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Discussion on: How do you plan a personal project?🧭

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Alexandru Trandafir

I think yours is not an easy question, at least that's my opinnion, and it is because I guess it depends on the circumstances (type of project, individual background, alone or team, etc) because you can work on a project in many ways and unless you always work on the same kind of projects, at least for me, I find myself doing things in different ways depending on the project.

Then, in terms of personal project, I think it brings more "issues" for some people, as you already know I'm trying to build a product of my own. And building a product that is ment to be a business and even innovative, should have a little bit different approach because it might be good at the same time as you build the product, to also engage your possible user base and involve them into the process, take care of some marketing, etc.

But... if we're to take an easier example, like, this client comes to you and they tell you they want to build this web application.

Then I kind of go like this:

  • Meet client and take initial notes to understand what it is and how it works, and who will use it
  • Based on notes, try to make sketch on a sheet of paper with a simple diagram of the entire application (I also use Mindmup, or even simple list in a document, but putting it more visual sometimes is better for general view)
  • Also transfer those notes into a document with "additional/detailed specifications", because for example "how many fields does the signup form have" doesn't matter for the diagram, but it will matter later
  • In that same document, sometimes I write details about all the screens or functionalities, but not always, depending if I see it necessary (some features are easy to represent on a sketch, while others need specific indications written down)
  • Now in the middle of everything, before building or during, I also use to do some research and adjust all the material I create based on it
  • Now I sketch on a single sheet or on may (depending on size of project), all the screens & workflows (this time a little bit more detailed than the initial diagram, but not going crazy over it)
  • Now I can move to design, and in this step I either create very detailed sketches of the screens and develop that with some CSS framework as Bootstrap, or I really take time and do some pretty design in Figma if the project scope allows it

Then in terms of planning / tracking tasks to do I usually think of it like this:

  • What is the end goal?
    • Answer: This should be a web application on a server used by real people
  • Which are all the steps that must be done?
    • Answer: Develop this, develop that, I put everything on a list and organize it by what makes sense

Then how do I proceed with the tasks list? It can be many ways, or a mix of them

  • A) I can just use all the sheets of sketches and use a marker to highlight the "items" done (developed)
  • B) I can put everything on a Word document in a simple tree, and highlight there the items done
  • C) I can move this to Trello and organize it there

For me option A or B is the fastes, or mixing both. But then Trello can provide more space for tracking of individual tasks.

Of course, every time I finish something, I might push it to a test server, I might get feedback from client, adjust it, test it myself, etc. (I usually test everything myself and push finished features).

So fastest way:

  • Sketch something on a sheet, or multiple sheets of paper, and just develop it and highlight the stuff as you build it, and from there, put a mix of the rest of the tools as you find the need or by your taste