Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a few emails or calls from friends and former classmates all wanting to know the same thing - how do I get a “simple” programming project up and running? These are all people who have some level of previous programming experience; usually it’s been students who have taken a few computer science courses (in C or Java) and now want to take an idea they have and run with it. Since I’ve given all of them more or less the same advice, I figured I’d write a quick blog post outlining the basic steps.
Get a text editor
After only a year of using it, Python has quickly become my favorite language. As such, if people ask me for web development help, I always advise them to give Python a whirl. I think it’s pretty straightforward, and it never gets in my way when I want to get something done. The best place I’ve found to get a good handle on Python is definitely Learn Python The Hard Way by Zed Shaw. Plus, it’s available free online! Chalk that up as a win.
Sign up for GitHub
You’re going to want some form of version control when you start developing, and GitHub is an amazing (and again, free) way to keep track of all your projects. You’ll also probably want to at least get yourself familiar with git in general, and this crash course is great. Finish things off with GitHub’s Setup Guide, and you should be ready to go.
Familiarize Yourself with Django
Plenty of people smarter than me have written about the importance of using a web framework, so I’ll just copy Django’s tagline here: “Django makes it easier to build better Web apps more quickly and with less code”. After a lot of usage, I wholeheartedly agree with both of those points. Django is also one of the best-documented things I’ve ever encountered, and finding what I’m looking for in their documentation is usually a breeze. Their homepage lists their three most important “beginner” resources, which are 1. The Overview, 2. The Installation Guide, and 3. The Tutorial. Once you’ve got Django all up and running, you can start seeing your hard work work locally using “python manage.py runserver”. Woooo. But now it’s time to get your code up and running on a real website.
Sign up for Heroku
I could go on and on about how much I love Heroku. I’ll just say that they simplify my life everyday by removing most of the sysadmin headaches from my life, and they make it absolutely painless to deploy code and scale as needed. So, you should use them. Their “Getting Started with Django on Heroku” guide pretty much makes it impossible to screw up, and if everything goes well, you’re finished! Your nice Python code living on a real, live website. Now go make something awesome!
I followed all these same steps when I started LaunchGram earlier this year, and it worked well for me!
I’d love to hear any thoughts, comments, or questions anyone has in the comments below.