Build a tiny, unique, web app

January 4th, 2017

I see developers making the mistake over and over again - jumping headfirst into a complicated app before learning the basics. Is this you?

Maybe your boss put you on the big, complex mega-app at work and you have no choice. Or maybe you have a dream app idea that you want to build - and you want to get started right away.

Either way - if you are struggling or you are feeling overwhelmed, please put your super-app aside for a bit.

Instead: build a tiny and unique React app. And finish it.

Why tiny?

Tiny apps have fewer dependencies, which means fewer tools to learn. You’ll be less likely to get frustrated.

That means you will make more progress, more quickly. Making progress builds momentum, which keeps you motivated to continue learning.

A tiny app is an achievable goal - it is one that you can actually finish.

What finishing gets you

An unfinished app brings feelings of shame and regret. Thoughts like “I’ll get around to finishing that eventually.”

A finished app builds momentum. It gives you confidence every time you think about it or look back over your GitHub profile.

A finished app is something you can point to - it becomes proof of what you have learned. Proof for your colleagues, potential employers, and even for yourself.

Why unique?

It is easy to finish a little TODO app from a tutorial. You basically just follow along and copy/paste.

But copy/pasting doesn’t really teach you anything (except how to copy/paste, which I’m sure you already know).

Plus you may not feel like sharing an app that you know is a cookie-cutter version of an app thats already out there. You won’t have any pride in it.

When you build a unique app, it is truly your own. You can share the app, and share the code.

Potential employers love this

Even if you already have a good job - think ahead to the next time you will transition. When you switch jobs you have enough to worry about without trying to bolster your resume.

When I’ve evaluated resumes in the past, very few contained enough code for me to really evaluate the candidate. Oftentimes these candidates have a ton of experience, but all their work is owned by a former employer. Candidates can’t share that code, so interviewers can’t evaluate it.

That’s why it is worth taking a weekend to build a unique app that you own and can do whatever you want with.

If I had seen a solid, finished web app on any resume, I would have jumped at the chance to meet that candidate. It shows that you can finish what you start, and that your knowledge is well-rounded.

How to do it

If you are thinking:

Sure, sounds great in theory. But what exactly should I build?

then I've got you covered. Read the next article in this series: 8 simple app ideas.