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Tired of learning by building todo-apps?

Dom Habersack
Dom HabersackAugust 26, 2020
A Lego Stormtrooper in front of an empty canvas.
You don’t have to do exactly what everybody else is doing.

When picking up new tools, some learn best by building something with them. That applies to both frameworks and design tools. Tutorials encourage you to explore the thing, not just read about it in theory. Like driving, theory is important, but you have to follow it up with experience to really know it well.

One popular project for this is the todo-app. It covers the basic actions of listing, creating, deleting, and checking off entries. The interface can be simple, or you can spend a lot of time making it look impressive. Building or designing a todo-app teaches you a lot about the framework or design tool you’re looking into.

After the fourth time building todo-apps, they feel a bit uninspired. Instead of copying straight from that exact example, put your own twist on the idea. Here are a few projects that are similar in size that would mix it up a little:

A note-taking application

As you’re learning, you are picking up new tricks, be it code snippets or design tricks. Instead of having to find them again every time, build a tool to keep all those tricks handy.

A personal learning diary

Document your progress by keeping short entries in your own little diary. For a twist, you could try to password-protect your personal notes. Having to set passwords and unlock notes make this interface more interesting.

A movie tracker

Build a database of all the movies you have watched and the ones you want to watch. You can add a date and a star rating, maybe a comment as well. You might even find a movie API that you can get posters, descriptions, and cast lists from.

An expense tracker

Keep a list of all the things you spend money on. Give the entries categories like food, entertainment, and education. That way, you can see how much you spent on each category in a given month.

A wish list

Save a list of all the gifts you’d like to receive and the ones you’d like to give. Add a URL to the product as well so that you never forget where you found that thing you want to get for Aunt Mary.

A recipe book

Store your favorite recipes in your own app instead of having to look them up in cookbooks or on the internet. You can add lists of ingredients, pictures of the food, and instructions on how to prepare them.

Doing any of these forces you to transfer what you’re learning. You have to understand what’s going on to “flag an expense as problematic” instead of “checking off a todo”.

What are your go-to ideas you build when you’re learning something new?

– Dom

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