I recently wrote an article on how to know if programming is for you. One of the ways to become a good programmer is to have side projects.
I received a comment from a reader that said:
"I want to work on a side project but I find it difficult finding a use case. Please help."
Every programmer — especially in the beginning — faces the same challenge. I had the same challenges at my beginner stage as a programmer and tried many methods to avail.
The following tips, in my opinion, are the best way to come up with great ideas on how to become a better programmer and find a good side project.
Write It Down
No matter what you are doing or where you are, always carrying a small notepad to write down any ideas that cross your mind during the day. Never overestimate your memory. You won’t remember everything. Always write it down. If you can’t carry a book, you can always use your phone, but I prefer a notepad.
It Has to Be Easy, but Not Too Easy
Don’t even try to build the next Facebook or PhotoShop. When beginners try to build something with very limited knowledge in programming, their first instinct is to go big. However, this often fails because you get hit with a bunch of things that you don’t know. You're also often left feeling unmotivated. Make your project solve just one problem and later upgrade it as you learn and get more comfortable with programming. It's amazing what you can learn as time progresses.
Try to Create Projects That Solve Personal Problems
Look around you. Try to find a little task that you can solve with a project. For example, I really suck at checking the Weather Channel website or looking at my phone for the weather forecast. To solve this problem, I decided to build to little side project to get a weather feed from the Weather Channel website to send me a notification if and when it’s going to rain so that I can be prepared. So, for example, if you want to know the price of an item or a list of items that you're about to buy at the store after tax, you can build an app to solves this problem.
Finally, remember that it’s always going to be difficult. You will face challenges and sometimes you will feel like quitting. Always remember your goal and keep pushing.