In brief

In brief

  • As the technology landscape continues to change at pace, developers’ potential has substantially expanded over the last five years.
  • Now is the time to invest or risk being left behind in the increasingly fierce competition for developer engagement.
  • But what is required for platforms to effectively attract, engage and retain developers both locally and globally?
  • Through research conducted with 1,752 developers in China and the US, we learned there are numerous nuanced differences to consider.

How developers are similar

Three factors universally matter to developers: their experience, their peer network and their access to learning.

The developer experience:

In both the US and China developers value technically accurate, current content and timely and knowledgeable support.

The network effect:

Developers are highly motivated by peer recognition, and peer perceptions are a key consideration when deciding on platforms, products and services.


In the US, developers rate learning as the most important attribute an ecosystem can offer while in China it ranks among the top five.

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How developers are different

While developers agree on the broad factors they value from developer ecosystems, they vary considerably in their detailed wants and needs.

  1. Demographics: China is a rising force as a nation of developers and the Chinese developer community is an important constituency for any growing platform. The demographic differences between the China and US developer populations are a first distinction to note. The Chinese professional developer base is younger and more exclusively male than the US. Furthermore, Chinese developers are more often affiliated with small (<100) to medium-sized (100-499 person) businesses, while the US community is comprised of a greater percentage of enterprise developers and those with more programming experience.
  2. Content: While there is agreement among developers in both countries on their desire for accurate content and knowledgeable support, there are many nuanced differences in developers’ needs in both areas. For example, language needs are obviously different. While translation is not an issue to US developers working on US platforms, it certainly is in China where a minority of developers are fluent in English. In fact, the vast majority of developers in China believes having developer notes in their native language is critical. When it comes to accessing content, developers in China rely heavily on third-party portals and Bulletin Board Systems. Developers in the US use these sources as well, but Chinese developers are more reliant on third-party sites than their US counterparts. Chinese developers feel platform content often lacks quality, accuracy and timeliness and peer-to-peer support can be less helpful than in the US, so they turn to alternative sources.
  3. Support: Another stark difference between the two developer communities is their perspective on paying for support. A greater percentage of the professional developers we surveyed in China are more willing to pay for support than those in the US, where a more open source culture is present. “Freemium” and tiered pricing is commonly used in China; however, the users of these services are often nonprofessional developers who may take advantage of events and other free offerings but never upgrade to higher levels of support nor become active, contributory and valuable members of the ecosystem. Professional developers in China, however, appear willing to pay for enhanced service if they perceive there is value in doing so. Those platforms offering a high level of value can attract developers willing to pay to receive the support they need. But, rather than considering paid support as a revenue stream, successful platforms will see this as a strategy to provide developers who are serious about the platform with a shortcut to the valuable resources they need to be successful.
  4. Marketing: In terms of market positioning, US developers care most about how well a platform is integrated with other companies. They want to see that the platform is positioning itself as a hub for many apps to connect with in innovative and market-advancing ways. Chinese developers value if the platform is embracing new technologies and providing leading thinking on emerging technology adoption. How a platform represents itself on the topic of emerging technology presents a strong opportunity. It shows that the platform is forward-thinking about how new technologies might affect the platform’s product, service, industry and the developers with whom they engage. More than half of developers in both China and the US say they’d consider changing their allegiance if another platform is more focused on the latest technology. With regards to activities which engage developers, Chinese developers are more interested in attending developer events than those in the US. They rate several aspects of events as more important than US developers do, including event frequency, variety and effectiveness and the market impression, coolness and overall swag that the event exhibits.


Chinese developers are more interested in events than those in the US.


Chinese developers are more willing to pay for enhanced access and support than those in the US.

Looking ahead

Those platforms that are most aggressive about understanding the needs of this critical business constituency and building the services and programs they require, can stand out from the crowd and attract and retain developers in an increasingly competitive fight for developer mindshare, loyalty, user relevance and growth.

The competitive advantage offered will soon become a strategic necessity, as emerging technologies become the next battlegrounds and incumbent leaders are at risk of being disrupted.

As the competition for developers grows and developer ecosystems increasingly become a differentiating factor, those who don’t address distinct and nuanced developer needs (particularly in emerging areas such as China) will struggle to be a global business and, just as important, may be on the wrong end of the next disruption.

About the survey

The 2018 Accenture Developer Ecosystem Survey polled more than 1750 developer respondents on their needs, interests and perspectives on developer ecosystems. The online survey was fielded in the US in December 2017 and in China in May 2018.

Kevin Collins

Managing Director – Software & Platforms


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