The Developer's Hierarchy of Needs

The Developer's Hierarchy of Needs

When establishing a developer relations program, it's essential to understand what developers prioritize. Drawing inspiration from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I formulated the "developer's hierarchy of needs." This model presents a clear structure to understand how different requirements are layered, with the foundational ones serving as prerequisites for the subsequent levels.

The Model

Much like Maslow's hierarchy starts with physiological needs, developers' essentials begin from the base and work upwards—here's how it works.

Product and Platform

At the core, developers demand a dependable product complete with robust APIs, webhooks, and other essential features. Before documentation, tools, or community can have any effect, your product and platform must work, and work well.

In my role, we recognized the need to bolster our API credibility, which led to:

  • Forming an API guild with Engineering.

  • Mandating API guidelines.

  • Incorporating an API linter into our API release process.

  • Joining product roadmap & planning sessions, and engineering architecture calls regularly.

This reinforced commitment paved our way for the next tier.

Context and Content

For developers, comprehensive documentation, API specifics, and guides are crucial. Post API reinforcements, our DevRel team executed over 100 pull requests and committed countless enhancements internally to our API specs. We also authored guides and best practices, offering developers context beyond mere technical data. This intensive focus spanned two quarters, later evolving into a regular facet of our program. Our recent ventures also encompass video and blog content.


Optimal tooling, like SDKs and CLIs, fosters ease of integration. However, their efficacy hinges on robust documentation. With our fortified APIs and accompanying guidance, we prioritized tools to expedite developers' tasks. We rolled out open-source, MIT-licensed offerings such as:

  • SDKs

  • CLI

  • Company-curated Postman collection

  • Sample applications

  • ...and more


A thriving developer community is the apex for learning, networking, and recognition. Building upon our reliable product suite and tooling, we aimed to cultivate an engaged user community around scalable identity governance solutions. Our community-focused initiatives included:

  • Introducing a core community forum.

  • Hosting our inaugural virtual, developer conference in 2023.

  • Kickstarting an ambassador program for technical contributors.

  • Exploring future meetup opportunities.


At the pinnacle, akin to Maslow's self-actualization, developers yearn to reciprocate, be it through enhancing the product or leading the community. This engagement not only satisfies their creative instincts but also cements their loyalty to your product. Presently, our community boasts active contributors, with efforts to further this engagement, including a forthcoming marketplace aimed at incentivizing customer and partner contributions.


This hierarchy has provided me with a strategic lens to explain our team's focus at any given point. If you're discerning your developer relations team's direction, benchmark your product against this hierarchy to pinpoint areas of enhancement. Start where the gap is the widest.