The New Developer Experience and What It Means for You as a Developer

Two weeks ago at QuickBooks Connect 2014 we launched a brand new developer experience. We believe it is a big step forward in our vision of delivering the best cloud platform for small business apps. Let me share our product thinking behind this release and what we believe it will mean to you as a developer.

Our journey started roughly 6-7 months back with the decision to revamp the developer experience at developer.intuit.com and address the negative Voice-of-Customer. Our goal was to address the critical pain points in the developer journey, from getting started → app creation → app publication → app lifecycle management.

The product, design, and engineering teams took a back-to-fundamentals approach and a developer-first mindset to truly understand what was working and what needed to be improved. We interviewed and surveyed developers for feedback and insights. We also analyzed our bug logs and support tickets to understand where the pain points were. The findings were interesting. On one hand, they validated some of our hypotheses on the platform and product gaps. On the other hand, they cast the spotlight on critical enhancements that were needed in the platform and the developer journey. The net of this for us was a truly humbling and enlightening experience. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us.

Here are some of our findings (in no priority order):

    • It was taking developers a long time to integrate with QuickBooks Online (QBO).
    • Not all developers are accounting experts. Many do not understand how their app integrates within QBO, nor do they understand the downstream accounting impact of their integration within QBO.
    • Developers were looking for quicker and easier integration patterns with QBO. They were frustrated when they spent time to integrate but it did not materialize the way they envisioned.
    • Developers needed a lot of help/support during development.
    • The need for API stability was highlighted.
    • Developers needed a sandbox and test data to test out their integrations before launching.
    • There was a clear need for more APIs and more consistency. Simplicity was mentioned many times.
    • Developers needed better and more samples for integration patterns in QBO.
    • Developers wanted better, multi-lingual SDKs.
    • There was a clear request for better documentation.
    • Developers need help in discovering, marketing and distributing apps.
    • The publishing process needs to be faster, and the review process needs to be simplified.

These findings have been invaluable in helping us prioritize the release. It showed us that we had work to do both on specific core product areas and also the end-end developer journey.

The team prioritized the feedback and created these themes that we launched at QuickBooks Connect:

    • “Hello World in 15 mins”. Improve Learn and Explore on the developer platform to make sure that developers can quickly understand the QBO development platform and APIs with guided visual tools, clearly see the impact of the integration in QBO, easily find the documentation, and get started quickly with their app development. (http://developer.intuit.com)
    • Launch Payments API as a step towards delivering “Integrated QBO ecosystem APIs”. Allow developers to easily integrate payments in their workflows and reflect that in QuickBooks seamlessly. (http://developer.intuit.com/apis)
    • Improve developer productivity with Sandbox and Sample Apps. Provide sample apps for popular integration patterns with QBO (e.g., e-commerce and time-tracking), provide a pre-populated sandbox for developers to test the app integration, and provide SDKs in multiple languages so developers who are not experts in accounting can easily integrate with QBO. (http://developer.intuit.com/v2/sampleapps)
    • Newer App Store for improved app discovery. Deliver an improved app store experience with better app discovery and usage powered by a fresh design, better app categorization, and global support. (http://apps.com)
    • Publication of apps to apps.com within two weeks. Improve app review and publishing process so developer can go live with their apps within a couple weeks and can easily publish private apps.

In addition to these themes, we addressed other feedback as well, such as integrated developer dashboards and bugs logged in our support system on v3 services.

What does this mean to you as a developer? We believe that the new, enhanced developer experience addresses many of the pain points we heard from you.

    • We believe it improves the end-end developer journey significantly: from get started phase → build phase → publish → lifecycle management phase.
    • We believe that the new enhancements such as the guided visual tools, sandbox, and sample apps will help you get a better understanding of the QBO development platform and popular integration patterns so you can build the best app experiences for your customers.
    • We believe the new Payments API will help you integrate payments seamlessly in your app and see it reflected in QBO.
    • We believe the improvements to the app review process will get your app in front of customers more quickly. The new app store (apps.com) will distribute your apps globally and effectively so you get the distribution and usage your apps deserve.

What next? We hosted a successful hackathon and product launch at QuickBooks Connect. Over 150 developers used our new developer experience/APIs and submitted over 45 applications in the hackathon. We also learned a lot in the process and it is good for us to recognize how much more work we still have to do in delivering a best-in-class developer platform for SMB apps. I’m excited with the journey ahead of us. Let me give you a glimpse of where we will focus in FY ’15:

    • Address critical feedback from the hackathon: improved oAUTH documentation, global sandbox, more sample apps covering additional integration patterns, more SDKs, etc.
    • Deliver newer ecosystem APIs, including Payroll APIs with a focus on orchestration so you can achieve complex use cases with a simpler, consistent API and without knowing all the downstream accounting impact and entity relationships.
    • Expose itDuzzit cloud connectors for developers as a drag-drop UI.
    • Powerful app store infrastructure.
    • And there will be more…

I’m always curious and eager to learn how we can address your needs. I invite you to share your suggestions and needs with us here.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Ketan Kittur
Director, Product Management, QBO Platform & Developer Products

Intuit Developer Group






3 responses to “The New Developer Experience and What It Means for You as a Developer”

  1. Karl Irvin Avatar

    Great article.

    As a long time desktop developer, I would like to see some articles on running a Saas business which is where I’m struggling the most. For example

    1. How to set up a subscription basis business with monthly billings or maybe Intuit it could provide a subscription billing framework/kit which would handle on boarding customers, billing, terminating customers and customer maintenance.

    2. How to provide the resources needed to serve a growing user base. In the desktop world, users provided their own computers. How do we provide resources for 500 or 5000 or 10,000 users.

    3. How to handle multi-tenant databases for data exported from online or waiting to be imported into online.

    4. How to store data. As JSON/XML, traditional database or No SQL

  2. LiSA RATHJENS Avatar

    Thanks for reading, Karl, and especially thanks for the suggestions. Great ideas, we will add these topics to our list of possible articles coming up. Stay tuned.

  3. LiSA RATHJENS Avatar

    Hi again Karl, I wanted to let you know that we thought about your questions and have a new blog post that discusses some of them, be sure to check it out at https://developer.intuit.com/blog/2014/12/17/running-a-saas-business-and-best-practices and let us know what you think!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *