The Hierarchy of Developer Motivation

A recent survey on developer economics put together by analytics firm VisionMobile polled 6000 respondents from 115 different countries on their motivations, challenges, and future plans for app development. The results give some intriguing insights into what are the prime motivating factors behind what developers do; namely, a sense of achievement and not money is the main motivating factor in software development (of course, a paycheck is always appreciated).

These results were further segmented into eight distinct parts: 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. Each had their own unique motivations, platforms, and modes of workability:

“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.

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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.” – Hierarchy of Developer Needs

Show me the money

As previously mentioned, this developer survey showed that money as the prime motivator behind software development is the goal for only about half of the developers surveyed. Creativity and a sense of achievement are what make the difference for 53% of developers, while the most important goal for 33% of those surveyed is simply gaining knowledge, having fun, or making strides towards self-improvement.

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Those of you familar with the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs pyramid will notice that these results gel quite nicely:

Developer Scott Hanselman takes Maslow's hierarchy of needs and applies it directly to the developer process, especially when it comes to motivation:

".........The top of Maslow's pyramid is some ways I think we like to achieve self-actualization through our code, [such that] in years to come, maintenance programmers will stumble upon this architecture and exclaim, 'Wow, Scott was here.'"

Are you writing software or crafting software? When does your craft become art?

This is a noble and certainly attractive goal, but is one that should be attempted only after the basic needs are met." - Scott Hanselman, "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs of Software Development"


In addition to discovering motivation, the survey also found that certain platforms are more attractive to developers than others:

“The survey discovered that though developing apps for iOS and Android are both profitable, pulling monthly app revenue of $5,200 and $4,700, respectively, some developers are considering to start developing for Windows Phone.

The survey revealed that Android, iOS and HTML5 are the top three platforms chosen by developers across all the regions where the survey was conducted.  In North America, 67 percent of developers use Android, 62 percent on iOS, and 55 percent on HTML5.

The survey revealed that three main things affect developer choice, and that is Speed and cost of development, revenue potential, and the ability to reach target consumer.

Developers choose Android because it is faster and cheaper to develop apps for this platform, but if they want bigger revenue, they’d opt for iOS.”  -

What is your motivation?

The motivation to challenge yourself as a developer is very obvious in such contests as the Intel® Perceptual Computing Challenge, the seven-week long Ultimate Coder: Going Perceptual saga, and the currently running 2013 Intel™ App Innovation Contest. For example, we observed over the course of seven weeks in the Ultimate Coder Challenge as seven coder teams took on a seemingly impossible challenge – build a working perceptual computing app with a brand new computer, a brand new SDK, and technology that nobody really knows anything about. Instead of running away screaming (which any sane coder might have chosen to do), these seven teams pulled up to the table and dug in. From one of the Challengers:

“As I write this, there is no app, no design and no code. I have a blank sheet of paper and a few blog videos. The six developers I am competing against are established, seasoned and look extremely dangerous. My chances of success are laughable, so given this humorous outcome, I'm just going to close my eyes and start typing. When I open them in seven weeks, I'll either have an amazing app or an amazing lemon.” – Lee Bamber, Ultimate Coder Challenge: Going Perceptual

It’s interesting to note that all the contestants had about this same attitude: it’s not necessarily about the destination, but the journey. I suspect that for many developers, the motivation in software development lies in the challenge of discovery.

In addition to contests, IDF 2013 is an event that developers worldwide look forward to as a source for inspiration, collaboration, and self-challenge. Here are a few reasons software developers should attend IDF:

“Go deep into the technology you’ll be developing on in the future with today’s software experts.

Keynotes and Technical Sessions will let you hear about the very latest Intel advancements directly from the people who are creating them.

Labs led by developers will let you get hands-on with Intel® software technology.

IDF is also the perfect place to share best practices with colleagues, meet partners from around the industry, and create solutions.”


If you’re a developer reading this, what drives you to keep going? Is it the promise of some extra money, self-improvement, creativity, or the thrill of accomplishing new things? Do events and contests help keep those creative juices flowing? Let us know in the comments.





For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.