How to work on your first project

Stella Kaniaru
May 13 · 6 min read

You’ve probably heard this a million times before, make that a trillion times during this pandemic.

Don’t get stuck in the tutorial rut, build something!

What normally follows is you get inspired, after having received this divine wisdom nugget from the people you look up to. So for the next few days, you walk around with a sense of purpose, determined to build something and honestly, they ain’t ready for the revolutionary stuff you have up your sleeve.

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Typical reaction in the early stages of motivation. Credits: theawkwardyeti.com

But somewhere along the line, a few days later, maybe some weeks, and if you’re determined enough, some months, you have an incomplete project and a defeated look, walking back to the same tutorial rut you had sworn to keep off.

Well, if that described you or someone you know, then this article is for you. This article is aimed at providing you with a few tips on how to go about the building process. The process stands, whether you’re working on building your own chair in the spirit of DIY or you’re working on building that recipe app you’ve been putting off.

Step 1: Plan

If you don’t know where you're going you’ll end up someplace else ~ Yogi Berra

Planning is basically the stepping stone of everything you want to do. Some of the basics you need to address include:

1.1 What do I want to build or work on?

This is where the whole concept of sourcing for ideas comes from. One of the reasons why people get stuck here is because they want to come up with that revolutionary stuff out of the blues.If you’re just starting out, its advisable to start small then scale from there. Build a recipe app and see how to give it your edge. You’ll learn a lot by building on what is already there.

Once you figure out which idea you want to run with, outline what you want to work on in simple sentences. A general overview would be the name, the problem you’re addressing, how it works and who your target market is. And yes, even a recipe app addresses a problem, especially for those whose top kitchen skill is boiling water.

1.2 What will my project look like?

Once you decide what you want to work on, it’s important to know what your project will look like. This includes both the look and feel and the functionality of your project. For the look and feel, sketches come in handy. You are free to either use hand drawn sketches or use platforms like Adobe XD. When it comes to functionality, understand and highlight what features you’ll need to work on e.g. what happens when this button is clicked?

1.3 What tools and resources will I need?

By now, you have a fair idea of what your project will look like. Before you jump into development, given your excitement, it’s important to understand what tools and resources will come in handy during your building process. Simply put, you just don’t start building your DIY chair just because you know you want a rocking chair that you will paint black to match your living room color scheme. You need to get the wood, nails and other items you’ll need to get the job done.

Getting your gear together spans across simple things like choosing what IDE will work for you to the big things like which database to use if your project needs one. And no, it doesn’t always have to be the complex things. Can be as simple as if I want to have an animation on my website banner, what do I need to get that done?

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Don’t just sit and whine. Figure out what you need to learn and build. Credits: theawkwardyeti.com

If you’re a beginner, this part of the planning process allows you to identify what technologies or languages you’ll need to learn in order to get your project done. In short, your technology stack. A rule of the thumb, official docs for any language should be on top of your list.Bookmark folders can come in handy as you identify which tutorials will help you as you learn and implement.

1.4 What will my working process look like?

At this point in time, you either still have your excitement going or you’re a bit worried that you might be taking on more than you can chew. Either way, take a deep breath, you’ve got this. Again, we’re yet to start building. With a clear idea of what you will be working on and what exactly is expected of you to get it done, you are well placed to define what your working process will look like. This might boil down to deciding which tasks to work on first, how much time to allocate to each task and in the long run, what timelines you will be working with. Don’t kid yourself by not giving yourself some form of deadline to check on your milestones because you will never get anything done.

Give me six hours to chop a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe ~ Unknown.

Planning takes time. The good thing is, if you do it well, it saves you considerable headaches that may spring up along the way.

Step 2: Build

It’s important to remember however, that not everything goes to plan. At some point, you might get a bug that keeps you up for days or you will take extra time to understand how to implement a certain concept. Some days, you honestly won’t feel up to working on the project anymore. It happens to most people, so don’t quit. Know what works for you, but keep working on building your project.

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Shrug off that self-doubt, you’ve got this. Credits: theawkwardyeti.com

Step 3: Get some feedback

Wrapping it all up

First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.
~Napoleon Hill

It can be daunting,for a beginner, taking a step to work on your first project. But it can be done. Hopefully, the steps illustrated above will give you an idea of what the building process looks like and how you can position yourself to get it done. Happy building,

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PS: If you have any more tips for a beginner starting out on the building journey, feel free to share in the comments section :)

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