Tips to Create Developer Tutorials — in 5 steps

I have written this after writing programming tutorials for eight years online. In that time I learned so much — still do — but wanted to share it with a lot more people. I hope this will bring you more practical information so you can start to create cool programming content.

Last year I tried so much. I started writing after I’d worked for two years as a developer. It felt good to share my knowledge! Years later I tried video and audio. But I felt that was not my thing. Even now and then, I will still try audio and video for some special occasions.

I feel that writing is more of my thing, and I think it is good to discover what your strength is. After so many lessons, I concluded that there probably are more people that want to get into creating content for programmers.

By programmers, I mean software engineers, programmers, and developers in the widest sense of the word. There probably are differences, but I mean people who write code for their day job or people who are doing it for a passion.

I started creating content for myself. I wanted to create my documentation so that I could look back. I put it only since the beginning, so the quality was not super great. Later I started to make it better so it was a better quality for others to consume. But I still enjoyed it.

All of this is the motivation for me to write down everything I learned and share my knowledge this way so that a lot more people can have that jump-start.

1. Choose a Topic You’re Passionate About

Before you start writing your heart out, it is good to think about a topic. If you know a lot about a topic and are very passionate about it, that will help you create content about it.

On the other hand, making content about something that you like but don’t know much about can help you to dive into it deeply. I did create a lot of content in that same way. I just pick a topic, do a lot of deep research, and write it down in my own words. That is just my way of learning to be honest.

When you are very passionate about a topic and you create content, your audience will notice that. This will work out very positively, from my experience.

1.1 How to choose a topic

It helps to pick a topic that is popular right now because this will make it more likely for people to watch or read about it. But picking a topic that’s not so popular (or not yet) can bring a benefit that you wouldn’t think of at first: It can make you the expert in the long run. Because if no creator is making content about a topic, your content will potentially be used by others who come after.

Picking a topic that makes you insanely passionate will make it easy for you to create content. Then time will not be an issue at all.

Don’t create content about topics you don’t enjoy. This will pull out all your energy, so it will cost you more time. Please don’t do it! Also, don’t make content about something for the sake of making content or because someone else does it.

You are you! You pick your topics because you like them.

1.2 How I pick my topic

Most of the time I think about topics in the weirdest places: when driving in the car, standing in the shower, or even sitting on the toilet (I know, it’s weird!). And they come into mind from things I experienced during my work or other events in my life.

I started with topics that came up when I got a bug or error I couldn’t fix at first or had a hard time fixing. When I discovered the solution, I would write a blog post about it on my blog. I did that in the hope it would help someone else.

Next to problem-solving blogs, I have created a lot of content based on the fact that I wanted to learn more about that topic. Then I did a lot of research on how it worked, what you could do with it, and when would be a good situation to use it. That type of content helped me a lot with growing my programming skills.

I think in general that creating content is the best thing for me to grow my technical skills. Other people would grab a book and study the theory behind it and know it afterward. For me, that doesn’t work. I need to take that theory and put it into practice directly and afterward write it down. Scientifically, this is proved to be a great way of learning.

2. Write Down the Goal You Want to Achieve

After you have picked a great topic, you need to define the goal you want to achieve with the piece of content, both for yourself and for the user who will be reading it.

The goals for a reader can be:

  • Teaching a new skill
  • Showing a technique
  • Raising awareness
  • Telling about something you have done
  • The goals for yourself can be:
  • Showing your expertise
  • Bringing value
  • Earning money
  • Making your name more known

So there are a lot of possibilities for what your goals are.

2.1 How I define my goal

Most of the time I create content to teach. I’ve written a lot of tutorials people could follow to learn something new. But teaching something to someone else through a piece of content always has the goal to bring value. By making those pieces, you could bring a lot of value to people. Next to that, you make yourself known for the people you write for.

My main goal is never to earn fast money. It never was and never will be. If focused on earning money, I wouldn’t make the best content I could.

I won’t tell you that you can’t earn any money, but never let it be your main focus. Focusing on earning money fast was probably not the way to go for me. Next to that, I wouldn’t be able to create content for a long time.

3. Bullet-Point What You Want to Tell

Before you write something or record your video or podcast, it is super important that you know what you want to tell. That’s why I always start with making bullet points.

This helps me build my story in great order. By using bullet points, you can easily change the order along the way.

Don’t start with writing down your whole story. If you do that, it will happen that your story becomes too long or doesn’t have any build-up.

If you think about this carefully before you start, you will be thankful when writing everything down.

4. Decide the Content Format

I think that most people already have an idea of what kind of format they want to make.

Maybe you are more comfortable with writing or can just create a video without any problem. Or you are not so comfortable with your face in a video but are comfortable enough when recording your voice.

You must pick the format you are most comfortable with. People will notice when you are not comfortable.

Of course, that is not bad when you record a video for the first time. But when you have created ten videos and don’t feel comfortable, just pick another format.

4.1 How I choose my format

I have tried the audio, video, and written forms. I tried them very well, made more than 20 videos and 20 podcast episodes. I have written even more blog posts, I think around the 400+.

It’s a lot! I realize that myself. But only since early 2020 I have learned that writing is much more my thing than audio and video.

5. Create It

The previous steps are basically for preparation. Preparation takes a lot of time and effort, especially if you’re just getting started.

But the main message is to take your audience on a well-described journey. Think like they don’t know anything about what you are telling them. Or make it very clear what you expect they should know before they start this journey with you.

I started to document the steps for myself. That helped me a lot while creating developer tutorials.

When you start, do it for yourself and others. Do it to help. Don’t do it for the fame! If you have fame as a goal, your journey of creating content is not going to last long.

Yes, you can earn money from it, but I did this for eight years without earning money with it, so don’t worry about that.