Smooth Sailing: Why Blockchain Projects Need to Stop Overlooking Developer Experience

With its many complexities, blockchain poses inherent challenges for developers. The learning curve is steep, tooling often feels immature, trivial tasks like setting up environments take time, and debugging distributed apps adds headaches. While intrinsic to early-stage technologies, many blockchain projects exacerbate these issues by neglecting developer experience.

In the rush to launch mainnets, oddly little emphasis gets placed on crafting elegant, intuitive developer interfaces. But subpar DX (developer experience) directly impedes platform adoption and retention. Friction costs active users, no matter how strong the protocol technology.

Developer experience should never be an afterthought. Ensuring excellent DX requires designing simple, human-centric abstractions for blockchain’s complex foundations. Here are some ways projects can stop overlooking the developer experience:

Obsess Over API Design

APIs are the primary interface for developers. Their design must balance power and simplicity. Clean, obvious objects and actions mapped to clear documentation smooths onboarding. Testing APIs early with real developers flags pain points needing polish before launch.

Build Convenience Libraries

Developers should spend time on business logic, not boilerplate. Projects need well-maintained libraries for common tasks like wallet interactions, smart contract calls, identity management, and tooling integrations. Convenience libraries simplify workflows.

Offer Code Scaffolding & Demos

Developers learn fastest by modifying working code. Projects should provide scaffolds for common app structures that developers can tweak instead of starting from scratch. Demo apps and templates boost productivity.

Ensure Local Development Simplicity

Requiring complex toolchains and dependencies deters experimentation. Projects should optimize for one-click installs, containers, and bundled “dev stack” packages to minimize environment configuration time. Everything should “just work” out of the box.

Provide Debugging Sandboxes

Debugging distributed apps requires inspecting transactions and states across nodes. Sandboxed local environments with monitoring UIs, logs, event triggers, and other debug tools gives visibility into code executions to quickly fix issues.

Emphasize Readable SDK Output

Cryptic binary outputs from SDKs frustrates developers during debugging. JSON responses, console logs as transactions propagate across nodes, and test ETH accounts with clear UIs creates readable output developers understand.

Offer Extensive Code Comments

Clear comments explain intentions and edge cases right alongside implementations in code. Well-documented code allows developers to learn approaches, not just copy-paste. Projects should encourage liberal commenting and recognize it as a contribution.

Implement Feedback Channels

Developers need clear avenues to provide feedback on pain points. Feature requests, documentation, bug reports and other inputs improve DX. User testing also reveals usability issues. Value this feedback loop.

Highlight DX Improvements

Changes enhancing DX show developers their needs are heard. Release notes, tweets, forum posts and other channels should highlight UX and DX-centric improvements with each release to build goodwill and satisfaction.

Allocate DX-Specific Resources

Improving developer experience requires dedicated time beyond core engineering. Having team members, budget and sprints allocated to DX conveys its importance. DX specialists can offer user-centered perspective.

Blockchain brings innate complexities. But projects exacerbate challenges when they ignore developer experience in the name of shipping features. What they fail to recognize is that without usability, features are useless. Teams who lower the barriers through strong DX will go further. Smooth sailing keeps developers engaged on the blockchain voyage.