Project Structure

I write a lot of projects on the side. It is almost an addiction, I spin up a local git repo and try something out, if I like it, I continue working on it. As it grows and becomes more of a viable project for others, it is important for it to be accessible for others and not just the chaos that is my thought process. An effort I have been making in all projects I work on now is to treat them as if they will be open sourced in the future. I try to write the functions and variables with proper names, I leave comments on chunks of code that could be confusing, I try to add external docs to cover various concepts that others probably don’t want to read through the source to understand. But the most important part of all of this is that the project needs to be structured sanely.

When I checkout a project and I am looking for a particular piece of information, like the source of the generator class for Jekyll when I am working on a plugin (tip: the docs for writing plugins is really weak). When looking for the file, I open up the repo and should be able to understand where the source should be (it exists in /lib/jekyll/generator.rb). If it were located under a folder called stuff in a file called plugin_classes.rb, it would not exactly be obvious where it is, and hunting through the source to figure that out would not be intuitive. Whereas it being in lib/jekyll makes sense. It is a reference class (meaning it can be shared between major execution and other dependencies). It’s scope falls under the jekyll codebase (it has no meaning as a generator for any other projects). It exists in a file named generator.rb so it is not a mystery as to which file it may live in.

A by product of a good structure for a project means that others who want to add on to the project or when you return and want to add features, there should be a natural place and way to add something to the project. When I want to add a new module of actions to my flask project, I go into the project folder and add a .py file named for whatever I want to call the module (sane naming desired). Then I go into the root descript of the project (in python this is often __init__.py and add the module to the __modules__ list). It is also possible to skip the second step and use a discovery system in the project. But the goal is for me or anyone else to easily be able to add functionality to the project without requiring them to learn how everything was written (and the though process behind it). If they want to add additional test coverage, they see the tests folder in the project root and check it out. There are example test suites to reference in how they are structured. The project has a Makefile included to help perform common tasks and there is a requirements.txt file to install all of the dependencies.

The goal of a good project structure is to allow others to quickly get done whatever goal they may have with the project’s codebase and for you to be able to intuitively add things to the application at any point in the future. Docs can cover up bad design, but it requires a non zero amount of time to figure out what is going on.