7 Signs of Subpar Developer Experience (and How to Improve It)
Developer Experience (DX or DevEx) has become critical for us to drive innovation, productivity, and success.
As software development teams vie for top talent and strive to deliver exceptional products, we find that DX is no longer a luxury—it's a necessity.
There are telltale signs of subpar DX. It’s easy to miss or ignore them. I’m going to discuss the signs, and also share some of my ideas about how we can improve developer experience.
Why Developer Experience (DX) matters
Developer Experience can make or break a development team.
It's no longer enough to make incremental improvements to your development process.
DX encompasses everything from the ease of use of your APIs and SDKs to the efficiency of your development workflows and the quality of your documentation.
It’s usually a poor DX that is driving away your best people, or best opportunities to hire great people. And your best people represent your competitive edge. It starts with looking after your engineers. But today, adopting tech to make engineers’ lives easier – including AI tools – will increasingly be a factor.
7 signs of subpar developer experience
As leaders, it's crucial we recognise the early warning signs of a subpar Developer Experience.
These indicators can point to deeper issues that, if left unaddressed, may lead to unhappy developers, decreased productivity, and, ultimately, a negative impact on our product's success.
1. Inefficient collaboration
Communication bottlenecks and silos within development teams hinder progress.
A lack of transparency and cross-functional collaboration mean we waste resources in duplicated efforts, missed opportunities, and a slow development process.
Be on the lookout for signs of miscommunication or confusion.
2. Limited tool integration
The modern developer relies on various tools to get the job done. However, fragmented toolsets can create unnecessary challenges and a poor user experience when these tools don't play nicely together. Getting this wrong hampers developers’ productivity.
Insufficient data synchronisation and visibility can lead to information gaps, making it difficult for teams to collaborate effectively and make informed decisions. Watch out for developers complaining about the constant need to switch between tools or manually transfer data.
3. Slow feedback loops
Timely feedback is crucial for continuous improvement, but slow feedback loops can stifle progress.
If developers are left waiting for feedback or approvals, valuable time is wasted, and frustration builds. Keep an eye on your development process to ensure feedback is provided quickly and effectively.
4. Inadequate documentation and resources
Comprehensive, accessible documentation is a vital component of a good DX.
When resources for onboarding and troubleshooting are insufficient, developers waste time searching for answers or resorting to trial and error. Observe if developers frequently ask the same questions or express frustration when seeking information.
5. Insufficient support and community engagement
Support channels and community engagement play an essential role in enhancing DX. Inadequate support and a disconnected developer community can leave our developers feeling isolated and undervalued.
Look for frustration with support resources or a lack of engagement in company-wide initiatives.
6. Burnout and attrition
This one’s a bit of a smoking gun. A poor DX can lead to developer burnout and high turnover rates.
Overworked and underappreciated developers are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. That’s the start of a downward spiral of team morale and project failure. Keep track of team members' workloads and regularly check their wellbeing.
7. Low product quality and slow delivery
When subpar DX plagues a development team, the consequences are often visible in the end product.
Compromised product quality and delayed releases can result from developers struggling with inefficient processes and inadequate resources. Monitor your team's progress and product performance closely to detect signs of a subpar DX.
How to improve DX: 4 strategies and solutions
Recognising the signs of a subpar Developer Experience (DX) is the first step.
The real challenge lies in addressing these issues to create a better environment for your developers.
1. Seamless collaboration
Collaboration can be painful. How much time do you and your project managers spend chasing updates on a feature? Or getting someone to review your pull request?
Transparency is at the heart of a good foundation in collaboration. Foster a culture where conversation and collaboration happen in public channels, not in DMs.
When it comes to tool integration, consider adopting a centralised platform that connects your core tools, such as Slack, Jira, and GitHub.
This unified approach will reduce data silos, improve visibility, and enable more efficient workflows.
This is exactly what CollabGPT is built to do.
CollabGPT is a game-changer I’m working on with my team at Stepsize. It makes collaboration – including inter-team collaboration – seamless and painless.
CollabGPT isn’t just a dumb layer between your data and an LLM. It uses a complex architecture of AI agents to develop long-term “memory” of your projects and their context
So, it can give you on-point summaries of what’s happened, actionable suggestions on what to do next, and answer any question about it instantly.
Here’s where you can find CollabGPT.
2. Improving resources and processes
Ensure that your development team can access up-to-date resources and invest in creating easy-to-follow guides, tutorials, and FAQs. Encourage developers to contribute to documentation, as this will enhance the available resources and foster a sense of ownership and pride in their work.
Consider adopting tools to help with this.
Swimm.io allows you to manage and create documentation within the code editor.
Mintlify is an AI tool that analyses your code, extracts relevant information and presents it in a user-friendly way.
Readable AI automates the process of writing code comments.
I wrote about more AI tools CTOs should know about for their software teams here.
In addition to documentation, provide ample support through dedicated channels, such as help desks, forums, and mentorship programs. Engage with the developer community by organising meetups, hackathons, and workshops to encourage knowledge sharing and networking.
3. Optimise the development environment
Reducing friction in the development environment is critical to boosting productivity and satisfaction. Audit your existing tools and processes to identify areas of improvement and invest in solutions that enable a smooth, efficient workflow. This may include upgrading your development tools, refining your coding standards, or automating repetitive tasks.
Ensure your development process includes timely feedback loops by establishing a robust review and approval system. Where possible, leverage AI-powered tools to analyse code changes, provide automated feedback, and help identify performance bottlenecks.
Here’s some coding AI tools you could use to boost your development environment.
4. And of course, culture
Creating a supportive, inclusive team culture is essential to create a DX that makes great people stay at your business.
Empower your developers by involving them in decision-making processes, recognising their accomplishments, and providing opportunities for growth and learning.
I’m a big believer that when you trust the right people to manage their own time, look after them and encourage them to establish a healthy work-life balance, everyone wins.
Great developer experience and business success correlate.
By identifying the signs of a subpar DX and taking the necessary steps to address them, you'll create an environment where your developers can reach their full potential.
AI-powered tools and collaboration platforms for software engineering have arrived, and they’re ready to help you unlock enormous gains in your development process, streamlining workflows and offering valuable insights.
Don't let subpar DX hold your team back—invest in the right strategies and solutions to fuel your organisation's growth and success.
My team is building CollabGPT, the AI companion for your software projects. It integrates with Jira, Slack and GitHub and offers summaries of what’s happening, actionable suggestions on what to do next and can answer any question.
It’s like having a team member who knows everything that happens and understands what matters.