Getting started with small team software development projects at school

Interesting question I saw asked on Reddit recently – “what tips do you have for getting started on a software development project with a small team for school?”

The interesting thing about this question is that the recommendations are not much different from practices and approaches you would use for any ‘real world’ development project with a team.

Here’s some things I would recommend:

  • Host a shared repo somewhere, for example Github or GitLab. Watch some intro videos on how to use git, how to clone a repo, how to commit and pull changes
  • Establish who on the team is working on what, even if it’s just a list of features and then you divide them between the team. This sounds obvious but it will avoid confusion and wasted effort from more than one developer on the team working on the same feature.
  • Think about the structure of the app and how you will be implementing different features, Worst case: if you have a single Class with all your logic in a main() method, how are multiple developers going to work on this at the same time (hint: this will make things very difficult)
  • If there is a basic skeleton of the app put in place at the start with placeholder empty methods with ‘feature A goes here’, that will make is easier for each developer to go off and work on their part. Even better if using an OO language, thing about your Classes that will represent your solution.
  • Encourage everyone on the team to commit their parts back to the repo often, daily, if not more often. You don’t want devs on your team to go away for days and then commit a ton of code in one go. That will lead to unpleasant surprises
  • Encourage use of unit tests, they’ll help not only you to understand that your code is working, but allow the whole team to run tests for the parts they’re not working on and confirm that the addition of their changes has not broken something else in the system.
  • Think about how you’re going to build your code as a whole, and how/where does it get deployed?
  • How are you going to manage your library dependencies? Set up the project at the start using Maven or Gradle. It will make it easier for everyone to pull in the right libraries and the right versions.

For a small team and for a school project this is a good start.

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