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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot
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    Despite all the learning, I still can't put together a custom system

    I've done plenty of reading, DVD training, practise, and I have had many productive talks with fellow IT professionals about developing systems using ASP.NET, VB.NET, or whatever.

    I have learnt so much and one of the problems is I can't remember everything. Fair enough, but I document my code so I can search through functions which I can re-use those functions (methods, classes, whatever) in other projects (like the code for an ASP.NET contact form).

    However, despite being about to take the plunge into freelancing, all it would take is for a client to say he or she needs an auction website (I had a request for such a system from someone and I am tempted to use a ready-made script, but that won't teach me anything unless I study the source code). When it comes to making one from scratch, I have no idea what to do. I have an idea of the order in which to make the system - database first, design later, etc - but not of the code. I know the nuts and bolts and building blocks of the code for a language quite well, but not in how to turn it into a custom solution.

    Does anyone here have this problem? What skills am I lacking?

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard HarryR's Avatar
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    Ah you can probably start with actually planning out exactly what needs doing instead of just worring about where to start.

    For example, get the site structure planned in Microsoft Visio (or your graphing software of choice) or on paper. Then move onto the site design and how different layouts to use for different types of pages, then onto the database design or any of those in any order.

    The idea is just to get a much better idea of what you're aiming to complete, and a reference that you can check back to later.

  3. #3
    Serial Entrepreneur
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    Always start with the specs. If the customer doesn't have one, get them to pay for you to create one.

    Once you have the specs, what I usually do next is take a small piece of it that I understand fully how to do and I do that. Then I take the next piece.. and the next... etc. Building an application is about as complicated as building a Lego building if you take it a piece at a time.

    Notice I'm not mentioning anything about languages or object oriented programming or Agile or anything else. I'm just talking about breaking the application down into smaller steps that you can get your mind around.
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  4. #4
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    I've done a bit of game-programming before -- even the smallest games are fairly hefty projects, and the #1 thing I learned from that was always have a detailed design document. The same thing goes for any large project. You can't just jump in with the code, you've got to have the design.

    Type up a big design document. Go into the details of each part of your custom solution, explain how each of these separate parts are linked together. Try and make your design as modular as possible, it makes the whole development process much easier. Read up on popular software design patterns (such as MVC) to get an idea for how you should design this project. Before typing up any piece of code, you should get a solid design framework down.

    Make tons of diagrams. Things that can allow you to visualize the entire project. E-R diagrams are very important, especially for the database(s).

    While working on your design, you should also decide what kind of technologies you should use. What language is this module going to be coded in? Are there any open-source libraries I could use to make this feature easier? That kind of thing. Do some research, find the right tool for the job.

    After you've got all of that sorted out, you can begin writing the code. Generally, I like to work from the back-end, to the front-end. This means getting the database/server working and processing first, and doing client-side UI coding and such last.
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Zealot
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    perhaps what you lacking is the experience?


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