Building side projects has long been one of my favourite pass times. Since I was a child, the idea that you can build something from nothing has always resonated with me. Let's explore some side projects and their benefits.
From a young age, I've particularly enjoyed the more creative tasks in life. The idea of being able to create your very own thing from nothing has been something that's always spoke to me. It's that extra little bit of hope in the back of your mind.
"I can create something new!"
Reasons for building on the side
In recent years however, my ability to code has slowly been improving to incorporate more than front end. One of the reasons I build things on the side, other than the fun of it, is to learn.
Through this meditation of building small tools or things I'd like to see, I've ended up inadvertently building end to end. Meaning, I have slowly started learning backend technologies a little more fully. This includes a better understanding of things like Express, GraphQL and using third party BaaS (backend as a service) tools.
Sometimes it's also to keep skills with things like front end sharp and practice the art of designing in the browser. As my day to day job requires me to design an awful lot for browsers, understanding various browsers and what's possible within them is of utmost importance to me.
Building for the fun of it
One of the primary reasons I build though, is the fun of it. Building tools such as The Livery Archive Project come straight from wanting to build something like that, 'cos I'm a nerd who enjoys motorsport liveries.
Solving good loading times or what happenes when the server isn't available are all part of the fun and learning that comes with it. More recently, it's enabled me to better understanding preparing sites for Google's latest performance changes and building PWA's as a standard.
(Even this website is a PWA!)
A project that perhaps kicked off the fun side of things for me was Stadialist. A long time passionate football fan, building a database of stadiums might seem boring on the outside, but the learning curve of putting together database schema's and interesting front ends kept me entertained!
And on some level, when it comes to your personal projects, that should be a primary driver. Keeping yourself entertained. Not everything in life has to be about making money or solving problems.
Sometimes just create for the enjoyment and I promise, you will learn a lot!
What have I built in recent years?
Throughout the last few years, I've been particularly keen on building multiple types of things. This website itself has a dedicated Archive section referring to those things.
Some of my favourite projects perhaps will always be wavey.tips, keepthat.link and erdOS. These are particularly challenging and interesting things to build from a technical point of view.
However, not every side project is necessarily tech based. I also tried delving into podcasting a couple of times, with varying interest.
I even tried to leverage my experience as a designer and developer by offering a small mentoring service to designers back in 2020. Leftback Club was definitely an interesting experience, and an experience in finding something I'd potentially like to do or help with long term.
The end goal
In the years I've been building alongside my job, whether full time or freelancing, the goal has always been to have fun. Underneath it though, I am also in a way preparing myself to build something that could down the line, self-sustain and bring an income.
Now, this goes beyond just building and I'm currently at the stage of learning to promote products a little better. More recently, I've leveraged Reddit to gain traffic on projects like The Livery Archive Project. It's a great source to find fellow motorsport and design enthusiasts.
One day I'll perhaps build a tool I feel comfortable charging folks for. Until I find that value to offer, I will just build for the pure enjoyment of it.
End to end design & development
All work belongs to me
2017 — Present