10 Tips for New Web Developers

If you are just getting started building web applications, these 10 tips are fundamental to learning how to build really great apps and to being successful in your new career.

1. Build at least one application on your own that wasn’t required in class and include a complex user interface component, such as a widget, and database access.

2. Understand how to use debuggers, browser debugging tools and breakpoints on IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari for desktop and mobile.

3. Practice building your own prototype apps using the most common JavaScript libraries. The best way to learn is to roll up your sleeves and work on it. Get your curious on!

4. Understand how to use a code repository. Try posting a few of your prototypes on github.

5. Read books written by the experts. When done read some more. Learn by example.

6. Participate by asking and answering questions in industry forums such as  Stack Exchange. You’ll gain more confidence as time goes on.

7. Understand how basic coding patterns such as loops and HTTP request/response can affect website and mobile performance.

8. Learn the difference between client and server-based code.

9. Practice problem solving by testing your prototype apps against the different major browsers. You will really learn what works and what doesn’t work. In most problem solving there is no exact answer, but knowing how to come up with potential solutions will save the day.

10. Research a problem first, then ask questions. Your colleagues that have been coding for a long time know when a question wasn’t well researched beforehand. You will learn best by trying to solve it. It can be like a puzzle and you have to figure out how the pieces fit together.

11. Yep, I know I said 10 tips, so this is a bonus. Read and learn about user interface design, and if possible work with an experienced UX engineer/designer. UX, or user interface design, makes the difference between an okay app and an excellent app.

10 Tips and Tricks for Running Live Demos on a Mobile Phone

Here’s my short list of some things to consider when you demo your company’s mobile apps to a live audience. I’ve accumulated this list over the last several years as the team I’m on does a lot of showing off apps on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. We’ve also seen quite a few demos from customers and at industry conferences.

While most of these tips apply to personal demos where you have the phone in your hand while standing in a tradeshow booth, I’m actually talking about projecting demos on a big screen in front of a live audience, or during an internet video conference call with screen sharing.

  1. Screen brightness. Adjust the screen brightness so that the screen is not too dark and not washed out, and temporarily disable screen brightness auto-dimming. Auto-dimming is where the phones background light gets dimmed usually around ten to fifteen seconds before the screen auto-locks.
  2. Turn off auto-lock. Temporarily disable your auto-screen lock (if your company policy permits it). There’s nothing more aggravating than talking about something for a few minutes and then when you turn your attention back to the phone you have to re-enter your unlock code. I’ve also seen this happen to people on the screen behind them and they didn’t notice but the audience could see it.
  3. Silence the phone. For demos that don’t need sound, which is probably most demos, turn your phone’s sound all the way to “off”. Most phones beep, tweedle and pop as various things happen in the background, so spare your audience by making your phone silent.
  4. A/C Power. Plug your phone into a power outlet. While this may seem obvious, I’ve seen a phone die during a major industry conference plenary session.
  5. Shutdown extra apps. Shut off any unnecessary apps that will consume memory and CPU. You want your demo to run as fast as possible.
  6. Remove unnecessary icons. Clean any non-professional app icons from the navigation screens you will be showing live. On a few rare occasions I’ve seen some fairly disturbing icons that had no place in a professional presentation.
  7. Verify the type of demo camera. Ask ahead what kind of demo camera the conference has for mobile phones, one of the most common ones is called an ELMO. These are devices where you set your phone below it and it has a camera that points downward at the phone and connects to a projector through a switch. So, when you go to show off your app you turn a switch that connects the ELMO (or similar device) to the projector. Some of these are terrible and some are great. I use an IPEVO Point 2 for some demos because it’s portable and I trust it.
  8. Test demo camera. Test your demo camera well before your presentation. You may need some help from the conference’s audio visual team. Make sure your phone in focus, check if you can see the application details, look to see if the background colors aren’t too white and washed out, etc.
  9. Cache local data. Cache your data when possible. If you plan on connecting to remote data sources, consider moving that data onto a local SQLite database on your phone.
  10. Check internet connection. Check your internet connection beforehand. Conference are notorious for having limited cell and wireless coverage. My recommendation is always create a movie backup of your most important demo points. Yep, I’m 100% serious. With an IPEVO Point 2, for example, you can project the camera image in a desktop app and use software such as Camtasia Studio, which also offers a free trial, to create a movie with audio too. Also, a note to phone developers here, it’s a best practice to check if your app has an internet connection and to let your users know if the connection goes away, for example: http://www.andygup.net/?p=155.