top of page
  • Writer's pictureSlashData Team

The hierarchy of developer needs: Creativeness, not money is the top motivator

What motivates developers? Is it fame or fortune? Our new Developer Segmentation 2013 report addresses this questions, presenting a needs-bases segmentation model that focuses on developer goals, not just demographics. Based on data from our latest Developer Economics survey (6,000 respondents from 115 countries), this article gives you some insights from the report, discussing how the sense of achievement, not money is the prime motivator for developers.


Forward-thinking businesses today realise that developers are their innovation engine, their most promising affiliates, their evangelists or their fastest growing resellers. Businesses are discovering that developers are modern-day channels that help them reach new consumers, discover new use cases and propel their growth.

The millions of dollars in developer marketing efforts serve one purpose: to persuade developers to use a specific platform, network, tool or API set. Yet, in 2013, mobile developer attention is becoming extremely scarce, and dominated by the three leaders of developer marketing: Apple, Google and Facebook. Competition for developer attention is intensifying month by month, with players bombarding developers with promotions, organising developer events and preaching the advantages of their APIs or toolsets.

The scarcity of developer attention has to do not just with skepticism to marketing. Learning a new platform takes months. Learning a new SDK can take weeks. Learning a new API can take days. It’s a serious investment of resources. As a result, developers take the decision to invest in a platform, tool or API seriously.

Most business are resorting to traditional, textbook marketing techniques to segment developers – by technology (web, Java, Windows, Android, Apple), job function (coders, designers, architects, team leads, IT managers, CxOs), by company size, app category (games vs enterprise developers), by audience (B2C vs B2B) or by demographics (age, income, education or location).

Yet all these segmentation models are bound to fail, as they fundamentally neglect to address how developers make investment decisions in a new platform, API or SDK. In other words, it’s not age, job function, audience or technology background that influences how a developer chooses between Apple, Google, Windows Phone, BlackBerry or Tizen.

To understand the complex mosaic of developer personas we segment developers in terms of their outcomes, or what developers are trying to achieve. This is based on the Jobs to Be Done methodology, popularized by Harvard Professor Clay Christensen and which constitutes today’s cutting edge in segmentation techniques. We have backed this model with unprecedented statistical rigor and hard data, from the largest-ever mobile developer survey of 6,000+ developers.

Building on our earlier Developer Economics 2012 research work, we extracted hard data on thousands of developers in terms of their aspirations, motivations, challenges and plans in app development. We produced a unique model of eight developer segments – the Hobbyists, the Explorers, the Hunters, the Guns for Hire, the Product Extenders, the Digital Content Publishers, the Gold Seekers and the enterprise IT developers.]

The eight developer segments

How do these eight segments and three clusters contribute to the app economy? More importantly, when do these segments interact with platforms?

We find that Explorers and Hobbyists, those seeking to learn, have fun and self-improve, make up 33% of the mobile developer population but only 13% of the app economy revenues. These segments prefer – more than average – BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone as a platform, as these are more often associated with experimentation and learning.

The Hunters and Guns for Hire, those seeking revenues from the app economy, make up 42% of the developer population and 48% of the app economy revenues. These segments prefer – more than average – iOS as a platform, due to the consistent revenue-generating opportunities of the platform.

Product Extenders, Enterprise IT developers, Digital Content Publishers and Gold Seekers, aiming at extending a business, make up 29% of the developer population, and a whopping 39% of app economy revenues. These segments prefer – more than average – Android and HTML5 as a platform – due to the reach that these platforms offer across the entire smartphone and feature phone installed base.

Our data also shows, that contrary to popular perception, money is not the only motivator for mobile app developers – in fact, far from it. Revenues – in some form or other – are the goal for only 50% of mobile developers, which challenges the assumptions of developer marketing programs that use money as the main developer incentive.

The hierarchy of developer motivations on the next chart shows some surprising findings. At the base of the pyramid, the majority (53%) of mobile developers are motivated by creativity or the sense of achievement, making this the most popular among motivators. The fun of making an app, is a motivator for 40% of mobile developers – which is important to many more developer segments than just Hobbyists and Explorers.

Hierarchy of developer motivations

 Our Developer Segmentation Q3 2013 report drills deep into each of these developer segments. We map developers in terms of their goals (“what” they are trying to achieve), their success metrics (“how” they are trying to achieve it) and more importantly the personal motivations behind their choices (the “why”).

We further profile each segment across 5 dimensions: who and where they are, which markets they target, what choices they make, how they make money, what platforms they select and what challenges they face. These unique insights into developer segments can provide a strong competitive advantage for organisations for which developer outreach is a key element of their strategy.

Want to know more about the Developer Segmentation 2013 report? Check out some of the key insights and contents.


bottom of page