What tools do you use for creating great content? Writing is challenging. When you need to write for the web, the pressure to create and publish great content makes it even harder.
You can choose to start writing. Force yourself to start with an idea and a blank page. Which may result in not so great content. Or you can use a tool or framework to plan out what you want to talk about.
You can use simple tools like mindmapping or an outline like you used in school to write an essay. These are great tools for getting started planning. For some types of writing, you are going to need a different technique.
The Core Model
The Core Model
What is the Core Model? It is a tool that helps you to map out your business goals, user tasks and context. The Core Model is useful in deciding how users find the content you are planning and sketching out the main content. It helps you to focus on your business goals and user needs before you start writing.
The Content Framework is a form that you can use to answer questions that are vital to the writing process. Questions like who is going to read this, what business goals does this page support, and what tasks do we want the user to do. It helps you do think about what you want to say and who is your audience before you start writing.
What is Pair Writing? It is borrowed from an agile software development technique called “pair programming“. In Pair Programming, two programmers work together on writing code. One programmer writes the code while the other one reviews it. The second programmer offers suggestions for improvements. The two programmers frequently switch roles. This technique takes longer but generally produces better quality of code.
Pair Writing follows a similar pattern. One person writes while the second person observes, asks questions and provides suggestions. The two writers switch roles to take turns writing and offering suggestions for improvements. This technique can take longer but you get greater involvement from all members of your team.
Writing for the web is challenging. When you have a team of designers, developers, content writers and management, using a writing process like The Core Model makes thing easier. It helps you to plan out your goals, answer questions on what the content should be about and do and create content that focuses on your customers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
With Markdown, it looks much simpler:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.