Side projects are a great way to practice your skills and justify that “problem-solver” title in your bio. But how to pick what to work on?
There are some problems no one is really having. They usually sound something like this:
“Hmmm I wonder what would Wikipedia look like with a super-thin font and ridiculously big shadows? Oh, and each article has a gorgeous, hi-res image to go with it. Oh, and I know absolutely nothing about their constraints, technical debts or priorities.”
This is only good for two things: drawing practice and writing clickbait articles.
Scratching your own itch
Okay, how about you tackle your own problem? You’ll have at least one user, right? Jason Fried and Linus Torvalds would approve, right? Sure, scratching your own itch makes business sense. There are lots of people just like you, with those same problems. Especially if you’re white, male, healthy and well paid.
But that also means there are lots of people working on solving your problems, be they big or small, and you can usually get the solution in any size, shape and color that you want. If you’re confident that you’re bringing something new to the table, by all means go ahead. But ask yourself if the world really needs another to-do app.
Pop the bubble
There are lots of people who are nothing like you, too. Their experience is wildly different from yours. And some of them are not in a position where they can solve their problems. Disabilities, mental health disorders, immigration and workplace bullying are all problems tons of people are going through every day and there are ways you can help them using your skills. Open your eyes, get out of your bubble, meet different people. Hell, why stop at people. I’m sure stray dogs have tons of problems and they can’t code. 😮
That’s where you step in. So, where to start?
Talk to people who have experience with these issues. Talk to your friends. Visit forums and subreddits. Listen. Try to notice patterns. It doesn’t have to be a huge “disruptive” app. Sometimes even a small website or a tiny twist on a generic app can help.
Get in touch with local organizations helping those in need and try to find ways in which your skills can be helpful.