Are you a maker or mender?

A maker is a person who likes to make and create things. They like building an idea from scratch and founding startups. Most developers are makers. They enjoy the process of designing, developing, experimenting and building a minimal viable product (MVP). A mender is a person who likes to maintain a product. They help it to growth and change to meet their customers needs over time. About 10% of developers are menders. They enjoy updating, refactoring, testing and remodeling your code. You can depend on menders to help you grow and maintain your products.

Are you a maker or mender
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What kind of developer are you?

You are a maker if you:

  • Enjoy tackling a problem and creating a brand new solution
  • Like to experiment with new ideas and techniques
  • Get bored if you have to repeat the same tasks
  • Find refactoring code, fixing bugs and handling customer support requests to be boring

You are a mender if you;

  • Find refactoring code, fixing bugs and handling customer support requests to be interesting
  • Enjoy fine tuning or updating existing code
  • Get stressed if you have to tackle a new problem and build a solution from scratch
  • Like to work best without hard deadlines

Not sure? Andrea Goulet of CorgieBytes explains the difference.

Staying motivated as a maker or mender

Developers love to write code. Makers and menders are motivated by different things. To create your best code, you need to know what motivates you.

As a maker, you work the best when you can experiment, create prototypes and develop ideas under a deadline. Makers are like home builders. They design, build and move onto the next house.

Menders work best when they have a number of tasks to complete. They enjoy deep diving into the code and fixing bugs and refactoring it. Menders are like home remodelers. They tweak, rearrange and fix what it wrong with an existing house.

When you write code, you have to maintain it. You can make your code more reliable and secure. Legacy Code Rocks is a podcast for menders or anyone who has to maintain code.

Tips for Building Your Developer Portfolio

Developers like to build stuff. Apps, websites, apis or a quick little script that does something quickly and easily for you. A developer portfolio shows your best work. Whether it is a single page website or a full website with a blog, your portfolio shows your unique style and approach to solving problems.

Tips For Building Your Developer Portfolio
Photo by: Fancycrave1

Tips for building your portfolio

1. Start with a plan
Treat your portfolio like it is a project for a client or your employer. Plan it out. Think about what pages you want to create, what projects you are going to include and additional resources like screenshots you are going to need. Write your copy and sketch out your design. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to showcase your best work.

2. Consider what tools you use
You can build your portfolio with whatever tools you want. Whether you decide to build it from scratch or use an existing framework, don’t choose to use a framework or technology because you can. You want to make it easy for you to maintain.

3. Buy your own domain name
Why? With your own domain name, you control how it looks and what you can do with it. If you want to create new projects like an app or a tutorial website, you can. Your own domain name makes it easier for potential clients or employers to find you.

4. Make sure it works on mobile
You want your website to be readable and look good on as many platforms as possible. There are different ways to test your website for mobile from resizing your browser to testing on a mobile device. Choose the method that works best for you.

5. Choose your best work
Don’t show everything that you have built. Choose projects that demonstrate your current skills. If you develop mobile applications, don’t include projects from when you created websites for WordPress. Be picky. Show the pieces that reflect who you currently are.

See how other developers created their portfolios

When building your first one or updating an old one, it helps to see what other developers have done. Be inspired by other developers.

  • Brent Krueger is a freelance web designer and developer. He uses a beautiful photo of the state capitol building in Madison, WI in his website’s header.
  • Christina Richardson is a UX Researcher and Designer. She has a one page portfolio with a timeline of her career in UX and an infographic of her design process.
  • Jess Johnson is a full stack developer. He uses great typography and a simple color scheme.
  • Ali Spitel is a developer. Her website has a minimalist design with simple navigation and a great use of color.
  • Kyle Ledbetter is a designer and developer. He uses a mix of background colors and images for each section. In his About, he uses the states as subtle background images.

Using Trello For Your Projects

What tools do you use to manage your projects? Do you track them using lists, a bullet journal or a project management tool like Trello? With Trello, you can create a meal planner, a weekly to-do list, manage clients and development projects. You create as many board, cards and lists as you need.

Using Trello For Your Projects
Photo by: RawPixel

With all of this flexibility, it can be a challenge to figure out how to best work with Trello. Use the following tips to make this project management tool work for both your personal and professional projects.

1. Create a projects board

If you are like most people, you may have more than one project to keep track of. A projects board can help you to plan which projects that you want to work on next. Some people like to plan the next six months or year out. Use this board to provide on overview of what you are working on.

2. Make one board for each project

It may be tempting to place all projects on one board. You may find that it grows rather quickly and becomes hard to manage. A single board for each project keeps things simpler and cleaner.

3. Create as many lists as you need

Trello is based on the Kanban method, which starts with three lists: To-Do, Doing and Done. For some projects, these three lists are all you need. For other project, you are going to need more. Make as many as you need.

4. Give your labels meaningful names

Trello provides different colored labels with no names. It is up to you to decide what they mean. You can use these labels to help manage your tasks. For example, you may use red for Stopped or Blocked tasks, yellow for waiting and orange for annoying issues.

5.Use the inspiration boards

Why create a board from scratch? Trello has a public library of boards that others have created and are available for you to use. Use one these boards to get started on your next project.

Looking for more tips and inspiration on how to use Trello?

Trello’s blog has helpful tips and tutorials on using this project management tool more productively and creatively.

3 Dashboard Design Tips

Dashboard design sounds simple. You want to create a way of presenting data to your users that is clean and easy to understand. Easy right?

3 Dashboard Design Tips
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No, dashboard design is more difficult than it seems. You need to consider your users before you can decide what data to present to them and how.

Ask these questions before you start building

  1. What data needs to be show to your users? You want to track a small number of key metrics. Not all data should be on a dashboard. Some data belongs in a report. If the data your considering is a summary or analysis, it may work better as a report.
  2. How am I going to present this data? You can choose to display the data as a chart, gauge, totals or a simple table.
  3. What actions do you want the user to take? Should they click on a link to open a report, update some information or do nothing?

Sketch out your design

After you researched and learned what data the user wants to see, you need to decide how to organize the data. You may find that you have too many pieces of information to present to the user. Sketch out your dashboard before you build it to determine what pieces of data go where. An easy to read dashboard has from 5-9 pieces of information on it. Remember that less is more.

Keep the design simple

You want your users to be able to scan the dashboard quickly. Help them by choosing to limit the number of pieces of information, colors, fonts and other UI elements. Your design should be minimal.

By asking questions before you build a dashboard, sketching out the design and keeping the design simple, you can give your users key pieces of information quickly.

More information on Designing With Data
Data Visualization Best Practices 2013

3 Tips for Better Forms UX

When you enter information into a form, it is easy to make mistakes. How do you help your users make less mistakes? You provide them with defaults. Defaults can help users to fill out a form quicker, make decisions easier and reduce errors.

3 Tips For Better Forms UX
Photo by: BiljaST

When you build a form, you need to get different types of information. Some information like their name, address and email address need to be entered by the user. Other information like state, country, gender or some other information that requires a decision can use a default. A default is the most likely option that a user would choose.

For example, your user is going to buy a product. The default quantity is one. You set the quantity for them, so they don’t have to. It helps them to make the purchase quickly. You don’t want them to think to hard on how many they want.

Should you use a drop down list or something else?

It depends. If you have a short number of options, you can use a radio button list. The list makes it easy to scan your options and choose quickly.

For a longer list of options like State or Country, a radio button list would be too hard to read. It is better to put the options in a drop down list. Most mobile devices can handle the use of a drop down list on a form. If you aren’t certain which one works better for your form, you can ask these 9 questions to help you decide.

Address Form with Defaults

Should you choose an option in a drop down list?

When you can, fill drop down lists like state and country with user data. For drop down lists that require a decision by the user, you can leave the field blank. By leaving them blank, people scan for the empty or blank fields and fill them in. They rarely change fields with defaults in them.

Should you use placeholders in fields?

If you are designing a short form with a couple of fields like a login or sign up form, then the answer is yes. You can use placeholders instead of labels on these forms.

Curves Join Form

When you create longer forms like an event registration form, don’t use placeholders. Use clear label, error messages and defaults to help guide the user through the form.

When you build a form, you can use these techniques to help guide them through filling out a form. Defaults, radio button lists or other input fields, pre-selected drop down lists and placeholders in fields when necessary. By making decisions for users and guiding them through the data entry process of your form, you can help make filling out forms faster and easier.