Choosing a final project that stands out

You’ve had an idea in your head ever since you enrolled at ${bootcampName}. And now that you’ve completed most of the curriculum, you also have the skills needed to execute. Your bootcamp is giving you two weeks to build a full stack website and it seems like the perfect time to implement your idea and change the world, right?

Hang on. Now is not the time – although your project might be the next decacorn, you’re looking for something more short-term. Although your idea could hit the front page of TechCrunch and gain five million users during your final weeks of bootcamp. it’s more likely you will have only a few users – a ‘login as guest’ account and any other fake personalities you seeded your database with.

A company will spend less than a minute playing with your app. It’s your job to ensure they see the best demonstration of your abilities within that first minute.

Choose a project that is universally recognizable and painfully obvious. The objective of your final project is to demonstrate your newfound developer skills to employers. You want visitors to log on to an interface where the experience is already engrained into their memory (and you want to replicate that experience as closely as possible). When a user scrolls through their Twitter feed, it should fetch more Tweets automatically; when a user creates a new Medium posts, they should see a rich text editor instead of a vanilla <textarea>. While using your app, users should think “hold on, is this the real Facebook?”

When using LinkedIn, we expect it to be inherently broken; we also expect every single action we make to be broadcast to our entire network through email and push notifications.

Leave your founder and designer hats by the door. Sites like Facebook and Meetup employ hundreds of designers who scrutinize every element of a page. Moving a single element one pixel to the right comes from dozens of meetings and A/B tests involving hundreds of thousands of users. Color palettes are decided by committees and design studios who charge astronomical fees for consultations.

Recruiters are the wall you’re trying to scale with this app.

A company’s first line of defense is its team of HR professionals. They look at hundreds of applications a day, tossing resumes out at a whim. If your project impresses the recruiter, speaking to an engineer is almost a given.

Recruiters have no idea which parts of a website were technically challenging to make. They open your page and think about how the actual page should behave, creating a test post and concluding your app is functional. They have no idea what kind of fancy joins or prefetching you’re performing on the backend to eliminate N+1 queries. As a result, you need to pay your CSS dues. If the app has a cute animation when you like a Tweet, implement it. If the app uses a loading spinner, implement it (and then add a delay on the server so users can admire it).

Only after a recruiter signs off on your resume do you get a chance to demonstrate the technical aspects of your project to employers.

Choose a final project that is familiar to anyone who stumbles on your portfolio.

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