Re-examining the developer experience


The way developers engage is evolving. A great developer experience is no longer simply about having a great product and accessible platform.


Building a low-touch platform

Back in the early days of Pusher, Max wrote about what we’d learned about the developer experience in our short time in the space. At that time our understanding of building products for developers was simple; grounded in accessibility and scalability.

The mantra from Steve Krug’s 2000s critique of complex user interfaces, “Don’t make me think”, rings true to this day. Hundreds of thousands of lines of code later, we stand by the philosophy that we espoused 8 years ago: the best APIs are low-touch by nature.

A low-touch platform comprises a number of vital components which are still at the core of our development philosophy. Most importantly:

  • The product must be good
  • It should be supported by sufficient resources and tooling for us to make minimal contact in the decision-making stage

While some of the Pusher team would love to spend all day speaking to users about what they’re building, typically the less we hear from them, the better we can say we are doing. Theoretically, the majority of sign ups should be able to decide that the Pusher APIs are what they need and navigate through the onboarding process independently.

It’s not uncommon for us to come across applications which have been built on Pusher infrastructure for years, but remained below our radar because, well, the API just works. No support issues raised, no confusion about documentation; just beautiful, healthy apps. When this happens, it’s a fantastic feeling.

While many of the original principles remain the same, the tech community is evolving. The world has changed since those early days. There are far more devs, with more diverse backgrounds and experiences. The space they occupy has changed drastically as well.

This year, we’re re-evaluating the community contribution to our product roadmap and getting back into the field.

Taking the community’s lead

The last couple of years have posed an interesting challenge when it comes to engaging informally with users. Some of our go-to routes have been off limits; large scale events were a big no and our Pusher Sessions meetup collective, who we partner with to produce and stream tech talks, was forced to move online.

It’s all well and good paying attention to incoming issues and reporting back from support calls, but there’s a level of engagement and transparency which is only achieved when we connect authentically with users in community-built spaces.

Our users are extraordinary creators. They constantly surprise us with what they do and we want to know more of them much better. To do that we need to make sure that we’re actively opening up channels for feedback and improving the developer experience outside of our platform – in the channels they’re gravitating toward as a community.

We’re present in some of those spaces already, but we do need to adapt for newer styles of engagement. Since joining the MessageBird family in 2020, we’re also becoming a much more global company. Our product reach has expanded, and our community reach needs to follow that model.

The diversification of community channels was already in serious growth mode, and the pandemic has dramatically accelerated that. A newer community stack is on the rise and in turn, the way developers are learning is changing.

We are becoming social learners

Conference and meetup talks and technical tutorials have filled our YouTube feeds for years now. With the addition of Twitch and the development of more user-friendly streaming functionality across the industry, video has taken off as one of the most important means of building skills.

Twitch offers a very attractive alternative to scripted training and tutorials. It captures a more realistic picture of what the experience of being a developer is like; reacting to issues and solving them together in real-time. The authenticity of watching code in action and being part of the conversation has serious resonance with the new tech-native generation of developers.

This concept of social learning extends to all of the most popular developer knowledge platforms today; Discord, Slack, Reddit and Stack Overflow to name a few. More and more we look instinctively to both experts and peers online in social spaces to assist us, rather than to a “traditional” course or documentation guide.

The rise of the API was a response to a movement away from monolithic infrastructure. In order to serve an impatient market, products have to be delivered much faster today than they did in the past. Under pressure to build more complicated systems at speed, developers increasingly rely on the expertise of other tools via modular systems.

Now we’re seeing a movement away from monolithic learning. As the skillset required from developers expands exponentially, they look to more participatory, informal and engaging mediums to crowdsource those skills.

It’s hardly surprising when you consider how much the pathways to the developer career have expanded over the past few years. A college degree is rarely a hard requirement for a developer role these days, Stack Overflow’s 2021 developer survey found that almost 60% of respondents learned to code using online sources.

Furthermore, so many of us are remote workers now. Despite the perks and privileges of working from home, there are days when being stuck inside your own head can get a bit tired. Opening up a Slack channel or Discord stream and running it in the background almost feels like being part of a coworking space. You’re learning as part of a team and can interject where and when something speaks to you.

Pusher isn’t a no-code platform, but we’re still dedicated to making our tools as easy to adopt as possible for all developers. The future of great developer experience extends beyond our systems and resources.

We can’t rely solely on providing an excellent product with high quality documentation and waiting for developers to find us. We need to be more actively engaged in those learning spaces ourselves. Our platform should still be low-touch, easy access, but that doesn’t mean we want the Pusher team to be invisible.

There are a few elements we need to address with the future in mind:

  • Expanding our output to cater to that diversification of learning
  • Taking a more proactive role in supporting the tech community at large
  • Opening up better feedback loops with users

Call for Community 2022

We’re ready to level up our community function in 2022. We already have some exciting plans in mind but first and foremost, we want to take the opportunity to listen. That’s why we’re launching the Pusher Call for Papers Community. We’d love for you to contribute your ideas to help give us a better understanding of where you enjoy spending your time and where you want to see more support.

Have an amazing meetup group that’s looking for sponsorship? Craving in-person events and want to weigh in on where we should be taking our swag this year? Looking for contributors to your streaming channel? Ready to do your first tech talk and not sure where to start? Built something awesome and need a shout out for your platform? Working with tech students and looking for partnerships? This is our open call for thoughts.