What is Developer Experience (DevEx)?

Over the last two years, I have been investigating developer experience - that is, how developers experience their work and how that influences outcomes such as productivity, code quality, or retention.

In our first in-depth study, we look at which factors influence developer experience. We found 25 factors that developers regularly described when they talked about developer experience and grouped them into 4 categories:

  • Development and release
  • Product management
  • Collaboration and culture
  • Developer flow and fulfillment

We also identified how developer experience can be improved and which strategies developers have to improve it, as well as which challenges and barriers they face when they try to improve DevX.

Developers started to talk about DevX

Our research was published in mid-2022 (you can download the full paper here), and since then, a lot of people in the industry have started to talk about developer experience. This is awesome!

Developers all around the world could relate to our findings and echoed that they indeed need good developer experience to be productive and ship high-quality code. Developers know that they need time to focus and do deep work. They know about flow state and how fast code review turnaround times are a game changer.

DevX drives productivity

In a recent article, we published on ACM, we talked about how developer experience can be described with three dimensions. Those dimensions are flow state, feedback loops, and cognitive load. In this article, we also briefly highlight how to measure DevEx, and give example metrics that cover all three dimensions. We also cover case studies from companies we worked with, such as eBay, and Pfizer to demonstrate how they use metrics to understand their internal developer experience.

DevX? No buy-in from management

But while developers quickly grasped the importance of developer experience, business folks were too far away from programming to understand the significance DevX has on business outcomes. The fact is that many companies are only willing to spend money on DevX during “good“ times — when we have too much time, too much money, and no other priorities. Well, those times do not exist, especially not with a bad DevX.

When talking to engineering leaders, we realized that what is missing is data that quantifies the impact of DevX. That’s why we have worked on getting this data over the last year. Data that shows the impact of DevX on productivity, code quality, retention, innovation - well, all the outcomes that business cares about.

Hard numbers to convince business

Our research article will be published soon. The research goal was to quantify DevX’s impact on developers, teams, and organizations. The picture below highlights how improvements to the flow state of developers, their cognitive load, and the feedback loops they encounter have a direct and quantifiable impact.

Code Review Related DevX

Another interesting outcome of this study is that we could show that a smooth code review process impacts productivity, retention, and learning. As you see in the quote below, code reviews also impact innovation.

A fast code review turnaround time leads to a 20% increase in innovation.

If we think about it, it makes sense. Innovation suffers if we have to wait a long time to get feedback on our work or if releasing new features is painful.

How to Improve Code Review Turnaround Times

But which strategies help to increase turn-around times? Well, that depends on the underlying root cause for the slow feedback. But have a look at the code review best practices to find some universal strategies to improve your code review practice.

This article first appeared on https://awesomecodereviews.com. Last updated: December 18, 2023

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Written by Dr. Michaela Greiler who is obsessed with making code reviews your superpower. Learn more about her workshops.