How to speak to a developer?

Most entrepreneurs fail to create their MVP because they just don’t know how to speak to a developer.

Fortunately, you don’t need to learn a programming language in order to communicate with them, just plain English – or whatever language you speak in your country – is enough!

Do not use their linguo

When speaking to a developer, don’t try to use technical terms that you don’t understand because you will only confuse them by doing so.

I had a client who once told me that he wanted a Web App, so I started explaining to him the processes of making it. Later on, I discovered that he actually meant a Mobile App, which is completely different. If he only he had told me that he wanted an application that works on Smartphone, it would have been easier for us all!

Use simple sentences

Whether you are writing a specs document or orally explaining the features to a developer, keep in mind that your sentences have to be short and simple, yet precise.

“A user can log in and he can either respond to job offers if he’s a candidate or post a job offer if he represents à company, but he can also edit the offers if he is an administrator”.

The description above is still easy to understand, but this format is preferred by the developer:

“A user has to be authenticated to perform any action described below.

A Candidate user can respond to job offers.

A Company user can post job offers.

An Admin user can edit any job offer.”

Each sentence is actually a feature in the developer’s eyes, so don’t try to make over complicated sentences.

Explain why and give context

I think this is true even for non developers. When you request something, it is always better and more easily accepted if you can give some context to it. Let’s say you want to change the position of a button, you should probably explain why so that the developer knows why he’s doing it.

Use tools

Developers love using tools because it keeps things clear and organized. Don’t ask a developer about his progress, just use the communication tools available.

It is generally a good idea to use a bug tracker to post your feature or improvement requests. Obviously, bugs can also be reported in those tools.

If your developer is working on a cloud based Version Control System such as Github, Bitbucket or Gitlab, you should definitely use the native bug trackers that they provide.

Those tools generally let you choose the priority of the tasks and when they’re completed, you can also be notified.

Things you shouldn’t say to a developer

You really want to get along well with your developer. Now that you know how to talk to a developer, you should also know the things that you shouldn’t say to a developer.

“It shouldn’t take you long”

Leave this appreciation to the developer. You should rather say “I hope it is not going to take too long”.

“It is easy”

Unless you are a developer, you can’t really know whether or not your request is easy. You should rather say “I don’t know how easy this is, but here’s the feature…”.

“It is just a button”

OK, a button is simple, but what does it really imply in terms of features? You should rather say “This button is very important because it enables the user to do this and that…”.

“It doesn’t work”

There will always be bugs, you need to accept that fact. Your developer probably doesn’t want bugs either, but he is used to dealing with them… if you can help him a little. You should rather say “There seems to be a problem with that feature. When I click on that button, I get that error message that says Error 404”.

“I want something like Tinder, but for professionals”

Do not be lazy! You should really put some effort and start working on your specs document. If you don’t know how, please read that article.


Now you know what to say and not to say to a developer so that he can work more efficiently. Remember, it only takes a few seconds from you to give a better explanation, a better context and an overall communication that will help you save hours or days!

By | 2018-10-05T21:18:50+00:00 October 5th, 2018|blog|0 Comments

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