How to Come up with Programming Projects

The best way to practice your skills when learning how to code is by finding programming projects to work on. It’s also the best way to demonstrate your skills! However, sometimes it’s easier said than done and nothing comes to mind. That’s why today I want to give you some tips for coming up with projects to work on – so that you never get stuck again!

Projects are awesome because not only do they help us practice our problem-solving skills, but also they allow us to experience this creative process from start to finish. In this post, we’re going to talk more about the benefits of having projects, my tips on how you can come up with projects to build and finally, some examples of programming projects!

Let’s quickly look at the benefits of finding programming projects:

  1. Learning becomes exciting – because you’re learning with a purpose and an end goal in mind. You see your progress very clearly and may get creative and experiment, explore additional ways to do things or adding features you didn’t think of before
  2. It’s easy to track your progress – because you can see how your understanding of programming concepts improves with every new project
  3. It motivates you and helps you believe in yourself – because you’re building things that are potentially useful to other people!
  4. Projects help you become a better problem solver – the more problems you solve and approaches you explore, the better your problem-solving muscle becomes. It’s all about practice and building new neural pathways in your brain
  5. Finally, they’re a great way to communicate your skills to others – whether to your mentor, peers or a potential employer. Projects speak for themselves and demonstrate your abilities – that’s why people create portfolios to showcase them

Now that we’re on the same page about the benefits of finding projects to practice your skills, here are some tips to help you come up with them for yourself:

  1. Research ideas online

Don’t be afraid to Google things – especially when you’re starting out. A lot of programmers joke about being professional Googlers, because that’s a huge part of learning to code and finding solutions and there’s no shame in that. The earlier you start doing that, the better!

Search for ideas to re-use or for inspiration – it’s definitely out there. It’s crazy how many people get stuck looking for ideas when they are a quick search away, don’t be that person! Use technology and the internet to your advantage.

  1. Look for opportunities to solve problems

Technology is a tool and should solve problems – whether directly or by simplifying or automating stuff. Be on the lookout for those problems in your own life and in the life of others. If you can’t think of problems to address in your day to day life, ask your friends and family what they struggle with on a daily basis.

Reach out to local businesses or go on forums to see what people want solving. Once you start doing this, you will find so many projects, you will have to put them in a queue!

  1. Read books, articles, etc.

Another great way to get ideas is by reading. From books to the latest news – there is a ton of inspiration out there. It doesn’t have to be major political news, it can also be your local newsletter or blog. In fact, those will probably be better sources of project ideas that will be more attainable.

  1. Write project ideas down

Make sure that you capture ideas when you have them – because they can disappear as easily as they came to you and it will be so hard to get them back! Having a list of ideas of projects you can work on in the future is always super handy. It will help you when you’re having one of those mental blocks.

Write them down with whatever you have at hand – a notebook, a note-taking app, email it to yourself or text it to your friend. My husband and I text each other things we want to remember. When we’re not together at the time it makes for fun random messages, but it always works! Make sure that you collect all of those ideas in random places and put them in one list on a regular basis – to keep them all together.

  1. Understand your limits

By limits I mean your current skills: if you’re a beginner, don’t overcomplicate things, go for simpler projects. As well as your time limits in terms of how much time you can dedicate to these projects. You also don’t want to start super complicated projects that will drag on and on and on… Understand the limits of your patience and motivation!

  1. Don’t underestimate your creativity

A lot of people think that fields like technology, maths or science aren’t creative. That’s a ridiculous stereotype though, how else do people in these fields solve problems and come up with brilliant innovations? That’s creativity!

Approaching something from a different angle, connecting the dots from different fields and simply building something – all require creativity. Remind yourself of your creativity and notice it in action to reinforce that belief. This will also help you generate ideas. Believing that you are creative will help you be more creative.

And now, let’s look at some examples of programming project ideas that you can use as a foundation and spin in your own direction:

  1. Try building your favourite website or app

If you’re learning front-end, try getting the UI the same and if you’re learning back-end language, pick a functionality and try to build it in isolation.

  1. Website or an app for a local cafe, charity, your pet

Copying something can be a great learning experience, but building and designing something from scratch requires a different set of skills. Create an app or a website for your pet, local business or your favourite brand.

You don’t have to tell them about it – just think about what kind of website or app would they benefit from and create it. Brownie points if you actually deliver the results to the business – even if it’s for free. This is some real-life experience!

  1. Calculator

This is one of my favourite projects and there are so many types of calculators you can build. From a basic calculator to a tip calculator, or a tax calculator – anything that you can think of. You can build out the logic with back-end programming languages or JavaScript. Bonus points if you build out the UI with HTML and CSS if you’re in front-end.

You can also create a conversion program (technically not a calculator, but also a great project). Converting Celsius into Fahrenheit or cups into grams and vice versa. You get the picture. What do you or people in your life convert often? Create a program for that!

  1. Automating tasks

From recurring emails to adding things to your calendar – there are plenty of things in our lives that can be automated. If you want to go deeper, use an API to get information from certain apps and process it to automate things.

  1. Sudoku generator or other games

Find a game that you can recreate and build that! A great example is Sudoku – generating numbers that follow a certain logic. If any other games come to mind when I say number generation with certain rules or logic – why don’t you try to make it!?

To make things more complex, you can explore making games with animation, for example, a snake.

So there you have it, some tips on how to come up with programming projects and ideas for inspiration. I hope you’ve been able to think about a fun project to work on next and that these tips will help you to never run out of ideas or find new ones easily!

If you have any tips you’d like to share or project ideas – please do so in the comments! Share this post with a friend who is learning how to code and reach out to me on social media!

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