The Valley of Suck

Anyone who has created anything has experienced this valley. Creatives are making something new, and to succeed, they need to acquire new tools, knowledge, and experience. And that process requires repeatedly being thrown into the valley of conscious incompetence, a.k.a. The Valley of Suck. If you have a technical audience, they are thrown into this valley more times than they can count. There’s no avoiding it, but you can help your technical community get out of it as quickly as possible.

Minimizing Valley Time

Cliff Simpkins, Director of Azure Developer Audience Marketing, introduced this metric to an audience of developer marketing experts and aspiring experts at the Evans Corporation 2019 Developer Marketing Summit. His keynote address, “How Developers Break Traditional Marketing Theory (And Why You Should Too!)” focused primarily on a novel model for the developer engagement process. (Hint: throw out the funnel!) Here, we’d like to offer specific content tactics and examples that help technical professionals speed through the Valley of Suck.

Make Your Content Developer-Friendly

There are a few guidelines you can apply to the technical content your brand offers to ensure developer friendliness:

  • Use simple, straightforward language. Avoid jargon.
  • Offer tech content with a multimedia experience, and offer the same content in different types of media. (“Multimedia” can mean incorporating an online code editor.)
  • Make your content easily visually scannable.
  • Keep it simple, but offer information on how to take your solution or tool to the next level.

Give Context

Ben Lannon talks about the importance of helping developers understand why they should do something. Pulling things into context helps your audience quickly scan and parse content so they know if it applies to their particular problem. It also avoids the exhaustion of searching for documentation or guides that, as developer Kristina Heishmann states, “Use all your willpower.”

Offer Content in a Series

Help guide your audience from zero to hero by publishing a comprehensive how-to guide in smaller, easier-to-consume chunks. This allows developers like Miko Charbonneau to follow along in steps when applying your brand’s carefully thought-out lessons to a project.

Reduce Friction — Avoid the Download

Incorporate access to an online code editor within your content or portal. This satisfies developers like Miko, Tyler Leonhardt, and Erik Guzman. Besides actually reducing your audience’s frustration, it also shows your commitment to the ease of their experience. (Hello positive brand sentiment.)

For the Road

It may seem counterintuitive, but helping your audience literally get on board with your product as much as possible before they have to download anything can be the key to reducing developers’ perceived time in the Valley of Suck. By allowing exploration before the download, your brand can level up the developer so that when they are willing to commit their time, they are already partly through the valley. Offering content as another tool that comes alongside for the novice user before and after the download will accelerate their progress, and help them feel better about themselves. That will translate into a good feeling about your brand and the tool they’ve tried.

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