DX, or Developer Experience, is a lot more than just providing an API to customers. For SendGrid, DX includes documentation, libraries, code examples, as well as the environment for technical customers to find, and interface with, our APIs. That’s what I would call the core of DX, and that marries well with John Sheehans 2012 post about the DX baseline.
Even though this is a pretty good description of what DX is, it doesn’t really describe what DX does. To me, DX doesn’t just solve a problem. The goal of DX is to provide an answer to a problem (or problems) you didn’t even consider yet.
To demonstrate what DX does and why it’s so important to all companies providing developers with awesome tools, I’m going to use an example:
The Email Apocalypse
Let’s say you work at a company that’s always sent email from the corporate SMTP server. Due to the size of your company, you’ve gotten away with this for years, but all of a sudden your emails aren’t getting to your customers, and your CEO’s email to the CFO just bounced back. Come on IT! What are you guys doing over there!! This is supposed to just work!! (kidding!)
Queue today’s apocalypse.
The problem you think you have is related to SMTP. So you hit up Google, find SendGrid, and sign up to use SMTP for all your marketing and transactional emails. You just saved the day and it took like 15 minutes!
The problem is, you then realize that SMTP can be real chatty. SMTP sends out little notes between your script and the server to keep the connection alive, which holds up the network until it’s done. You may have just sent 1,000,000 emails easily (because SendGrid handled it for you), but you also held up your data center network with all the SMTP traffic.
Had you found an API solution to this problem, it could have prevented all theses issues because it uses HTTP to chunk things up and collects them on the other end.
Here’s how DX helps to solve this situation: DX helps people find more than the solution to their current problem, it helps them find the right solution to their problem.
Bringing it Full-Circle
In the example above, SendGrid actually provides API Documentation as an alternate solution to SMTP. We do that because when the time comes to fix an urgent email crisis, you’ll have options and can choose the best solution for your needs. We can’t decide which answer is right for you, but we do know our customers, and we’ll be there waiting with multiple solutions when they need them.
This is the new DX. Help your customers quickly find the right solution to their problem using your product from the first second they have a problem. Don’t make them dig, don’t make them explore. Meet them where they are, jump into the apocalypse with them and help them out. Right now, not when they’ve been searching to find the answer for hours, because the answer they find first might be on your competitor’s website.