Toptal Blog

The Toptal Blog is the top hub for software engineers, designers, project managers, and entrepreneurs, featuring in-depth coverage of platforms and technologies, comprehensive tutorials by professional Toptal talent, and resources to help ambitious freelancers stay on the cutting edge.
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Everything You Need to Know about UX Sketching

UX sketching is a crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of user-experience design. Sketching is a very efficient way of communicating design ideas while allowing designers to try out a multitude of options and iterate them before settling on one.

In this post, Toptal Freelance Designer Nick Vyhouski explains UX sketching step by step and outlines a range of tips and techniques used by leading designers.

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How Hibernate Almost Ruined My Career

Are you building the next big thing? Planning to become the next Facebook or Google? Are you at the point of making fundamental decisions that will stay with you for the entire project? There is a good chance that you will pick a robust language like Java. If so, you want to pick the best object-oriented abstraction of your flexible data model because you don’t want to deal with plain SQL. You want to support all kinds of data and ideally, support all kind of databases. If so, there’s is only one right choice for you: Hibernate.

Continue reading the story written by Freelance Software Engineer Grzegorz Gajos, about one of these imaginary but entirely possible scenarios.

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How Much Coding Should Designers Know?

Much of the digital design community is locked in debate over whether or not designers should code. Some are in favor of seeking out the unicorns who can design and code, while others claim they don’t exist, or just get in the way.

In this article, Toptal freelance designer Jônatas Vieira offers his own firsthand perspective on this issue. Can learning how to code elevate your career to the next level? Or would such skills go unused?

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How Sequel and Sinatra Solve Ruby’s API Problem

The rise of the web and mobile applications has led to an increased need for back-end API services. Ruby on Rails’ philosophy seemingly makes it the ideal framework for creating back-end APIs. However, using Rails only for the API is overkill.

In this article, Freelance Software Engineer Boško Ivanišević explores alternatives to Rails and introduces us to two very mature and powerful gems, Sinatra and Sequel, which in combination provide powerful tools for creating server-side APIs.

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Presenting Design Work: The Right Way

Designers spend much of their careers developing the ability to beautifully communicate the intentions of their products. Yet, some designers fail to direct these same skills towards the communication of their own work. The ability to present your design work is fundamental for any designer, as it is often the first step to landing a job with any new client or agency.

In this article, Toptal Director of Design Danielle Reid and Toptal Design Blog Editor Kent Mundle discuss what designers can do to present their work in the most effective ways. Give the products that you make some justice, and use these tips to effectively present your portfolio.

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The 10 Most Common Mistakes That WordPress Developers Make

WordPress is easily the most powerful open source blogging and content management system available online today. As WordPress is easy enough to set up and has a user-friendly approach, many developers are often underestimating it and so make mistakes in development.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Software Engineer Andrew Schultz outlines the ten most common mistakes that WordPress developers should be aware of for future projects.

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Amazing Travel UIs

Check out a curated collection of beautiful and futuristic travel UIs created by different designers from around the world.

Some of the designs are captured from live products, some are still in development, and some are purely concepts designed to push the bounds of what is even considered possible.

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The Six Commandments of Good Code: Write Code that Stands the Test of Time

How do you define good code? Is it 100% test coverage, or is it backwards compatibility with decade-old hardware? We may not be able to reach an end to this debate yet, but good software always seems to conform to a few certain qualities of code.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Software Engineer Zachary Goldberg walks us through six simple ideas that can help you make better, more maintainable software.

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Usability for Conversion: Stop Using Fads, Start Using Data

There are many design tips out there that claim to be universal solutions for achieving high conversion rates. However, in this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Joel Lopez suggests avoiding these trends or fads and encourages us to instead thoughtfully collect data to inform the design of our products.

Although some quick-fix design moves may achieve high conversion rates in a product’s early years, they don’t lend themselves to establishing long-term user trust. Joel argues that this trust is essential to keep users coming back to promote your products.

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Meet RxJava: The Missing Reactive Programming Library for Android

Implementing applications that deal with complex concurrent behavior has always been a challenging aspect of programming. Various paradigms exist that promise a solution to this problem in different ways. RxJava is a Java library that enables Functional Reactive Programming in Android development. It raises the level of abstraction around threading in order to simplify the implementation of complex concurrent behavior.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Software Engineer Christopher Arriola gives us a detailed walkthrough of RxJava and how it fits into the realm of Android development.

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Alternative Housing Lifestyles for Remote Workers

An often mentioned virtue of remote work is the freedom for individuals to construct their lifestyles as they wish. However, much of contemporary society has not yet shifted to allow for the total freedom that many desire, especially when it comes to housing. Why should outdated housing standards prevent us from living in the way we want to live?

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle surveys a group of housing alternatives that apply to several different types of remote workers. The digital nomad has different needs than the young professional or the working parent, and their housing options should reflect that.

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Celebrating 25 Years of Linux Kernel Development

Linux is now 25 years old, but it’s no hipster. It’s not chasing around Pokemon, and it’s not moving back in with its parents due to crippling student debt. In fact, Linux is still growing and evolving, but the core ideas of the Linux State of Mind remain the same.

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Nermin Hajdarbegovic takes a look at the history of Linux development, the state of Linux today, and what’s next for the world’s most popular open-source operating system.

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Design In A Remote Setting: A Toptal Design Talk

Without an office manager, or shift supervisor to look over your shoulder, or set your schedule for you, design in a remote setting can be difficult for some to manage. As well, for those who use the freedom that remote work offers, how can one ensure to find a healthy balance between life, fun and of course work?

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Kent Mundle discusses strategies for designing in a remote setting with Lubos Volkov, Toptal Lead Designer. Lubos explains the importance of good planning, a strong will, but also the ability to break the rules and get outside when the world calls you.

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Ten Kotlin Features To Boost Android Development

Kotlin is a new, expressive general-purpose programming language powered by the same virtual machine technology that powers Java. Since Kotlin compiles to the JVM bytecode, it can be used side-by-side with Java, and it does not come with a performance overhead.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Software Engineer Ivan Kušt gives us a walkthrough of ten major features of Kotlin that help avoid boilerplate code and, more importantly, save time.

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How CrunchBase Should Be Designed

Despite the widespread use of the start-up tracker CrunchBase, Toptal Freelance Designer Andrew Graunke believes that its site could use a redesign. Can the redesign transcend an aesthetic makeover, and improve user and business goals as well?

In this article, Andrew walks us through his thorough redesign and reorganization of the CrunchBase website. His process includes wireframes, design reviews, and a usability test.

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Java in the Cloud: Continuous Integration Setup Tutorial

More than two decades ago, Java shook the world with its “Write once, run anywhere“ slogan. Today, Java developers have at their disposal a whole set of tools, such as Spring Boot, Docker, Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Continuous Delivery, to take development and delivery to a whole new universe.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Software Engineer Matko Šuflaj presents all these technologies and guides us through a step-by-step tutorial on how to build a small microservice and prepare it for continuous integration in the cloud.

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Produce DWGs Like It's 2016: Teigha For Architecture

Today, the notion of repetitively modeling or drawing the windows, doors, and walls of standardized buildings seems archaic, so why do it? If you want to handle DWG files and ACA objects programmatically, one of the best platform options is Teigha Architecture.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Alexey Abramovsky walks us through the DWG production of a small house to introduce us to the benefits of Teigha. Go from foundations to full render in this quick tutorial.

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The Duel: React Native vs. Cordova

As a result of smartphones and mobile applications becoming so popular, web developers have been looking for ways to create mobile applications using JavaScript. This increased demand has led to the development of many JavaScript frameworks capable of running native-like applications on mobile devices.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Software Engineer Johannes Stein compares the current two most popular choices for mobile-oriented JavaScript frameworks, Cordova and React Native. Examining their advantages and pitfalls, he dives into details of each and compares them across different disciplines.

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UX Testing For The Masses: Keep It Simple And Cost Effective

User Experience (UX) testing may be one of the more overlooked but ultimately necessary steps in UX design. It has to be effective and involve the most important people – your users and customers.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Ruaridh Currie examines UX testing methods and processes used by designers who want to understand and employ User Centered Design (UCD) and put their UX designs to the test, preferably without burning a hole in their budget.

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Spectacular Crowdfunding Fails And Their Impact On Entrepreneurship

What’s the biggest problem with crowdfunding today? Everyone wants a sweet slice of the crowdfunded pie, but nobody wants a single crumb of responsibility. As a result, crowdfunding platforms, the tech press, and the geek public have picked up a track record filled with spectacular crowdfunding failures.

In this article, Toptal Technical Editor Nermin Hajdarbegovic takes a look at the state of crowdfunding today and explains why the industry needs to do more to clean up its act and get rid of bad apples in crowdfunding.

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Sharpen Your Skills: The Value of Multidisciplinary Design

Although the different design disciplines are often divided into separate categories, many of their associated skills transcend the limits of nomenclature. For example, the ability of an architectural designer to present abstract concepts clearly might help the UX designer communicate an interface with improved efficiency and meaning, just as a graphic designer’s visual knowledge informs the UI designer’s interface compositions.

In this article, Toptal Freelance Designer Peter Varadi explains through his own experience how a multidisciplinary design background has broadened his skill set. Who knew that an architectural education could set you apart in the field of UX Design?

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