The hierarchy of developer needs

Mike Stowe takes a look at the Hierarchy of Developer Needs, and how you can use it to balance your efforts and ensure your users are successful.


  • Understanding the basic needs of developers

  • Understanding AIDA model

  • Digging deeper into company and developer needs.

  • Putting it together

    • Audit

      • Any hierarchy needs to be audited.

    • Plan

      • Understanding where in the funnel you need to focus

      • Are the funnels actually working and driving developers

      • How is the audit affecting the strategy

    • Measure

      • Applying metrics at each stage to measure success, blockers, tactics.

    • Focus

      • On needs of developers

      • Building a self-sustaining community

      • Helping developers become advocates and empower them

  • Guiding developers through the hierarchy or funnel without friction

  • Focusing on their psychological and self-fulfilment needs


The focus of this talk

Try to figure out

  • Where & how do we focus our efforts and energy

  • How much money to build a strong program.

A few questions that bother everyone

  • How do you actually build a developer relations program?

    • Should you be focused on the community?

    • Should you be focused on events?

    • Should you be focused on evangelism or education,

    • Should you be focused on open source?

  • What is it that makes a good developer relations program?

  • Where do you invest for maximum impact?

  • How do you grow and expand your program in a scalable manner?

  • How do you grow it without having to hire 40 developer evangelists on a daily basis?

  • How do you grow it without having to hire 10 community managers to try to manage your forums or your community?

  • How do you go a step further and take your developers and convert them into advocates?



  • Understand where you’re at today, and what steps you need to take to get to where you want to be tomorrow.

  • 2 different frameworks for answering the above questions and how to measure them

  • This is the same tool Mike has used going from stealth startups to public companies

The question to ask before starting

If you were asked to start a global meetup program, what would you need to do in order to accomplish that?”‌‌

The answer will differ for different people‌‌

  • For an established company like SalesForce,

    • A global meetup program is already there.

  • For a program like MuleSoft, where the community is built first,

    • Able to launch a meetup program with 40 meetups in about 12 months.

  • For a brand new startup

    • A global program is uncertain, starting with one meetup will be the key to find out if it is something they need.

Purpose of Developer Relations.

Developer Relations is a symbiotic program designed to help both the developers and the company. At the same time, DevRel needs to be an advocate for the developers.‌‌

  • They need to make sure they’re putting the developer’s success first,

  • Helping the developers in everything that they do

    • Not just trying to sell them technology, but help them grow their careers

    • Bringing new technology to the developers,

  • Helping developers utilize, adopt the technology

  • Helping them evangelize the company’s tech.

    • Ultimately, you want them to be so happy with the technology that they’re talking about it to others - see the value in the technology that you see in the technology.

Two Parts

  • Your company has to be successful

  • Your developers have to be successful

What does your company need to be successful?

  • Use the standard AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) model marketing funnel

    • DevRel is really responsible for the developer journey from raising awareness to all the way to adoption advocacy.

  • Awareness

    • Without awareness, developers can’t find the technology

    • They can’t learn about the technology or use it and certainly can’t advocate for it

  • Consideration (Interest), ie: “Okay, I’m interested. I’m thinking about using this.”

    • Giving them the tools to understand, like developer documentation, sandbox environment, etc.

  • Adoption (Desire)

    • Assist them through the adoption process of becoming a customer.

    • That may be,

      • Free APIs: Using the freemium model.

      • Paid APIs: Adopting the paid or premium model.

  • Advocacy (Action)

    • Taking the developer who’s using the technology

    • Change them from being someone who loves technology, to someone who’s willing to tell others about the technology.

What do people need to be successful?

  • Devs are people, they have basic needs

  • Basic needs fulfilled

    • survival

  • Psychological fulfilled

    • purpose

  • Ability to become self-fulfilled

    • happiness

What do developers need to be successful?

  • Basic Needs

    • Basic Enablement

      • Documentation and onboarding -- without this, you are losing developers on the very first step of the process.

    • Community

      • Slacks, forums, social media to connect similar people sharing same the same process and so that they don't feel lost or alone.

  • Education

    • Making sure developers grow -- you don't want them to be stuck with your product, you should make them grow.

  • Self-fulfilment

    • Expanded Enablement

      • Online workshops and webinars, where they can watch and practice the product and various test cases.

    • In-person events

      • One of the main 🔑 elements in the whole process is to build a community of developers and who don't feel they are alone and want to grow.

If your program is not meeting the basic needs, it dosen't matter how great your other programs are.

Basic Enablement

  • Messaging

    • Is your website clear in conveying the message?

    • Your messaging should be clear enough and to-point for developers to understand what exactly your product does and brings to the table

  • Navigation

    • The website should be easy to navigate to areas that are always needed by the developers.

  • Account creation

    • Should be a low-step process.

    • Lesser the steps the better

  • Access to credentials

  • Access to documentation

    • Important step to achieve developer retention.

    • If a developer is interested in the product, they want to dive right in, there might be existing tutorials from 3rd part sources, but documentation from the organization to make the onboarding of devs easier is a must.

  • Usability and searchability

  • Getting started guides

  • Tutorials and examples

  • Error reporting

If a developer cannot create an account and build their first basic app with 5 minutes, your platform is too difficult to use.


  • A way for developers to obtain support, network with each other and be recognized by the organization.


  • Internal

    • Forum

    • Team messaging

    • MVP program/ambassadors

  • External

    • StackOverflow

    • Social Channels

    • GitHub


  • Making sure developers become experts in their field

    • Blogs

    • Videos

    • Podcasts

    • Open-source

    • Training programs

Expanded Enablement

  • Taking education up a notch.

    • Webinars

    • White-papers

    • Case studies

    • Online workshops

    • Virtual events

    • Certification

In-person activities

  • Great way for creating connections with your developers, recognizing potential DevRel qualified leads and rewarding them. (Not sure about DevRel qualified leads? Here's a link that should help you out)

    • Meetups

    • Summits

    • Hackathons

    • Conferences

Last updated