How I start a project Part 1

Scratching my head thinking about what I want to write about today, I started skimming other blogs to get a sense of content and blogging frequency. Daily blogging might be too much to be sustainable over time, but my rationale is I learn something almost every day, so that’s what I’ll write about.

Today, I’m documenting my process of planning a project.

So I’ve been working through freeCodeCamp’s certificates. As of today, I only have the JavaScript Data Structures and Algorithms one done. I’m about half way through the Responsive Web Design certificate.

While working on the RWD cert, I’ve realized that I spend too much time trying to make things perfect and that hinders my progress. Switching to the thought that things just need to be “good enough”, I was able to finish the previous site, the Product Landing Page. It still needs some tweaks, which I got from feedback from the forums, but at least it’s out there.

So here’s my first stab at the Technical Documentation Page.

My background noise of choice lately has been “Mellow Beats” or “Chill Lofi Study Beats” on Spotify. Find those in “Genres & Moods” > “Focus”.

Now taking a look at the user stories, which comes from Agile if you are new to that term. A quick and dirty definition is something an end user can notice about the app/product. Here’s the list for the Technical Documentation Page.

Reading this document, I like to do a quick skim through first. In this pass through, I’m just getting a sense of how things should be laid out. There’s no need to get bogged down by what id’s are required, or what the styling needs to look like.

Here’s what caught my eye reading through this:

There’s not really a reason for me to write any of this down right now. I can always just refer back to the document if I need it.

Now I need some visuals though. Luckily, freeCodeCamp always gives you a link to an app that is more or less what you are looking to rebuild. So I follow the link and poke around the app. Here it is if you want it.

First thing I notice is it is plain! No worries though because I will style it myself. My first idea as far as styling goes is to make the navbar darker than the content. Hopefully that makes it pop and draws your eyes there. I also like the giant headings there are using here, so I’ll keep that in mind.

So after clicking around for a little bit, it’s clear that this one is pretty straight forward: make a site with a fixed navbar and links that go to certain sections of the overall page.

This is great, I’m off to a good start. I have a sense of the structural requirements. I also have an idea or two for the visual component.

Putting pen to paper

Depending on my mood, this next step varies. I could be really inspired by a site already and want to plan out my layout and styling for 3 viewports (Desktop, tablet, and tiny phone). Or I want to think about the structure by digging into the User Stories again.

Today is a structure kind of day, but who knows, I might get to the layout and design too.

My Approach: Structure

I’ve found that mind maps are a pretty good way to think about the structure. Somewhere on a piece of paper- I use paper because in the last 4 years of coding, I have learned the hard way that I need to slow down with some paper first or risk hours wasted on reworking my code repeatedly. So somewhere on some paper, I’ll start with an HTML “node” at the root of the graph. From there I link to it exactly like I would write my HTML file: there’s a Head node and a Body node. The Body gets two children as well: Main and Footer. You get the idea. Branch out until the User Stories are all covered. My system is nodes are circles, representing actually blocks of HTML. Lines coming off a node without a circle are properties or attributes about that node.

For example, the Main node can have three Section nodes coming off of it. Each of these Sections get a line coming off of it for an id, or classes if I’m ready for that, etc. Again, the point of this part is to get a visual representation of the HTML I will write that covers the User Stories that it can.

Time to fill in the details!

Thanks for reading this post! Comments, questions, and feedback are always welcome.