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Why Developer Research?

August 26, 2014

Every now and then we get asked about the relevancy of market research in the technology sector. Why is survey research among developers important? Who should care about it and isn’t it enough to just ask the developers down the hall in our own company what they think? So here’s some stray thoughts on the value of primary developer survey research.

In the first place – who should care? Basically everyone who has any kind of stake in technology adoption and evolution should care. Whether your company is a software provider with heavy development tools investments or a shoe company that publishes APIs and wants developers to adopt them, you need to know what developers are doing now, and maybe more importantly what they intend to do in the future. Developers are the bell weather for the industry. They tipped the balance on targeting Android vs iPhone in 2011, years before the total number of iPhones shipped sank behind Android phones in later years. To look into the future of technology, observe what developers are doing today.

If you have any direct interaction with developers you need to know what languages, platforms and tools they use now and what they plan to use in the future so that the APIs, platforms, tools etc you create will be the ones that are adopted. You should also want to know what their pain points are now and what they wish for in the future, as addressing those issues presents an opportunity. You can’t find out any of that by scraping the screen at Github or counting how many books someone sold on a particular language. It’s only primary survey research that can give you those answers.

In a software related company there is sometimes the tendency to think it’s enough to ask your own developers. Why isn’t that enough? For one, your own developers are without any doubt biased, and that makes them not representative of the larger universe. And you probably aren’t going to ask several hundred of your own developers, which would mean your sample size is likely too small, even if the developers weren’t biased.

All primary research is valuable, but when you’re talking about a technology landscape that changes as fast as this one does, developer research is critical

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