How developers investigate new technologies

The purpose of this study was to understand what steps and processes developers take when they see or hear about a potentially interesting new technology. This includes how they might respond to seeing new APIs, SDKs, software, services, hardware, or any other kind of new technology.

Make their lives easier in some way
Let them try things themselves ASAP
Tell them what the tech does and what problems it is solving
Tell them how it integrates with other technologies they might use

The study consisted of 30 minute, 1-on-1 interviews with a range of developers.

We found:

  1. The developers we spoke to were all looking for technologies that would make their lives easier in some way. Whether that was through automation, productivity tools, or other time saving technologies - this was a really highly sought after topic.
  2. Developers wanted to get their hands on and try things themselves ASAP. If they couldn't try it out themselves, developers said they would find reviews or opinions from other developers, bloggers, or trusted review sites who had been able to try it out first hand. Other options included looking on Stack Overflow for discussion/questions about the technology, checking out sites like Wirecutter or Engadget (or similar), or looking for user reviews as a first point of call.
  3. Some of the most common factors that play into a developer's decision to use a new technology:
  • clear and transparent pricing
  • a clear definition of what the tech does and what problems it is solving
  • how it integrates with other technologies they might use
  • information about the company itself (many said they wanted to know how stable the company was and how well they were supporting the technology)

Deep dive: Do developers check out technologies they see in ads?

There was a mixed response to this, though there were a few factors that had a big impact. Some developers flat out said they never click on ads but would Google the companies/products they see in ads. Some developers said they do click on ads that are compelling enough.

When it came to what makes up a compelling ad, the biggest factors discussed were:

  • having great, developer-focused copy that didn't sound like 'hype'
  • brand recognition; whether that came from their own personal experiences with a brand or from others mentioning a brand where the ad was hosted. Ads hosted on sites like Stack Overflow or very technical blogs were trusted more than those on random sites.
“Facebook ads I generally distrust because it's shotgun marketing. There's probably some things I've looked at from Jeff Atwood's blog or some ads from Stack Overflow, because I know it's a very specific kind of company that's deciding to advertise on Stack, so I'll usually give them a chance.”
“The word choice is important - I can tell if it's hype or not. Did it go through the PR department or was it actually run by the engineering team? It's clickbait vs. "we know you have this problem and we've solved it." The little ads usually have like 1 or 2 lines, so if you've got 12 words the choices they make with those words definitely make an impact.”
“If I've heard colleagues mentioned a piece of technology before and then I later encounter an ad for that same piece of technology, I will probably be more likely to follow through and click it.”

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