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The Hoss 2020 Developer Experience Report

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At Hoss, we’re obsessive about developer experience. Developers’ needs and preferences are constantly evolving, so our 2020 Developer Experience Report is a pulse check about what developers expect from API companies right now, and which companies are meeting those expectations. Here’s what the results have to say about experience in 2020:

Great developer experience is industry agnostic.

While 20% of those surveyed reported working in the financial services industry, developers were otherwise remarkably evenly split across the full spectrum of industries, from media and retail to consumer goods and healthcare and life sciences. Every industry is clearly becoming increasingly API-driven (a recent report predicted this would be the case in 2020 and beyond), meaning that no industry is immune to the importance of providing a great developer experience.

The recent Bessemer Ventures State of the Cloud Report 2020 predicted that the API-Universe will drive innovation across all industries and that “there are massive API companies worth billions of dollars in every industry that will further drive digital transformation.”. We certainly agree that the API-Universe is expanding rapidly.

There is significant room for improvement in developer experience today.

On average developers rated the developer experience of APIs they regularly work with 5.7 out of 10. Clearly, there is room for improvement. As the API industry becomes more competitive every day, it will be increasingly important to provide a great developer experience.

Great documentation is more important than you think.

92% of developers list clear and concise documentation as a must-have in any API developer portal. While developer experience can’t be limited to just one great service, this overwhelming response illustrates that great documentation is mandatory. One-third of developers surveyed said that this critical must-have is often missing from the API developer portals they use.

Developers want better tutorials and guides.

After documentation, developers reported helpful tutorials and SDKs or code samples as must-have runners up. While 62% said they consider tutorials and guide a must-have, 46% also said that helpful tutorials and guides are frequently missing from API developer portals, representing an opportunity for companies who want to improve overall experience.

Developers want to be self-reliant. Help them help themselves.

85% of developers say they prefer to research and solve the problem on their own. That could include the use of API documentation, guides and FAQs or third-party resources like StackOverFlow. Meanwhile, only 5% say they prefer contacting support for help solving a problem. It’s important for API companies to acknowledge this strong preference and make it as easy and frictionless as possible for developers to solve problems on their own by providing readily available, intuitive tools, as well as contribute to third-party communities to ensure content is up to date.

Sometimes developers do need support.

While developers prefer to solve their own problems without contacting an API’s support team, 56% said they need to contact support at least monthly. But 26% of developers said that API companies frequently don’t have an easy way to contact support. When the need arises, 36% said they prefer to engage with a support team via email, followed by 26% who prefer to use a messaging service like Slack or Discord.

Developers like community.

Most developers actively participate in and value online communities – 77% said they participate on StackOverFlow, 61% on Github, 56% on Hacker News and 44% on Reddit Programming. API companies who want to provide a great developer experience should participate in these communities, contribute helpful content, answer questions, and learn from users. Communities are an excellent source of product feature and content ideas.

Stripe is considered the gold-standard.

If you’re looking for an example of great developer experience in 2020, look at Stripe. Developers preferred the Stripe experience by a landslide, followed by a three-way tie between Github, Google and Twilio.

What makes Stripe so great? They are known for their high quality, interactive documentation, they offer helpful tutorials and guides, provide code samples, have a clear and simple way to contact support when needed, and offer a number of other great features like an API changelog, API status updates and more – all of which are easy to find at a glance and intuitive to use. Creating and maintaining all of these resources takes a lot of time and money, but clearly Stripe’s attention to experience is resonating with developers.

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