Obtaining feedback from developers to better your product offering is a must.
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It’s imperative that products are making educated decisions as they grow and evolve their offering. Each and every decision should be guided by your external developer community, both paid and free customers. Often times we think we know what is best for our users because we focus on it day over day. Developers who use your product day over day know a lot more about your product than you ever will. They will know tips & workarounds used to make exceptions for your products fallbacks.
You need to ensure that you're engaging and communicating with developers in platforms and using tools that you're focused on growing engagement within. What does that mean? Don't not start a giant email chain with a group of developers and ask them individually to share what they think. Drive them towards your feedback or community platforms to complete these conversations, in hopes that after the feedback is complete, they will continue to provide value in these spaces.
When you put a group of developers together, they can accomplish a lot more than they can alone. The same goes for feedback. You will receive the most honest, detailed feedback if you start a conversation with the group together. Creating a forum category (or similar experience that aligns with your community platforms), inviting the entire group, and posing the feedback needs to the group will allow for a more conversational feedback loop. Ever watch a tabs vs spaces conversation among developers? We want this passion. We want to tap into their opinions and expose them and dive deep for the big and small details around improving your product.
Developers can see through your trickery. It’s important that developers know that you truly value their feedback and involvement. If any part of your communications seem selfish, sales or marketing driven, or lack compassion for their needs, you’ll fail. Developers give back when they know the other party is willing to do the same.
See Building Trust Model to think about how to initiate engagement with a developer.
Once you are able to bring a developer into a feedback loop of any kind, it’s important that you continue to engage and amplify that developer. If they have helped you, by providing invaluable feedback, you need to return the favor and continue to provide value to them.
Provide some type of a value to the developers that help grow and better your product. Depending on your company size and following, a social shoutout could be incredibly valuable and an easy task for your company to complete. My recommendation is to include thank you's in your changelog or release notes. These are content pieces that will be around for a long time and my naming those that helped with that release will allow for continued trust with that developer because you're giving them credit for their work.
Your product should be guided by developer-driven decisions, with a feedback program using the right tools to solicit feedback, ensuring developers can share their opinions in a place that allows for continued engagement, and ensuring credit is given to those who contribute.