2021 Maker & Hobbyist Research Study

Defining the term “maker” is sometimes difficult in the electronics industry. As a general rule, a “maker” is someone who designs, develops, prototypes, or tinkers with electronics outside of traditional professional contexts. Makers can be STEAM students and educators, hobbyists tinkering in their garage, or entrepreneurs prototyping a device they’d like to bring to market. There are also practicing professional engineers who classify themselves as makers because they enjoy creating projects at home in their spare time.

This survey data focuses on those people who identify themselves as makers first rather than as students, professional engineers, or educators.

Kate Smith
All About Circuits


The average maker has been involved with maker projects for nearly seven years and works on over four projects every year. Each of those projects cost, on average, over $800, which could include hardware, equipment, software licenses, device housing, and other expenses. 64% of respondents reported that “all” or “most” of their projects have been completed, which means that the project resulted in a functioning device.

Only 11% of respondents identified themselves as “beginner” makers and 36% who identified themselves as “novice tinkerers.” These demographics may be interested in less complex hardware as they learn the basics.

41% of respondents said they’re “expert hobbyists,” which indicates they are comfortable with maker hardware and are likely familiar with most basic electronics concepts and terms.

9% of makers said that they’re aspiring entrepreneurs and 3% said they’re actively producing devices for the market. These makers are more likely to be interested in learning not only how to prototype with hardware, but also how to manufacture and scale their projects.

What level of electronics maker sounds most like you?

Given the percentages of how many makers are aspiring entrepreneurs or actively producing devices for the market, it may be surprising to learn that 29% of maker respondents said they’ve brought a product to market.

40% of those projects are self-funded, meaning that the maker ideated, prototyped, manufactured, and sold their device without outside investors.

5% of projects brought to market were funded by personal loan, which entails the process of seeking financial support from places other than financial institutions.

Type of Product

When we asked makers who have brought a product to market what kinds of products they worked on, the most popular response was a tool or device, meaning something ready to be used by an end user. The second most popular response was hardware kits, which are pre-assembled collections of components or boards designed to allow for easy assembly of an end device, such as a robot or drone.

16% of respondents said they’d worked on modules or subsystems, which may include the development of unique PCBs. 14% reported that they’d designed educational materials, and 11% said they’d developed a device intended to work with a pre-existing platform such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi, such as a shield or HAT.

If you brought a design to market, how would you describe your product?

Most Challenging Stage

By far, maker respondents reported that prototyping is the most challenging stage of the product development cycle. Prototyping is generally the process of creating a working proof-of-concept device, oftentimes built around development boards, single-board computers, modules, or sometimes even perf board or breadboards.

The second most popular area of difficulty was the development of ideas, which may include the creative process but also the creation of block diagrams. Funding, manufacturing, and parts sourcing were also high on the list of challenges for makers.

What stage of the product development cycle do you find the most challenging?

Project Issues

When asked which project issues plagued makers the most, respondents reported both coding and hardware selection as problematic areas. Not far behind these top two answers was test and measurement, which includes the process of characterizing a device or system’s performance.

Other popular issues were mechanical design, using unfamiliar software, and finding sources for hardware.

All of these top concerns are paralleled among professional hardware designers. Differences between the two demographics may include which types of hardware they are selecting (e.g., through-hole vs. surface-mount), number of devices per order, and complexity of their project designs.

Which project issues do you deal with most often?

(Multiple responses)

Desired Resources

Maker respondents indicated that they are most interested in accessing more resources that teach schematic design, a crucial step for electronics development.

Other common responses were requests for troubleshooting/test and measurement resources and those to aid in the PCB design process.

This data suggests that makers are looking to level up their skills to allow more complex and customized designs.

As a maker, what challenge of electronics design do you wish there was more information about?

Favorite IDE

Integrated development environments or IDEs are key software suites that allow for code development. These programs sometimes include functionalities such as debuggers and compilers, and many offer resources for multiple programming languages.

The most popular choice for makers was the Arduino IDE, a reasonable result due to the overwhelming popularity of the Arduino platform among makers overall. The second choice was Visual Studio, an IDE owned by Microsoft with a “freemium” model that allows for easy, free access for certain features.

What is your favorite IDE
(integrated development environment)?

EDA & CAD Tools

EDA (electronic design automation) and CAD (computer-aided design) programs are also common software tools used by professional engineers and makers alike. EDA and CAD programs that makers utilize often include design flows with features to support circuit design, PCB layout, and BOM creation.

Maker respondents identified EAGLE CAD as their top choice, followed by AutoCAD and KiCad. EAGLE notably has a free version, while KiCad is an entirely free program. AutoCAD, on the other hand, only has a free trial at this time. All three are more advanced than less popular programs such as Fritzing.

What EDA (electronic design automation)/CAD (computer-aided design) tools do you use most often?

Interest in Software

Makers, unlike many professional circuit designers in the past, are consistently required to develop their own code to make a device function. A growing trend is to pair a hardware project with an app developed for mobile devices for remote control or monitoring of hardware.

Over 40% of maker respondents said they’d actively be interested in developing apps. A mere 12% indicated that they had no interest in taking on software design personally. This data suggests that development tools and resources focused on software would be welcomed by makers right alongside those focused on hardware.

As a maker, do you find yourself interested in the software side of projects
(i.e., IoT development, app development)?

(Multiple responses)

Current Events Followed

When it comes to current events, most makers reported that they are looking for project ideas. Also of interest were new product releases and software updates. This information indicates that the creative process of coming up with project ideas and taking first steps towards prototyping are the most important sources of new information to makers.

What current events do you follow in the maker space?

(Multiple responses)

Area of Expertise

By asking which areas of expertise makers would like to pursue, we can begin to understand the kinds of ambitions makers have moving forward.

Our data tells us that the most popular response was PCB layout, indicating that many makers are not content to merely use pre-fabricated PCB modules, single-board computers, or maker platforms. Software development and analog design also topped the list, followed by digital and embedded design, all of which also indicate interest in more engineering-oriented topics than are often associated with maker demographics.

What areas of expertise would you like to pursue?

(Multiple responses)

Usage of Maker Boards

Maker boards are versatile. They’re used in hobbyist and professional prototyping and in STEM education.

Maker respondents reported that they are most likely to use maker boards in prototyping and tinkering, with some also saying they use them to characterize components and even in end products.

Student respondents followed the same trend as makers, but were slightly more likely to report that they used maker boards in prototyping, tinkering, and characterizing components.

Few makers or students reported that they use no maker boards whatsoever. It’s still interesting to note, however, that 16% of self-described makers do not use boards that are most often classified as intended for maker audiences.

Do you ever use maker boards (e.g., Arduino) in your projects?

(Multiple responses)


For both makers and students, the most popular maker board manufacturer was Arduino by a significant margin. A great deal of its appeal comes from its affordability, its community, and its open source platform. The next most popular for both demographics was Raspberry Pi, another community-oriented brand that caters to plug-and-play project creation.

Less represented but still significant brands were Adafruit, SparkFun, Elegoo, and micro:bit, all of which lean into the idea of education with electronics, often with an element of play or fun.

If applicable, which maker board manufacturers have you used?

(Multiple responses)

Career Pros & Next Gens



A Career Pro is a seasoned electrical engineer with 6 or more years of engineering experience. These engineers represent who leads in the industry today. A Next Gen is either a young engineer with 5 or fewer years of experience or a student pursuing a EE degree. These engineers represent where the industry is going next.

While the maker demographic includes professional engineers and students, we asked each respondent to choose whether they’d like to take the survey as either a maker, a professional, or a student. In this section of results, we compare the data from maker respondents to those of engineers.

Likelihood to Contact Supplier

We asked how many designs for which respondents were likely to contact suppliers for assistance. This information can help us understand how often suppliers have the opportunity to educate their customers and help them get the most benefit out of their products.

The most popular response from all respondents was that they contact suppliers for assistance on less than 25% of their designs.

The next most popular response for makers was that they would never contact a supplier for assistance when working on a design. They were significantly more likely to select this answer than either of the professional engineer demographics.

Approximately on how many of your designs are you likely to contact a supplier for assistance?

Usage of New Products

Branching out to try new products can be stressful in electronics design. This is reflected in the data as the majority of respondents for all three demographics reported that they will only use new products on the market if their specs demand it.

Makers were more likely than their professional counterparts to use the same products over time. This may correlate to the reduced pressure on makers to compete in the market with cutting-edge components.

Similar percentages of both Next Gen and Career Pro engineers, however, indicated that they use new products “all the time.” This may mean that new products on the market are just as appealing to makers as they are to professional engineers.

How often do you use a new product on the market that you’ve never used before?

Sources of Info Used Most

This question shows how respondents seek out information, giving insight into how to present information in places these audiences gravitate towards. For all three demographics, search engines are the most utilized method of finding information.

Makers reported that they rely on manufacturer websites, engineering forums/communities, distributor websites, social media, and maker blogs/communities. Career Pro and Next Gen respondents also valued these sources, but they were more likely to consult co-workers/colleagues and textbooks than makers were.

Next Gens also cited more reliance on social media and news sites, showing that makers and Next Gens have adopted social media more than Career Pros.

Which of the following sources of information do you utilize most during the design process?

(Multiple responses)

Types of Info Relied On

While “sources of information” tell us where respondents look for information, “types of information” tell what kinds of content they reach for when they get there. A few points stand out here:

  • All three demographics showed preference for data-heavy resources like datasheets/spec sheets, technical articles, and user manuals.
  • Both makers and Next Gen respondents rely on video resources significantly more than Career Pros.
  • Career Pros relied on reference designs, app notes, and whitepapers significantly more than the other two demographics.

From this data, we can see that Career Pro engineers rely on the industry’s current most common content types, but Next Gens and makers are comparatively reaching for new content types.

Which types of information do you rely on most for during the designs process?

(Multiple responses)

Desired Content Types

Let’s take a look at the content types they’d like to see produced more often, which can inform how to most effectively invest in new content.

As with previous data sets, we see that makers and Next Gens agree that they’d most like to see more video tutorials/walkthroughs. Written tutorials/walkthroughs were the second most popular response for both makers and Next Gens, as well as the top response for Career Pros. All demographics agreed on theory-level technical articles as the third most requested content type.

Makers are less interested in new product announcements, research coverage, product comparisons, and industry news than are professional engineers. Video and walkthroughs may be the way of the future.

What kinds of informational content would you like to see more of?

(Multiple responses)


Makers face many of the same challenges professional engineers do. Budget is the number one concern identified by makers and a top response for engineers, as well.

Makers were more likely to say they had too many projects to work on than professional engineers. Note that professional engineers are given projects by their supervisors or companies while makers determine their own project load based on interest. By this same logic, makers have less pressure to stay on schedule as they set their own timelines.

Based on this data, engaging makers hinges more on appealing to their sense of interest than on alleviating pressures such as technical support or time to market.

What are the most pressing challenges you face in your current work?

(Multiple responses)

Open Source

Open-source hardware and software solutions make their specs open to the public for collaboration. The majority of respondents overall said they use open-source solutions with makers more represented than professional engineers.

The second most popular answer overall was that use of open-source would depend on circumstances. Next Gen engineers were the most represented here.
Finally, the smallest number of each demographic chose that they do not use open-source solutions. Career Pro engineers were the most represented here.

This data may reflect an increasing acceptance of open-source solutions as they become more common or an increased priority on intellectual property as engineers become more experienced.

Do you use open-source solutions in your projects?

Likely to Recommend

When asked how likely respondents are to recommend EETech sites, All About Circuits was the most popular choice.

Unsurprisingly, Maker Pro was most popular with makers by a significant margin. Next Gens were again more likely to indicate that they access a variety of resources as they were heavily represented across all sites listed.

How likely is it that you would recommend the following sites to a friend or colleague?

(For each persona, the charts show the percentage of those who said they were “very likely” or “likely” (top 2 ratings) to recommend each site.)

Can’t Get Enough Data?

The data presented here is only the tip of the soldering iron. If you are interested in more data, particular insights, or would just like to use our data in your marketing materials, please reach out to us. We’re happy to share!

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