How Checklists Can Help You as a Developer

While listening to an audiobook called The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, I thought about how checklists might be just the tool developers need to level up. In this book, Gawande shares many stories that illustrate how impactful checklists can be. Through the examples from medical professionals, pilots, and others, checklists literally saved lives and proved to be effective in working through emergencies as well as making processes more efficient in the workplace.

What are the Benefits of Checklists?

Through many examples, Gawande found several benefits to using a checklist.

  • With checklists as roadmaps, they helped teams catch problems sooner. They could avoid some errors since they had a plan in place if things went wrong.
  • Teams had to communicate with each other while following checklists, so they had to find systems that worked for everyone.
  • Creating a clear system helped maintain consistency and higher standards.
  • Referencing checklists every day helped create documentation and data for further analysis.

Tips to Create Your Own Checklists

After enjoying this book, I thought about a simple approach to creating checklists to use as a developer.

  1. Break down the process or project into three parts. These can be stages or phases that signify a beginning, middle, and end to the project or process. Then you or the team can focus on one part of the checklist at a time before moving forward.
  2. Checklists don't have to contain every single task needed. You can structure them in a way that helps you track all the most important tasks that must be done. The point is to start using checklists and adjust them over time.
  3. Find opportunities to level up through your checklists. Once you have some checklists in place, you can continue to iterate on them and find ways to improve your process and/or skills.

    Start by asking these questions:

    • Is there a better way to do this?
    • What questions do I have about a particular process?
    • What do I need to research if certain things are not clear?
    • What is something I want to dive deeper into?

Some Checklist Examples for Inspiration

Dev Checklists - a collaborative space for sharing checklists

Code Review Checklist - a checklist for those who perform and receive code reviews

SEO Checklist - a detailed checklist for SEO

The Front-End Checklist - a checklist of HTML elements to test before setting your site live

Web Dev Checklist from Toptal - a general web developer checklist that is also a Chrome and Firefox extension

Web Developer Security Checklist - a checklist to identify security issues

Developer Onboarding Checklist for Startups - an onboarding checklist for both employers and new employees

The Essential Launch Checklist for Web Apps and Mobile Apps - a general checklist for testing apps before the final launch

A11Y Project Checklist - a checklist for the levels of accessibility compliance in The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG)

30 Web Development Checklists Every Team Should Keep Handy - a variety of checklists for you to peruse

Your Turn

If you enjoy building side projects, now is a good time to create a checklist for your process. You can also create a checklist for debugging strategies, testing, or adding features. Maybe there is a work process you are struggling with that could use a checklist to help make it flow better.

Do you already utilize a checklist? Reevaluate it and see if there is room for improvement. Have some things changed and need to be revised?

If you have any favorite checklists, questions, or comments, please feel free to share it below!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash