Saturday, May 12, 2012

Working on a side project

There are many pluses when working on a side project. You get to work with the latest technology. You get to decide what features go in and what doesn't. You can show it off to potential employers. The list is endless. However there are some tips to remember as well. We will cover these here.

Time management

Unless you are unemployed, your time is now a precious resource, which means that you are now a resource to your own project. Try and organize blocks of time during the week when you can work (i.e. a few hours on Saturday or an hour on Thursday night) and stick to them. Try to break up your work into small chunks and aim to have a feature done in that block. This will help motivate you.

Feature Management

Related to time management, it's important to maintain a list of what you want to do and be able to check items off this list. Ask friends for feature ideas and add them to the list. Save anything that's a large feature for the weekend and try and do the smaller features during the week.

Also while developing your site.app, try and maintain a list of every little thing that is bugging you. If it bugs you, it is sure to bug the user.

You also have to be judicious when you are not actually working on the site in figuring out which features really add value. Remember, your time is not limitless...

Site/App Design

I am not a designer, but I know my way around CSS pretty well. I found Twitter Bootstrap to be a good framework to help me get started. There are tons of resources online as well. You probably won't get the design done in one go so it's important to remember that you will iterate on it repeatedly.

Friends

Your friends are your best resource. Invite them early and get feedback ASAP. They will give you ideas for improvements and features and also help you determine which features to implement first (if everyone asks for the same feature, it must be important). At the end of the day though, you are in charge.

Tests

It is tempting at first to leave out automated unit tests (because, hey, you are having fun right?) and that is fine for a little while, but don't let it drag on too long. Remember that you may be showing this side project to a potential employer, and you wouldn't hire someone that doesn't write tests would you?

That's all I can think of for now, but I will probably add to this as I continue working on my project. Happy coding!

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