Dev tool blog and developer content examples

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Great "What is {my core keyword}" article from Planetscale

How to write a "What is {MY CORE KEYWORD}" article that gets to the top of HackerNews? ๐Ÿ‘‡

First of all, almost no one succeeds at that as you write those articles for SEO distribution, not HN distribution.

To get an SEO-first article on HN your content quality bar needs to be super high.

But you can do it.

PlanetScale managed to get their "What is database sharding and how does it work?" on the orange page (kudos to Justin Gage!).

Here is what was interesting about that article:

๐—ฆ๐˜‚๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ผ.

โ€ข โŒ No "In today's fast-paced data-driven world enterprises work with data" stuff.
โ€ข โœ… Justย ย "Learn what database sharding is, how sharding works, and some common sharding frameworks and tools."

๐—›๐—ถ๐˜๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐˜†๐˜„๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ๐˜€ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฒ ๐—ฏ๐˜‚๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜ ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ.

๐Ÿ’š Speaking peer to peer, not authority-student:

โ€ข "Youโ€™ve probably seen this table before, about how scaling out helps you take this users table, all stored on a single server:"
โ€ข "And turn it into this users table, stored across 2 (or 1,000) servers:"
โ€ข "But thatโ€™s only one type of sharding (row level, or horizontal). "

๐—จ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ท๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ด๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ฎ๐˜‚๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ

Things like:

โ€ข "Partitioning has existed โ€“ especially in OLAP setups"
โ€ข "Sifting through HDFS partitions to find the missing snapshot "

๐—”๐—ฐ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐˜† ๐—ฒ๐˜…๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐˜† ๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐˜€ ๐˜„๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ธ

๐Ÿ”ฅ Look at the section "How database sharding works under the hood" with subsections:

โ€ข Sharding schemes and algorithms
โ€ข Deciding on what servers to use
โ€ข Routing your sharded queries to the right databases
โ€ข Planning and executing your migration to a sharded solution

๐ŸŽ ๐—•๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜‚๐˜€: ๐—ฝ๐—น๐˜‚๐—ด ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ฑ๐˜‚๐—ฐ๐˜ ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐—น๐˜†

Section "Sharding frameworks and tools" shares open-source tools (every dev, but HN devs in particular like OS projects).

And there as an info box, you have the info that Planetscale comes with one of those OS projects deployed.

Just a beautifully executed piece of content marketing.

blog
call to action

"Aside" call to action from Auth0

A classic dev tool blog call to action that is somewhat underused these days.

Was going through Martin Gontovnikas blog and found a post from a couple of years back.

He called this "Aside CTA" and the idea is this:

  • You write an article about a problem X
  • You don't mention your tool much (or anything) in the article
  • But your product helps solve that problem
  • So you add an "Aside" at the end where you say that you could also solve it with your tool

Why this can work well with devs is:

  • You write a genuinely helpful article
  • You don't "pollute" the article with your product
  • You add value first with content
  • You let people "upgrade" their solution experience with your tool
  • You are explicit about what your tool does and what the content does.

Definitely a classic that is worth trying.

Read Gonto's article.

blog
call to action

Blog CTA from Novu

The idea behind this conversion play is to put an "Aside CTA" that is unrelated to the content early in the article.

And get that clicked.

But obviously, if you do that it will be pushy and intrusive.

So?

Nevo David from Novu shared this idea on one of the podcasts:

  • Put a small section right after the introduction
  • Add memes to catch attention and disarm the "I hate ads" reader (a little bit)
  • Make an explicit ask. Make it human and somewhat vulnerable

Btw, Nevo says that cat memes work best.

copy
blog
call to action

ShiftMag Newsletter CTA copy

Funny dev newsletter CTA. From shiftmag .dev by Infobip.

It starts with a chuckle-worthy:

"Sarcastic headline, but funny enough for engineers to sign up"

Then they follow up by disarming the "is that spam" and building more rapport with:

  • "Written by people, not robots - at least not yet."
  • "May or may not contain traces of sarcasm, but never spam."

They end with an alternative call to action. RSS feed.

Most newsletters don't do RSS.

But for many devs RSS feed is the preferred content subscription.

Great job!

developer experience
call to action
blog

Newsletter subscribe CTA on Interrupt blog

I like that this is both strong and subtle.

It comes right after I've delivered a smell of value with a technical intro.

And I can see that there is more value to come after thanks to the table of contents.

The CTA itself feels like an info box in the docs rather than a typical subscribe CTA.

Good stuff.

call to action
blog

Aside CTA from ExportSDK

One of the top-performing conversion flows in dev-focused articles.

"Aside CTA" in the "How to do {jobs to be done}" article.

You know the drill:

  • Explain how to X without your tool
  • Add an "Aside" CTA showing that it can be done with your tool

And Export SDK executes it (almost) perfectly:

  • They subtly move you from article to CTA but show that the article ended
  • They explain what the tool does and what the offer is
  • They show a visual of how the tool solves it
  • And they give you a clear link to click

One thing that could be tested and changed is putting this "Aside CTA" mid-article and not at the end (tip from Martin Gontovnikas).

A good thing to try if you are running the "How to do {jbtd}" article strategy.

blog
call to action
developer experience

In-text blog CTA from Planetscale

Subtle but effective dev blog CTA -> info box.

Basically a plain article in-text CTA but there is something special about it.

It looks like a docs info box.

It is not a "buy now" style call to action but rather a subtle "you may want to know about X" push.

But for it to really feel like an info box it needs to connect to the section of the section of the article around it.

Otherwise, it will just feel like an intrusive ad anyway.

PlanetScale does a great job here.

They link the part of the article about the sharding library Vitess with their product that was built on top of it.

It feels natural and I am sure it gets clicks and if not then product awareness.

developer experience
blog
call to action

Article header from Teleport

There are a few developer experience gems here:

  • RSS feed: many devs love rss, let them consume your blog that way
  • Search: some devs will immediately know this article is not for them. Let them search and stay.
  • Clear branding: Some devs will read the article and leave. Make sure they at least remember your brand.

Also, their design is super clean, non-invasive, and simple which makes for easy content consumption and more developer love.

blog
call to action
seo

JTBD blog post from WorkOS

This is how you write dev tool JTBD blog posts.

Masterclass of writing this type of content from @WorkOS imho.

Deep 2000 word guide that explains how to add webhooks the your application.

Goes into examples, best practices, everything.

One thing it doesn't do?

It doesn't push the product left right and center.

In fact, the only CTA is hidden in the very last sentence of the very last section.

Why?

Because most likely, the reader's intent is around understanding the problem at this point.

They want to understand what adding webhooks to their app really means from the practitioner's standpoint.

And they did that beautifully.

Could you have pushed the product a bit more? Sure.

But by answering the actual questions devs came here for they managed to build trust.

And I am sure got their fair share of click-throughs and signups anyway.

developer experience
call to action
blog

Auth0 blog sidebar CTA

I like those sidebar CTAs from Auth0.

They go with a sticky Table of Contents which gives a better reading experience.

They put two CTAs below that TOC:

  • "See docs" presented in a very subtle, very developer-friendly way
  • They put a more aggressive banner but it is still on the tasteful side.

Solid job.

developer experience
copy
blog
call to action

Developer-focused blog CTA from Snyk

Pushing cold blog readers to try your tool rarely works.

So you need a transitional CTA, something that worms them up.
But it needs to be aligned with the goals of the reader.
And I think pushing folks to a community discord is a solid option.

I like the copy "Discuss this blog on Discord" as it is very reader-focused.
Some folks read the article and have more questions.
They want to discuss it somewhere.

And while you could just do a comments section, a community gives you more options to get people closer to the product.

developer experience
blog
call to action
social proof

Devy blog design from Bun

This is one of the more devy blog designs I've seen in a while.

It has this docs-like feel.

But is just a bit more fun and loose than most docs would allow.

Here is what I like:

  • smells like there could be value with code all over the place
  • shows visuals taken from another devy channel, Twitter/X
  • hints at social proof through Twitter/X engagement

And if your posts are code-heavy, then a docs-like experience is where you want to be anyway.

But you can spice it up with things that wouldn't fit the docs.

Like a Twitter/X embed or a meme.

developer experience
call to action
blog

Developer-focused blog slide-in CTA from Snyk

An interesting option to push people to read the next article.

You use a slide-in triggered on a 75% scroll with a "read next" CTA in the bottom left.

On the aggressive side for sure but when the article you propose is clearly technical it could work.

And if your articles are not connected to the product explicitly you do need some ways to keep people reading and see more of your brand.

developer experience
call to action
blog

Great article in-text CTA from DigitalOcean

Adding CTA in dev-focused articles is hard.

You don't want to be too pushy, but you do want to get conversions.

DigitalOcean strikes a great balance with its in-text article CTA design.

They make this CTA look like an info box that you'd typically see in the documentation.

It is clear that it is a Digital Ocean CTA but it doesn't feel pushy.

It feels like a piece of potentially useful information.

Love it.

blog
developer experience
call to action

Blog CTA from v7

Interesting dev blog CTA idea from V7.

CTAs in technical articles is a tricky subject:

  • Go too aggressive and "obviously an ad" and devs ignore it or get angry
  • Go too subtle and you may not get the readers attention at all

I like how V7 approached it here:

  • They add a separate (aside) section but it is subtle, feels like a part of the article
  • They use a GIF image creative that catches my attention and simply shows the product
  • They used various ย anchor link CTAs. Interestingly these often get more clicks than buttons

What I'd change/test is making this CTA not a generic value prop but something closely connected to the rest of the article.

copy
campaigns
vs competitor
blog

Convex vs Firebase blog

This is one of my favorite our dev tool vs competitor blog posts.

With these pages, you want to explain when you are better.

But you don't want to berate your competitor.

And above all, you want to help people make a decision.

Chances are (almost 100% ;)) that you are not better for every use case. And your developer audience knows it.

But there should be use cases, tool stacks, or situations when you are the best option.

Talk about those. Dev to dev.

@Convex did a great job in this post that I think can be a template for how to write these:

  • They start by saying what is the same. That sets the context.
  • Then they say good things about their competitor. Shows respect and understanding
  • They follow by listing 3 key differences/situations when you should consider them
  • And they go ahead and explain each of these differences deeply

After reading that post you are fairly convinced that if your situation matches the one described and if it makes sense to use it.

Love it.

blog
call to action
developer experience
brand

"Top of article" CTA on the blog from Eartlhy

Need one more call to action idea for your dev tool blog?

How about starting an article with it?

Sounds weird but if done right it can work. Even with devs (or maybe especially with devs).

Earthly did and they are known for great dev-focused content.

Ok, so how does it work?

You start your article with a contextual call to action where you explain:

  • Who you are and what your product does
  • And how that is relevant to the content of the article
  • Link out to more product-focused pages, ideally relevant to content

And then you let people read.

Those who find the topic important will remember you and/or maybe click out to see more.

I like it. It's explicit, transparent, and actually noninvasive.

navbar
developer experience
blog
copy

Snyk navbar resources tab design

The "Resources" tab is the most loved and hated tab for developer marketers.

Ok so the common problem is that you have lots of different resources:

  • docs
  • product videos
  • meetup videos
  • recorded webinars
  • learning center guides
  • blog articles that don't talk about your product
  • and so much more stuff

You want to showcase them in the navbar but where do you put them?

Under product? Company? Docs?

How to make sure that people don't go to your blog to read about your product just to find out that you talk about the industry problems there?

Enter the "Resources" tab. The "Miscellaneous" of the navbar world.

And typically it is just crammed with all stuff that doesn't fit anywhere. Just like any respectable misc folder would. ย 

How do you deal with that?

Snyk approached it in a clear and logical way:

  • Add sub-navigation
  • Make it clear to devs which parts are about the product and which ones are not
  • They use "Using Snyk" and "Learn & Connect" that could be extended to "Using {Product} and "Learning {Category/Problem}"

I love this (and already stole the idea for our site).