How to plan a project?

Projects can be large or small. They can be finished in 24 hours or take months even years to complete. Whether you are working on a project for yourself or a client, you need to create a plan. Your plan can be as simple or detailed as you need it to be. A simple coding plan covers things like what I am going to make, tools I need, steps needed to complete project, sketch out your designs, plan your code and schedule time to work on it.

How To Plan a Project
Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

Decide what to make

The best projects fall somewhere between things that you enjoy doing and things that allow you to learn marketable skills. If you are working on a side project or a hobby, you want to make certain that it has these elements. When you work on client projects, you may not get a project that has both. All projects can provide you with the opportunity to learn something.

Coming up with ideas for personal or side projects can be hard. By keeping a project notebook as Amie Chen does, you’ll have plenty of ideas to choose from. You can also ask your friends what problems they are having or try one of these ideas.

Pick the tools you want to use

Whether you are going to use a new framework or sketching tool, you should make sure that you have everything that you’ll need. Need new software? Install it. Photos? Download or purchase them. Make sure you have what you so you can set up your space for working on your project right away.

Plan the steps to complete your project

When you are first starting a project, it is easy to get excited about it and want to start building right away. Don’t. Plan out your project. Use a process called backwards planning. Start with your end goal. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish and write down clear steps and milestones that you need to achieve this goal. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you can revise as needed later.

What about extra things that you didn’t plan for? You may discover that you need a few extra things. if you are using an API, you may need to sign up for a developer key. Add them to your plan as you learn about them so you don’t forget to do it.

Design

Design is more than making it look pretty. It can be helpful to sketch out your designs before building an app. By sketching it out, you can decide what features to include, how people will use it and how it looks.

Plan your code

Start small. Think about the steps that the user needs to do in order to accomplish something. Break your code down into functions. By breaking it down, you make it easier to write your code.

Schedule time to build it

Look at your schedule and plan time to work on this project. You may need to stop doing less important things like watching TV.

Stay healthy and keep coding

Do you play, work and learn using a computer? The way you use a computer may be harmful to your health. It can affect your posture, hands and more. When using a computer becomes painful, it can change how you use it. You may think that you need to stop programming.

Stay Healthy and Keep Coding
Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

To prevent that, you can focus on these 5 ways to stay healthy and keep coding.

How's your posture?

When you are coding you can get into the flow and forget about maintaining your posture. Check the way you sit or type periodically. If you need a reminder, have your computer remind you a couple times during the day.

Take regular breaks

Both your brain and body benefit from regular breaks. Depending on how you work, you many need to take a break every 45 to 90 minutes. One technique Pomodoro has you taking a 5 minute break every 25 minutes.

Optimize your workspace

When you work at a computer all day, it should suit your needs. Customize your computer to work for you. Try different type of setups. A new keyboard, mouse, chair or even a standing desk.

Move more

Moving can help you think better. Stuck on a problem, go for a walk. Find an exercise that you like to do and schedule it. By making it an appointment, your more likely to do it. Don't want to exercise alone? Get a buddy to exercise with. A buddy can help make exercise fun and make you stick to it so you don't disappoint them.

Eat better

Do you know what you are drinking and eating? Most people when they get busy or into the flow reach for what is easy and available. They don't pay attention to what they eat or drink. What can you do to optimize your eating habits? Make small changes. Swap out your afternoon snack with a fruit or vegetable snack that you enjoy. Buy a water bottle that helps you to drink more water during the day.

Want to increase your productivity as a programmer? You need to optimize the way you take care of yourself and develop a plan for staying healthy. The Healthy Programmer can help you change your work habits.

Moving to Markdown

What is your writing process? Whether you write a blog or technical documentation, you need to have a process. Not just a writing process, but a process for getting your work in a format that can be published on the web. My process is writing, converting to hypertext and publishing. It works, but it can be cumbersome adding the html code to my writing. What can I use instead? Markdown.

Moving to Markdown
Photo by: Free-Photos

What is Markdown?

Markdown is a way to write for the web. It is text to html conversion tool. The goal was to make it as readable as possible without looking like it was marked up with a bunch of formatting code. This simple system was created by John Gruber.

When you write HTML, it can get very complicated looking with the tags and extra formating:
HTML Code Screenshot

With Markdown, it looks much simpler:
Markdown screenshot

Changing your writing process

Markdown is easy to learn. The syntax is very simple. In five minutes or so, you can start writing in Markdown. You can use either a text editor or an app for Markdown.

What if you don’t want to use a special app? You can install it in IDEs like Atom or Visual Studio. With an IDE like Atom, you can use the preview mode to see how it will look in a browser before you publish your writing.

Want to get started learning Markdown? Start with this Markdown tutorial. It goes through each concept one lesson at a time. You can also use this cheatsheet to look up how do write Markdown.

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.

Getting Started with a Design System

When your website is small, you can use design tools like sketches, sitemap and color schemes to create a consistent and cohesive look and feel. What happens as your team and website grows? How do you keep your website design and functionality from being a mess? You may start out by creating a design style guide or building a pattern library. Eventually, you’ll need something more. A tool like a design system.

Getting Started with a Design System
Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

What is a design system?

A Design System is a documented library of colors, fonts, buttons, components, visual elements and other design features that helps to create a consistent user experience. It is more than a style guide or a pattern library. A style guide focuses on the design or look and feel. Pattern libraries focus on building and providing a consistent code base. Your design system pulls both the style guide and pattern library into a single, documented system for your entire team to use.

Examples of Design Systems

How do I build my own design system?

Start with the tools that you know. You can build your own using a CMS that you are familiar with. To get started, you can look at Brad Frost’s Design System Boilerplate. You can use the boilerplate as a starting guide for building your own system. Next, review and document your visual elements, design features and other components that make your user experience unique.

When you build your own, start small and build as you go. Remember, the best solution is the one that you and your team uses. Refer to these tools and resources to learn more about how to build a design system: