Even Developers Get Bored

Yep — No matter how cool the technology, topic, or tutorial, if it’s not served in the way your audience wants to receive it, they’ll just ignore it. Developers are just as likely as any other audience to ignore a technically rich deep dive if they can’t easily connect it to information they need or want. So what does it take to make developers taste (much less consume) technical content?

All They Want Is Extra Time — K.I.S.S.

It’s not what you think.

Remember K.I.S.S.? (That’s Keep It Simple, Stupid.) Matthew Pruitt, Head of Global Community and Social Media for Unity, brings this up, along with other great points in his chapter titled “Developing the Right Mindset to Create Great Content” in Slash Data’s Developer Marketing: An Essential Guide.

Matthew suggests you should have the answers to two questions before you start creating content:

  • What is the one takeaway your audience should have after consuming your content?
  • Why should your audience care?

This is true whether you are creating the content yourself or asking a technical author to create it for you. Sussing this out prior to communicating with your content creation team will not only make your content more consumable, but also simplify your content creation process.

They’re Developers, Not Princesses

Remember the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea”? In that story, a true princess can feel the pea, no matter how many mattresses are on top. But if the pea is the kernel of wisdom in your content, a true developer will miss it if it is buried under the mattresses of too much detail.

Evans Data Corporation actually asked developers exactly how they like content to be structured in their Developer Marketing 2019 study. When given a choice between technical content with a densely packed long-form narrative and code, medium-density content with bullet points, charts, and a summary, or  low-density content consisting primarily of images, like charts, graphics, and slides, the majority of developers chose the medium-density option. A mere 10% preferred the low-density option, pointing to the need for more detail than visually appealing image-based content can provide.

This is born out in anecdotal experience as well. In our Writing Winning Content series, developers whose articles have been selected have similar strategies to structure — simplifying the content so it is easy to follow in a how-to, using images and videos to illustrate where clarification is necessary, and incorporating key segments of code.

Et Tu, Documentation?

But, documentation — That should be crazy-detailed, correct?

Um, no.

That is, not exactly.

Evans Data Corporation asked that question as well, and it turns out the K.I.S.S. principle still applies. Developers prefer documentation to include step-by-step instructions, code samples, and some kind of key or structure that makes it easy to navigate.

But — Tutorials, How-To’s and Blogs?

I’m afraid so. Particularly for materials developers view as instructional (which can include blogs), the best way to organize information is to have headings with brief explanations that then point to links with a deeper dive. Use this approach for tutorials, for blogs, and how-to articles, but even consider it for organizing information on landing pages.

For the Road

It turns out, developers are people, too. A technical audience requires attention to style and clarity just like any other audience. Their attention is just as divided as any other audience, so it is essential to get to the point quickly, then offer a path for them to learn more. Regardless of the type of technical content, it all needs to be organized with a bit of audience empathy. 😘