suite to prioritize fixing the right tests.
  • Alert developers of an increase in test session time, which indicates developer cycle time trending up.
  • Flag which tests are run less often, which is a signal for negative health metrics, including increased cycle time, reduced quality, or fewer changes flowing through the pipeline.
  • Track tests that are failing more often. An increase in this metric indicates a release is becoming unstable, especially if the bump is in post-merge tests.

Accessing and understanding key metrics about the health of a test suite enables developers to work smarter, not harder, for the best developer experience.

Made by developers for developers, we focus on improving the lives of developers and helping them to launch fearlessly. Make time for innovation while speeding up your testing cycles with Launchable for the best developer experience. Request a proof of concept today.

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