Your portfolio is a powerful tool that can give you a leg up when it comes to looking for a job. Employers don't care if you can talk the talk; they want to know if you can code the code. Imagine your portfolio contains several projects, but most of them are from tutorials or school. With that in mind, it is safe to assume that several other developers took the same tutorials and courses and may have a similar array of projects in their portfolios. Let me preface by acknowledging that there is absolutely nothing wrong with following tutorials; I've done them, I still do them, and I have no intentions of stopping. Your portfolio will stand out by having more independent projects than ones where the code potentially could have been copied into your repo. That is where our problem begins: Tutorial Hell. It's hard to build projects for your portfolio that aren't from a tutorial for many reasons:

  • Your ideas are more complex than your current set of skills.
  • Not everyone is good with graphic design.
  • You honestly don't know where to start.

Tutorial Hell refers to the state of being a developer when you feel as if you need to rely on tutorials to build something. You may be a strong developer, but getting started is tough. When things work, you can connect the dots without issue but have trouble setting the dots up themselves. Now we look at our solution: Codewell. Codewell offers free and paid project templates, meaning that they don't provide architectural direction or code but rather a set of mockups and assets you can use to see what to build. You have the freedom to develop the site using the stack that you are most comfortable with while still being challenged. Here are five reasons why you should use Codewell for your next portfolio project:

  1. Real-world application: When you get a job as a developer, you are assigned a project and provided direction, but the code itself is mostly in your control (granted, you might still need to keep it within the boundaries of your employer's stack). When building using a design template, you have no choice but to write the code yourself, giving you valuable real-world experience.
  2. It's challenging: Working through problems yourself is the most valuable thing you can do when working on your skills. There is a wide range of templates, all with varying degrees of difficulty so that you are comfortable with what you are doing. You are also a metric on how challenging can be; why not spend a bit after you complete the build and resolve issues from a lighthouse audit? Is your website inclusive, or could you make a few changes so that everyone can enjoy your website regardless of how they use it?
  3. These websites look sharp: Not every developer has an eye for artistic design, and that is perfectly okay hence why you are a developer and not a designer. Speaking from personal experience, while I put my best foot forward and wrote some dope code, the design sometimes doesn't do my site any justice. With some of the applications I've built I am hesitant to show clients or employers because they will likely look at the live page before inspecting the code - and clients will likely never look at the code. Now imagine handing an employer or a client a website built on the Snipper template . cha-ching!
  4. No source code: As I wrote about earlier, you have complete control over what stack you use. If you are trying to get a job as a WordPress developer, build a theme using that design. Every website you develop for your portfolio doesn't need to solve a problem; that's what you do when you get a job. Give your potential clients and employers the confidence that you can solve their problems.
  5. Experience: When you run through the wilds of VS Code and build something on your own, you are growing with every function, method, or property you write. Practice makes perfect, and to practice is to simply; write code. There is no magic wand that will get you out of Tutorial Hell, but there is a way out. Remember that being a developer is not about how much knowledge you persist, but rather how much you persist knowledge itself.

Starting a project on your own can be difficult. If you do get stuck, there is a community slack and even a submission board where other developers can share their solutions. If you are up to the challenge, I highly suggest choosing Codewell for your next portfolio project. I recently built a version of the Snipper challenge using Vue.js. I didn't feel pressured to finish the site before a deadline. I could take my time and work out the best way to implement the design and the app itself. Whether you are building your portfolio to get a job or just coding for fun, the challenges on Codewell will make a great addition to your project list and help you stand out above the rest.