How To Start a New Project

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Memory Hook: Cinnamon Tea at Grandma's House with Cookies from a Metal Tin

Last updated:4/14/18

Q: How would you recommend learning '<XYZ FRAMEWORK/CMS>'?

React, Angular, Vue, Wordpress, Drupal ...

- Nick

On Strategy

It can be daunting to start a new project, and so we recommend a two-prong approach Framework + Fundamentals:

On Fundamentals

If you're not familiar with the technology, then, you need a 2-step approach.

  1. Do the tutorial and then
  2. Break off and try your own idea.

Take existing tutorial concepts - a sign-up form, map or log in — and try to adapt it to something that is related but not the objective of the tutorial.

On Frameworks

Modern web apps are based on frameworks, which adds a layer of complexity. Instead of just learning JavaScript, you're learning React on top of it. It's the equivalent of not just talking about the latest movie, but doing it in Spanish or Russian.

When it comes to learning frameworks, it depends on your learning style. If you learn better by reading and tinkering, we recommend up-to-date eBooks.

Important Note: We don't use affiliate marketing here. All recommendations are made without an ulterior motive.

Written Tutorials

If your learning style is more watch-and-do, video tutorials are a better bet.

Video Tutorials

What's important to look for in whatever path you take is to try to find a resource that covers end to end process including environment setup, debugging and deploying.

Each framework has it's own tooling requirements to set up, work in and publish. If you're just focusing on the syntax of a framework, you can get stuck in the process of generating the code, not just writing the code.

On Making it Personal

The more personal you can make this, the higher the chance of success. Example apps, however well-meaning or structured, will never matter to you as much as your own ideas will.

It can be hard for some of us to push through the frustration and confusion inherent to learning technology when we don't really care about the example.

As best you can, get up to a speed but make your learning personal.

On Limiting Scope

Limiting everything you need to do to get the site up is important to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Don't worry about building something cool or complex until you feel confident that you're ready to move to the next level.

There are so many libraries, helpers, plugins, widgets, and packages you can install and explore — but don't worry about those until you've got a firm grasp on the basic concepts.

If you try to do cool tricks before you know what you're doing, you'll likely create a culture of frustration for yourself that usually ends in you giving up.

Instead of tackling a big project, break it up into chunks and iterate.

We're not saying you shouldn't have a fully-functional and fabulous site. But just code it, just do it, and correct course along the way. This is how the rest of the real world does it.

It's rare in the real world to be able to linger in secrecy until it's perfect.

On Thinking Like a Kid

Give yourself license to fail. Let yourself get lost.

As an adult, you have come so far in life, overcome so much, learned so much, that it can feel humiliating to be so wrong, so often and so thoroughly, as you do in code.

We hereby give you permission to fail and not have it reflect on you personally.

It's ok to be confused.

On Specific Tips to Help

Bolster your chances of success
  1. Keep an "In-Progress-Log" with what you're working on, and what you have to do.

    I've found learning new tech is a huge effort, and remembering where you were or what you were doing can kill momentum.

  2. Tie some kind of life event to it (new portfolio site for job hunting, getting married, an upcoming conference, meetup needs a new site etc...)

    This also helps by setting a deadline that's not arbitrary.

  3. Keep the scope small. One page max.

    There is so much tooling, dev ops and errors you'll have to battle. Keeping the site small will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

  4. Don't add technology you don't need yet.

    For example, it's common to pair Redux with React but Redux solves a problem for React that is rare for a majority of applications that use it.

  5. Treat it like a regular project on your own with an accountbility and tracking system.

    This helps break the process down into chunks that you feel you can knock out in the spare time you have to learn.


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