BEFORE YOU START
Before you start on any code to extend CiviCRM, it is really important to discuss your ideas with the community. Here are a few of the reasons why this is a good idea:
- It may have been done already
- You'll get suggestions and advice on suitable ways to approach the problem
- Other people will know what you are doing, and be able to contact you if they want to collaborate
A typical pre-development workflow will start with a discussion on the forum about what you want to do. Here you'll receive feedback from other members of the community and core team about your ideas. You might be lucky and find out that there is a already a way to do what you want using the user interface (and that no coding is necessary). Or it might be that someone has done something similar already and all that is required is a few tweaks to their code.
If and when you have confirmed that some coding is required, it is good practice, even for relatively small projects, to write
- a requirements document which describes in detail what you want the finished code to do
- a specification that outlines how you are going to meet these requirements with CiviCRM
The requirements are typically written to be understandable to end users, and the specification can be thought of as a translation of those requirements into the language of CiviCRM. Both requirements and specification should go on the wiki.
Once you've written the requirements and specification document, you should go about soliciting feedback. Get feedback on the requirements from your end users and feedback on the requirements and the specification from anyone that is willing to comment. To encourage more discussion, you can write a post on CiviCRM's blog, tweet it out with the #civicrm hashtag, tell similar CiviCRM users and organisations and so on. The more feedback you can get the better.
If you get stuck writing your requirements and specification, or would like to get more background, have a look at some requirements and specifications written by others - there are plenty on the wiki.
Make it happen
If you need or would like extra resources for your code improvement, you should consider a 'make it happen' (MIH for short).
Make it happen is a crowd-sourcing initiative for CiviCRM, which incidentally, is built using CiviCRM. Around 15 MIH's were selected for the 4.0 release, and more Make it Happens are likely to be selected for future releases. MIH work is carried out by the core team or trusted consultants. You can see a list of current MIH online at http://civicrm.org/mih. If you think your project would make a good MIH, discuss it with the core team.