Ask DN: Small projects to improve my Web Design/Dev skills

almost 6 years ago from , UI Developer / Full-Stack Designer

A friend and I (a designer and front-end developer) just monumentally failed at completing our project in time for a Hackathon, so we want to improve our skills (especially in terms of a backend system with Meteor).

Do you guys have any suggestions for relatively simple projects that we can do? An ideal project would incorporate a backend with the API from another site, and would have a lot of design and front-end problems as well.



  • Kumbi MadzingaKumbi Madzinga, almost 6 years ago

    Hey Jason,

    The first time I considered this approach, I got out a pen and paper and listed the kind of things I liked doing, e.g. watching football, cooking, drinking beer, woodwork, history, listening to podcasts, talking about movies with your friends, etc.

    The next task was to see if there were any interesting cross-sections possible from that list. It'd be cool for you guys to merge your lists before you do this!

    Then I looked around blogs and listicles to see if there were any new languages, techniques, apis, or whatevers I wanted to try out on a relatively short, small scale, one-dimensional kind of project.

    Make sure to limit your scope early on so you can focus on key concepts and to keep things simple. The idea is to learn something new – not so much to build a shiny thing.

    I've got a curious backlog of potential projects from this, and pretty much figured out how to use Jekyll, npm, Express, SVG, Jade and D3 in this manner. Now, I'm back on my first project to polish it up as part of my portfolio!

    Good luck!

    6 points
    • Jason Etcovitch, almost 6 years ago

      Cool, thanks! We will be pooling our interests, but I think that a lot of the things we wish existed are just too complicated for our current backend skill level. Hopefully we'll be able to find a simple idea though.

      0 points
    • Chris VaseyChris Vasey, almost 6 years ago

      Really awesome idea here! I have always found the best way to learn things is by doing (at least for me).

      0 points
  • Account deleted almost 6 years ago

    Honestly, I would keep doing the Hackathons. Look in the mirror and take note of why you did not complete the project on time. Was it because you bit off more than you could chew? Was it because you flip-flopped on a solution too long? It sounds like the failings might not have as much to do with pure skill as you think.

    Doing a pet project now lifts the time constraint that was the biggest hurdle for your and your partner to overcome. Time constraints like that will never go away. I think there is a ton of value in making a plan... developing an MVP... and then ADDING things if time allows. This is a skill set that only gets stronger... and you will find that more and more you guys crank more out and product better quality stuff.

    It's like that show Chopped on the Food Network. Contestants aren't going to practice at home by cooking meals in an hour or 90 minutes. They hone their craft by putting themselves in a tight time window and working, working, working until they chop more efficiently, learn from mistakes, prep quicker, what flavors work with what, etc.

    I think there is a lot of value in that.

    If you still want to do a side project... go for it...but I'm not sure that would ever solve the issues you seemed to have at the Hackathon. For a side project, start with a quick and east one first (avoid octopus-like challenges). Build up to those.

    0 points
    • Jason Etcovitch, almost 6 years ago

      I totally agree with you that hackathons are great practice, but I think what we're missing right now is more the ability to "solve a problem" than a short deadline; if possible, we'd love to do more hackathons but we're looking for something to do to practice in the meantime. Our backend knowledge is just not good enough to make anything, let alone in two days (the duration of our last hackathon).

      0 points