The ultimate practice app for developers

How Tim Evko created a three-part app to help web developers sharpen their frontend skills.

Tim Evko is a frontend web developer from New York. Currently, he works for an agency where he builds WordPress themes and web applications. In his spare time, he's usually working on a side project or writing an article about web development. The Practice App is his latest side project. We talk to him about its invention and evolution.

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Your side project – what's that all about?

The Practice App exists to help other frontend web developers get better at their trade. It has three different sections. Firstly, the random section gives out 20 random tasks for users to build on CodePen, with each task organised by difficulty level.

Next, the Dribbble section uses the Dribbble API to pull in a random Dribbble shot, and the user can choose to be redirected to CodePen where they can try to duplicate the shot with code. Finally, the third section allows the user to solve a random open issue on GitHub.

It's a great way to contribute to the open source community and I have Thomas Davis of cdnjs to thank for the idea.

How did the idea come about?

Why not build something inspired by a Dribbble Shot?

One slow day at work last year, I decided that I wanted to sharpen some of my frontend skills by building something cool on CodePen. The only problem was that I didn’t have much inspiration, and I couldn’t find a site that gave cool suggestions – so I made my own!

How does the site work under the skin? How does it generate its ideas?

The site is hosted on GitHub Pages, and I use a couple of different libraries for Markdown to HTML formatting, keyboard shortcuts and scrollbars. I use a spreadsheet to generate the ideas every week, which is then converted to a JSON file. The ideas are piped into the page with AJAX at the user's request.

What's the reaction been like?

Do you need a challenge? Inspiration is just a few clicks away.

The response has been great. Traffic has increased consistently, thanks to mentions from all over the web. The project has had plenty of contributors on GitHub, and has generated a bit of praise on Twitter as well.

Words: Martin Cooper

This article first appeared in net magazine issue 260.

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