Building a project portfolio – how to get started

In many cities with a tech scene there is a need for programmers and developers who aren’t necessarily computer science (CS) majors. CS is great for understanding the structures underlying programming, how software interacts with hardware, and the mathematics behind compression, encryption, algorithms graphics and topology. Their skills and understanding are needed to build computing and programming structures and frameworks, for working out effective storage techniques, telecommunication methods, encryption and for a lot of security work.  You will always need these specialists. And, if you want to be a CEO of major tech company, the groundwork is vital.

But for the rest of us, a mix of our existing skillsets in combination with either a bootcamp or self-study with tutorials are the most effective ways to start a programming career. Our power is crossover knowledge. We’re going to be working in teams to build and implement using existing tools – and being able to learn quickly, effectively and put existing pieces together to solve people’s problems is the best way we can contribute.

So – how do you get started in Birmingham? There aren’t a lot of specialist programs being run in the area, are there?

No, there aren’t. And given the state’s pattern of having a lot of small liberal arts colleges with a few big state universities, and of NOT developing larger centers of excellence or tech-focused schools (as other regions do), you will be waiting a long, long time. This is a failing of state educational policy – something you as a voter have to raise with state leadership. 

Here are the current options:

Universities and Community Colleges

As a student, in order to finish strong, you need to combine what you’re doing at school with side projects or interest projects where you’re developing your own code outside of the classroom.You need to have about ten – twenty hours a week consistently available for this .  This will be hard if you are attending as a mature student, and have other demands on your time, such as family and work.

Bootcamps

Bootcamps have been around for about two decades now, and focus on teaching specific skills or a base set of skills to individuals or corporate teams. Here’s SwitchUp’s ranking.  Most are located in large cities (not Birmingham), will run 2 – 4 months, and will cost betwen $8,000 – $20,000 US to attend. Course Report has evaluations and options for financing. They are intense courses which will require all your available time to work on projects and classwork. If you have children at home, you won’t be kissing them goodnight much. Most graduates report significant increases in earnings in their new jobs. 

Locally in Birmingham, we have Depot/U’s bootcamp. They are placing almost all of their graduates with local companies. For those with the right skills, these are well-paid gigs.

Self-study & tutorials

There are lots of ways to begin teaching yourself (or yourself and friends – talking about this stuff helps shove it into your brain). Online tutorial sites, both free and paid (content is generally richer on the paid access sites), individual language tutorials (every programming language has a home page, reference material on the language structure and tutorials to learn what you’re doing). Depending on your age and existing knowledge level, TechPrep will direct you to an an appropriate starting point and initial career guidance. Women Who Code has also compiled a great list of tutorials, broken down by language. 

Local groups interested in promoting self-education:

Computing professional associations maintain study resources for their membership. 

The project thingy

I mentioned doing programming projects. Where do you find those? All around you. These are the ones I see in Birmingham:

  • Websites for the local neighborhood associations. It takes city newcomers quite a while to learn about Birmingham’s neighborhood associations because only 1 out of 99 has a website! Why is this? A combination of existing comunity leadership not using the technology/not being interested in learning, city leadership not seeing the importance (Mayor Bell!) and funds and/or knowledge to do implementation. This is a solvable problem for someone with a little WordPress.com, HTML, CSS and existing tool knowledge. Project!
  • Developing a geo-navigation travel tool using Bhamwiki. There is a mediawiki plugin that will allow one to add geo-tags to the existing wiki entries. Code up a web app to call them when the user is at the location and you have a great tool for telling the city’s stories.
  • A reference wiki for the city and state’s smaller nonprofits to share best practices, how to get things done within their individual cities and counties, and known resources. The Alabama Association of Nonprofits has told me that they don’t have the time, budget or knowledge to do this on their own. I have the domain registered and ready to go.
  • Using sensor technology, microcircuits and a phone app,  a way to automatically detect, report to database, capture nearby cell numbers and vehicle information, and automatically report close calls between cyclists and vehicles. This is especially important as evidence when a cyclist is riding alone and is rendered unconscious or killed.
  • RSS feeds into and from the community calendars to automate event publicity. I’m looking at you, Birmingham365.org, AL.com, TechBirmingham, IN Birmingham and the City of Birmingham – combined, it takes two hours to get each and every event entered and in to y’all!

Look around you. There is a problem waiting to be solved. Learn to code and do it!

How to break into Birmingham’s tech industry

On Monday, September 12th, Women Who Code Birmingham held its Programming & Tech Career Development panel at UAB’s iLab at the Innovation Depot.

Twenty-seven women (and a few men) came out to learn what technical and software development employers are looking for in the Birmingham area, what to expect in a technical interview and how to ensure success starting a career after graduation from university, or when transitioning into the field from another career.

Our panelists were:

I had prepared and sent out a list of questions for our panelists prior to the event. This list, plus questions from the audience, served as a jumping-off point for discussion regarding what our panelists were seeing in the local tech employment market, and what they regarded as essential to success. Points summarized include requests for additional information that came from our audience.

Questions for the panel:

  1. What programming languages and skill sets are employers in the Birmingham metro area requesting?
  2. How often do candidates that you put forward completely match an employer’s requested profile? How often are job descriptions wish lists versus real needs?
  3. What is considered a junior developer? Senior developer? How many years experience? What skill sets?
  4. For mid-life career changers, what are some good strategies for getting hired? For recent graduates, what are good strategies for getting hired?
  5. What should current computer science and information systems students be doing to develop project portfolios? What project types are of interest to regional employers?
  6. What is usually covered in a technical interview? What types of technical interviews should candidates prepare for
  7. What should career changing and new graduate candidates expect during the interview process?
  8. If you have no technical experience, what is the best way to display skills? How should I format my resume?

A summary of answers from the panel and wide-ranging discussion follow.

What programming languages and skill sets are Birmingham metro area employers requesting?

Our recruiters identified a distinct split in the region, between requests from banks, and insurance companies  for Java and C#, and more web and mobile development focused languages, such as Ruby, Javascript, and Swift being requested by local tech startups. While full-stack developers (focused on web development) are in demand, there is a split developing between developers with front-end skills, and backend developers. Some of the panelists are seeing an unmet demand for mobile development – if you are good, you are really needed. Birmingham had a few mobile developers who were cutting edge in 2008 – but they left the region, and the talent pool has not been fully replaced.

One of panelists also pointed out that the split between Java/C# and web-focused development was also the split between software development for larger corporations (insurance, banks, publishing, internal software and tech infrastructure needs of local manufacturers), and the needs of the software-driven, software-as-a-service and web-based startup community. They are different – the larger, more established firms tend to be more corporate, and the startups tend to be more relaxed, with less focus on job titles and dress codes, and more focus on getting the work done.

Demand for knowledge of Javascript is growing right now, driven by the explosion over the past few years of tested, functional Javascript libraries and frameworks that can now be reliably used in production code.

Other needs were good communication and people skills, and an ability to clearly document your code for future maintenance.

How often do candidates that you put forward completely match an employer’s requested profile?

Panel consensus: It depends on the position. Most of the time, candidates don’t match the requested profile completely. An important part of recruiting is working with the employer to determine core (real) needs versus wish lists or old on-file job descriptions that no longer fit the real requirements. The other issue is whether the employer is writing a job description or requirements list to meet specific contractual requirements (especially if the employer is doing contractual work for government or other large organizations).  Many women (myself included) won’t apply for a position unless they meet most of the requirements. The recruiters’ unanimous advice? If you meet 60% of the requirements, put your application in. You are likely to be a reasonable fit, which will need to be determined further. You may not always hear back, but use that guideline to make the decision.

How often are job descriptions wish lists versus real needs?

Our panelists discussed this a bit. Short answer – frequently. One of their jobs as recruiters is to work with employers to determine core requirements versus “nice to haves”. The example provided by one of our panelists was that they had placed a candidate with strong Javascript skills in two areas where the employer had started off asking for Java. In the process of interviewing, the candidate’s strength with Javascript was considered more important, and the employer was willing to train them in Java. Our panelists said that adjusting employer expectations to hire an otherwise strong candidate happens frequently in smaller markets like Birmingham.

The exception is when candidates are applying through automatic filtering systems. (Shirley: an example is Taleo) If an employer’s requirements list is too long, they will end up with no candidates. A local company, EBSCO Information Services, has been shortening their requirements list to ensure that candidates with specific skill sets get through. In these situations, a candidate’s best tactic is to know someone already inside the company, who knows which manager is doing the hiring.

What is considered a junior developer? Senior developer? How many years experience? What skill sets?

Panel consensus:

  • Junior developer – new graduate through to about three years experience.
  • Senior developer – three to six years experience.

But it will vary depending on the position, the size of a company, and the type of work you are doing. (Shirley: regard these as Gaussian or fuzzy targets)

Programming ability is important (of course!), and is best demonstrated with a portfolio of work other than class work, but so are communication skills, and an ability to work with others.

For mid-life career changers or recent graduates, what are some good strategies for getting hired?

Panel consensus:

  • Develop a portfolio of projects that you’ve built or helped build.
  • Participate in open source development projects.
  • Form an LLC and take on small programming projects. Set up and configure websites for people. Solve problems.
  • Do an internship or a community volunteer project. (Shirley’s note: If the internship that you want to do doesn’t exist, consider working with the organization that you’d like to do the work and your department of study to develop one.)
  • Have some sample slide decks online and show your communication and presentation skills.
  • For mid-career changers – be prepared to take a pay cut to get that first job in the new field. You have a demonstrated ability to work with others, but you are going to need to demonstrate your programming ability.

What should current computer science and information systems students be doing to develop project portfolios? What project types are of interest to regional employers?

Panel consensus – Develop a portfolio of projects that you’ve built or helped build! (Shirley: This was repeated again and again. If you are not sure that your skills are adequate for effective participation, see my next blog entry regarding places to start).

Form an LLC and take on small paid projects and consultancies. There is no one type of project that is of specific interest to regional employers, other than you are taking what you are learning and applying it in a practical way. They are looking for initiative and active problem solvers. Javascript is an “in demand” language, and local mobile developers are in short supply.

What is usually covered in a technical interview? What types of technical interviews should candidates prepare for?

Our panelists discussed this a bit. Their answers varied. For most of the positions that they fill in the Birmingham area, this isn’t a big issue. Approaches taken locally vary by company; some will do a team interview. some do a team interview, in which the candidate is expected to explain their approach to a problem verbally, others will expect pseudocode on a whiteboard, and some rely on project portfolios for candidate evaluation. Outside of Birmingham, technical interviews have become a hot topic, the subject of much candidate anxiety and therefore, about which many articles and books have been written.

What should career changing and new graduate candidates expect during the interview process?

By this point in our panel discussion, we had covered off most of this question. The summary was:

  • The interview process will take a few rounds
  • Be prepared to show your work (that portfolio of projects that we mentioned already!)
  • Some companies are now asking candidates to come in to do some sample programming work or solve a sample problem.
  • Unless specifically requested (and usually for a larger company) technical certifications matter less than practical experience. So take those internships, look for those community problems that need solving.

If you have no technical experience, what is the best way to display skills? How should I format my resume?

Again, we had covered off most of this question by the time we got to it. The summary was that your project portfolio is the best way to show what you can do. No matter how basic, be prepared to show work.

Resume formatting and presentation matters less than you think. Don’t get too fancy, keep it clean and readable, and as much as possible, use bullet points. Recruiters read a lot of these and long paragraphs get in the way of extracting information. If you are listing a programming language, be prepared to demonstrate work in that language. Have a link to your portfolio of work and your LinkedIn profile. Keep your LinkedIn profile synched to your resume.

Shirley’s tip: keep a master copy in plain text for quick copy and paste into candidate banks where required.

With that, we wrapped up our panel and took questions from our audience. All the recruiters at the event welcome inquiries from candidates in the Birmingham region (I’ve linked their names to their LinkedIn profiles). Billy Boozer, our sole entrepreneur at the panel, also welcomes inquiries regarding projects and ways to cooperatively move the regional tech ecosystem forward.

The important thing that I took away from this panel is the importance of developing a portfolio of work to demonstrate skills. In my experience as a mature student at UAB, this was a problematic area for many students within the CS and IS programs. Many who hadn’t started programming as teenagers (including myself) weren’t yet confident enough in their skills or knew enough of the programming language libraries or frameworks available to start developing those portfolios of sample work.  A class in which one could survey these and begin to pull together a set for work on independent or individual projects would be useful. One of the challenges in the region, especially when learning all this as an adult, is juggling family responsibilities (getting children to school and after-school activities, looking after one’s home,  civic and community organization involvement) with the time you need to spend simply working through problems and programming. That time is precious – and necessary, in whatever form it can be seized.

Our Women Who Code leadership (directors – myself, Nicole Mubarak, Kayla Harris and lead Kalyani Bhagat) will be exploring some of the subjects raised at this panel in future Women Who Code meetings. At this point, that includes forming a software-focused LLC in Birmingham, organizing work, unit testing,  and estimating and pricing work.  We welcome meeting topic suggestions, and further exploration to encourage the development of a diverse programming and technical community in Birmingham.

How to organize a newbie-friendly hackathon

A few weeks back, I attended my first hackathon as an effective coder.  I was helped in this, in part, by the hackathon organizational style used by Women Who Code.at their first hackathon in 2016.  I liked it so much that I’m making notes as to what worked so that we can use it in Birmingham.

General hackathon organization notes:

What really helped this noob?

They organized a pre-hackathon orientation session Friday afternoon, in which they ran through what to expect, team roles and how our final products and pitches would be scored. Knowing what to expect helped me settle in and focus on how I could help my team and not worry about hitting ill-defined performance targets.

They had mentors (subject matter and programming language experts) available throughout the hackathon, to help teams get past knowledge sticking points.

Food – we were NOT going to starve. There was lots of non-carb food, coffee, and caffeine, all necessary for sustained work.

Finally, everyone presented. Didn’t matter how big or small the final application was – you talked about it.

For half the women attending, this was their first hackathon. It was emphasized to us during the orientation session that we could do this, that our solutions didn’t need to be complex, and that the organizers fully expected that the results of the hackathon would serve as a project starts.

My experience at the Women Who Code hackathon

 

Attending

I attended my first hackathon a few weeks ago.* It was organized by the Atlanta, Tampa and Greenville networks of Women Who Code, a nonprofit focused on helping women advance their careers in the software and tech industries.

It was awesome. For the first time, I wasn’t terrified of not knowing something, of being found inadequate, or of not being able to contribute to a team. As a mid-life career changer, I’m still a relative noob when it comes to programming. The Women Who Code hackathon organizers did several things to help myself (and many others!) get past our fears and do good work at our first hackathon.

  • They organized a pre-hackathon orientation session Friday afternoon, in which they ran through what to expect, team roles and how our final products and pitches would be scored. Knowing what to expect helped me settle in and focus on how I could help my team and not worry about hitting ill-defined performance targets.
  • They had mentors (subject matter and programming language experts) available throughout the hackathon, to help teams get past knowledge sticking points.
  • Food – we were NOT going to starve. There was lots of non-carb food, coffee, and caffeine, all necessary for sustained work.
  • Finally, everyone presented. Didn’t matter how big or small the final application was – you talked about it.

So – what was it like?

I had attended my first open data hackathon in Mississauga, ON, the previous May. I wasn’t terribly useful to my team at that session, as

  1. I didn’t know what to expect; and
  2. my coding skills weren’t sufficient for the team project that our lead programmers brought to the hack.

I ended that hackathon glad that I went, but firmly resolving not to go to another until I had done more hands-on programming. (this has been an issue due to other commitments.)

I left Birmingham, Alabama to drive into Atlanta at oh-dark-thirty, arriving just in time for opening announcements. I slipped into the back of a meeting room at the Tech Square Labs, where around forty women were listening to opening remarks from Joey Rosenberg, Alaina Percival, and Regina, Wallace Jones, Facebook’s Head of Security Operations. She told us that software engineers are storytellers, that is was important to have mentors as we developed our careers and the importance of networks. It was inspiring to have her there.

As I looked around the room, I saw young women, older women, women of color and transgender women. There were also a few men. (I learned later that most were there as recruiters and company representatives; one was presenting a pre-hackathon talk on wearables and the Internet of Things.) (talk slides are behind links).

After the opening talk, we had the choice of workshops; I attended Lance Gleason’s presentation on the Internet of Things.  Although I’ve been messing around with using Arduinos as controllers, I ultimately elected to join a team focusing on social issues. (I thought that any applications developed could potentially have more societal impact – and to me, that’s important.)

How hackathons work

Next was a walk through what to expect at a hackathon, by Erica Stanley.

Some of the things I learned:

  • At most hackathons, you have 54 hours over an extended weekend to organize, research, plan, code and deliver a prototype application.
  • A hackathon team should be 5 – 7 people and consist of:
    1 x product manager
    3 – 5 devs
    1 x designer
    1 x scrum master (optional, but nice to have)
  • We then started to sort ourselves into interest groups, discuss possible projects and form teams.

We then broke off for food, drinks, and visits with various sponsoring companies and recruiters, before heading down the street and around the corner to the Advanced Technology Development Center  where we would be working over the weekend. Additional (more experienced) attendees joined our teams. The conference and meeting rooms, which gave the teams room to spread out, talk, focus and work, without interfering with the other groups.

6 members of the TeenSquad team in meeting room working on application.

6 members of the TeenSquad team in meeting room working on our application. From left to right: Hannah Molette, Dami Lasisi (standing rear), one of the Women Who Code hackathon mentors, Katiana Stephens, Whitley Bacon, A’nita Evans. (I took the picture).

My team, lead by Hannah Molette, wanted to develop a mobile app to help teens develop and connect with their “squad”, the team they assemble for themselves to help them reach for and attain their goals. The app, TeenSquad, is designed to help connect teens with supportive friends (their squad), any needed social services, career counseling, job coaching and help applying for college and post-secondary programs. While the goals are serious, the feel is not, using gamification to add incentive to do the right things, and having a light touch while doing serious stuff.

Our team members were:

Hannah, an experienced project manager, had a clear vision of what she wanted in the app, and kept us on track regarding how we spent our time.

We quickly determined that some of the things we would need for the app already existed (Aunt Bertha – a social services connection website and application), but weren’t targeted specifically for teens. We used Pokemon Go as our sample target for gamification rewards. We also determined that the programming language that most of the team had in common was Java.

The tools we used were:

We didn’t complete our app in the time allocated over the weekend, but we got most of the planning done, initial databases and had a first pass at the coding required to run the app.

A’nita did some amazing work regarding the look and feel for the app – she’s worked on a few projects that are getting national attention.

Having mentors available was extremely useful – it allowed us to get past two specific sticking points regarding running Java on a Heroku server instance.

See our presentation here, and the Women Who Code press release over here. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot about how teams work, and after much discussion during the work, have a better idea of what to expect within the software development workplace. I made some important connections, have an invitation to job shadow, and got a couple of callbacks from recruiters. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Wedgewood: The First Tycoon

Wedgwood: The First TycoonWedgwood: The First Tycoon by Brian Dolan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are parallels between Josiah Wedgwood in the 1760s and Steve Jobs in the 1980s. Both transformed an existing industry through a combination of artistry, technical innovation, and marketing prowess.

I became fascinated with the Wedgwood story after a knowledgeable tour guide’s talk at Chicago The Art Institute in 2005. The guide told his story of being the first in England to develop advanced manufacturing processes, his ongoing product development research in glazes, firing control (pyrometer), types of clay and working out processes to ensure manufacturing consistency.

Dolan’s Wedgwood biography fleshes that out, telling the story of a man rising from relative poverty through training, hard work, observation, research, an infusion of capital from his wife’s family (poor boy proves himself through industry and hard work!), good friends, and connections. Wedgewood didn’t just industrialize pottery manufacture – he was instrumental in improving transport in Staffordshire through his leadership in raising subscriptions to start underwriting the cost of the Trent and Mersey Canal, and then pushing through Great Britain’s political system to ensure that it got built. The roads were horrible in 18th century Staffordshire – deep-rutted tracks that turned into mud morasses when it rained. Wedgwood and his fellow Staffordshire potters were able to dominate the world market for pottery because that canal reduced how much of their wares were damaged in transit.

There is still much to learn from the story of Great Britain and Europe’s industrialization – it didn’t “just happen”. It’s important to understand what conditions were required for the great innovations to be worked out – and then what was required for them to spread. There is still much to be learned and managed by other parts of the world that are industrializing now – and for others needing to reinvent themselves for the next wave of change.

Those lessons are:

  1.  Infrastructure is important. Wedgwood initially had huge challenges getting his products to market because of bad roads and the resulting need to rely on third-party resellers for his early sales.
  2. Organization is important. Wedgewood was only able to get large volume consistent production through rigorous attention to worker training, paying good wages, quality control and workshop organization.
  3. Good design is the ultimate value add. Wedgewood stayed out in front of his competitors by always having the next new thing ready to roll out when the novelty of the current hot product faded.
  4. He pioneered the use of showrooms and shopping as recreation for the upper class, using premium pricing for new products, then dropping the price for the middle classes as he was able to scale production.

This is an underappreciated industrial and design history story. My key takeaway is the importance of combining art and cutting edge technologies.

View all my reviews

Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner

Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005 by Paul E. Ceruzzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tells the story of how government intelligence and IT services business cluster at Tysons Corners Virginia (outside Washington) developed. A recommended read if you are not familiar with the shape of IT and computing services for the US federal government.

Atari Inc.: Business is Fun

Atari Inc.: Business Is FunAtari Inc.: Business Is Fun by Curt Vendel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summarizes the conditions under which Atari games were first developed – and launched an industry. Not as tightly edited as some books out there (was self-published), but has historical details not available elsewhere. If you want to understand the roots of today’s game industry, is an essential read.

View all my reviews

How to pick a first programming language infographic

Parking some links for a session I’m doing at the Women Who Code Birmingham network tonight.

One of the big questions I had when I first started programming was…. how to pick a first programming language. No student or prof would – or could – give me a straight answer as to what languages were the most useful for different applications.

Recently, I stumbled across Carl Cheo’s great flow chart on picking a first programming language based on what you need to do. I hope you find this useful and informative as I do – it’s something that I wish had been available when I first started dabbling in programming.

The other question newbies often ask is “what exactly do programmers do?” Carl Cheo has a second great infographic that answers that question.

The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley

The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon ValleyThe Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley by Leslie Berlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tells the story both of Robert Noyce’s life, and the start of the semiconductor industry. I learned that Robert Noyce’s personal management philosophy of giving people the tools they needed and then getting out of the way – and its success at Intel is what set the pattern of Silicon Valley companies and large portions of the American tech and software sectors in general.

Good read – and important if you want to understand the roots of this industry.

Infographic tools & application – getting started

I volunteer as a Photoshop tutor at Woodlawn High School. One of the student projects is to develop an infographic. This blog entry is for those students, to explain the purpose of an infographic, how to design a good one and the tools that are available.

In the graphic arts, as in many other areas of life, engineering and design, automation makes the design and construction of things easier and faster. The artist or technician who can produce the tool they need is valuable to many potential employers – or customers. This requires, in addition to training in the visual arts and design, a good knowledge of coding, applicable programming languages and some understanding of current computing hardware.

An infographic is a visual image, such as a chart or diagram, used to represent information or data. The website, Customer Magnetism * has an infographic about infographics (and a case study to back up their claims).

What is an Infographic?
Created by Customer Magnetism.

Good infographics engage readers and make difficult concepts easy to understand. They require planning, research, and attention to colour composition, design flow, and determination of what is important on the page.

Before you start designing, you need to spend a little time organizing your information. Shift Learning has a great post detailing the steps required. They are:

  1. Gather your information. Find research sources, look for conclusions by different research teams doing different studies, make sure that you are giving your readers good, valid information that they can use. Your credibility rests on using credible sources that you have verified.
  2. Visualize the data. Who are you telling this story to? Who is your audience and what do they need to learn?
  3. Outline. Sketch out the story to be told in a rough draft.
  4. Wireframe. Sketch out, on paper or electronically, what needs to be illustrated.
  5. Design and refine. Now you start the hard work. Work out your layout, work out your color palette, choose appropriate fonts for your subject matter and audience, seek feedback and then refine again.

Another article that details the steps required to create a great infographic (read the piece – it explains the points listed below):

  1. Let the data tell its story.
  2. Determine purpose and audience.
  3. Construct an engaging narrative.
  4. Make the complex understandable.
  5. Focus on the structure first.
  6. Wireframe, explore and iterate. In the bad old days, this was called “sketching” – a quick minimal drawing to work out your ideas.
  7. Select the right tool for the job.
  8. Choose the right visual approach.
  9. Distribution and PR.
  10. Treat infographics as moral acts.

This list is a little longer than the first one – but it emphasizes similar points. The key concept that I think is important to remember, is that your job is to make complex subject matter understandable.

How Design’s tips  has additional tips regarding creating great infographics.

When infographics were first being produced, most were created in Photoshop or Illustrator – or their open source equivalents, Gimp and Inkscape.  The best ones still are. (Tips to create that work from DezineGuide )

However, there are times when you need something quickly, and perhaps your Photoshop skills are still kinda basic. In that case, check out these tools, as recommended by Levin Mejia at the Creative Bloq:

In addition, I turned up some tools that will convert .CSV (comma separated values) data, a format used for most open source and government data, into charts and graphs without needing to use Excel or other proprietary software. These are:

I consider these quick and dirty tools – they’ll give you good enough results for many circumstances, but should be used with care so that they support your message (and story), not detract from it.
Other tool options include open source (free to use, once installed) office suites such as LibreOffice, NeoOffice, and OpenOffice.

I hope that this quick reference list helps you to create your next great infographic.

*ScanWP reports that the CustomerMagnetism.com website is built with WordPress. Another one of my obsessions. But I digress.

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