5 Tips For Helping Coders Collaborate On Web Development Projects
Coding can be viewed as a solitary endeavor, but it’s often strongly collaborative, and getting coders working together effectively is vitally important for the efficient delivery of development projects. Here, we look at five tips for doing just that.
Web development projects can be massive. Look past the single-page websites for personal brands and think about international conglomerates with vast digital hubs comprising thousands of pages and almost as many functions. Development at that scale and level of complexity is something to be handled by teams, not individuals.
Should you find yourself effectively at the helm of such a team, having responsibility for allocating resources and ensuring smooth sailing, you’ll need to do your best to keep the team operating as more than the sum of its parts. Let’s run through five tips for getting it done:
Support Team Software
Many coders spend much of their time working remotely, because even as part of collaborative projects there will be plenty of tasks to be individually handled. If this isn’t handled properly, it can lead to miscommunication, vital files being misplaced, and even work being duplicated through two people picking up the same task.
The solution is to use project management software (ideally designed for developers, e.g. Backlog) designed to help teams collaborate, keeping files and assignments centralized and making it much easier for the coders on a project to keep in touch. In ideal circumstances, there will be no need for anyone to ask one of their colleagues to grant them access to a file they need: all the permissions should be worked out ahead of time.
Create a Shared Working Area
On a big team project, there will invariably be many points at which it would be useful to have some (if not all) of the coders in the same location. It can speed up the bug-checking process, allow each worker a chance to learn about what their collaborators are working on, and let management catch up with everyone.
And since most people work from laptops these days, it isn’t even that complicated to do: just set up a reasonable area in an office space (a shared space is quite economical), throw in some monitors and StarTech-style docking stations (perhaps some high-quality keyboards too), and ensure that it can be accessed at any time (some people like to work early in the morning, while others are night owls who don’t get going until the evening).
Encourage Mutual Tuition
Every coder has a unique set of skills, experiences, and proficiencies, and when you have a team of coders working together, it doesn’t make sense to keep them separated. Whether you get them talking at meetups or simply suggest that they communicate online to assess one another’s work, you’ll find that there’s a lot of value in mutual tuition.
The more they develop the skills, the faster they’ll work, because they’ll need to spend markedly less time looking things up, hesitating before making decisions, and checking what they’ve done. They’ll also come up with smarter solutions: for instance, they may find they can use languages previously outside of their comfort zones to achieve greater efficiency.
On top of all that, there’s the likely boost to morale that will result from greater expertise and the time spent assisting one another. The more familiarity there is between them, the more capably they’ll be able to discuss the project and move things swiftly along.
Provide Style Guidelines
Do you use tabs or spaces to mark code indentations? It might sound like a trivial matter, but that type of stylistic preference can cause major issues on collaborative projects — and then there are bigger concerns like adding meaningful code annotation.
Suppose that Coder A has to prepare some code to pass on to Coder B, but Coder A doesn’t use annotations when writing or parsing code while Coder B habitually relies on them. The result is that Coder B has to spend far more time reviewing the code to figure out how the individual functions fit together.
By providing guidelines requiring everyone to annotate their code (and do other things to make collaboration easier, such as using the same naming convention for variables), you can prevent this kind of issue from causing slowdown.
Here’s something that should never be forgotten: even if you give the members of your coding team all the tools and support they need to work efficiently, you won’t see the results you want unless you also give them the motivation.
What motivates professionals? Money. Perks. Prospects. As much as you might like them to work hard for the good of the project, that’s wholly unrealistic — so give people reasons to get things done quickly and accurately, and they’ll collaborate more effectively as an inevitable consequence.
When trying to corral a team of coders on an important web development project, keep these tips in mind. Even if you follow through with 1 or 2 of them, it should help, but I certainly recommend going for all 5.
How do you collaborate with your fellow coders? Do you have a tool or system in place for this to occur? Post your comments below and let's discuss.