Steps to improve your OSS project

Header image for the checklist with steps to improve an open source project


First impression

Project page

The first impression is everything, also when it comes to open source projects. So let's start with the project page where people may land when searching for the name of the tool.

The project page has an important role, which is explaining to the user what your tool will do. So start with a short description and explain what someone will achieve. Keep this explanation as simple as possible and leave out technical jargon when possible.

After the initial description, it is time to go into more details. This could be explaining who the intended audience is and why they should use this tool and not something else. In other words, what makes it unique? It is fine to make bold statements, but avoid naming it the 'best'.

The project page should include at least a software license, the installation instructions, documentation on how to get started. It is also suggested to share something about your background. Many people are interested in who created the tool and why. It helps them better understand the intended goal and how they can use the software.

  • Have a non-technical description
  • Include a software license
  • Add installation instructions

Software license

Software without a license can greatly restrict its usage. Even if you put up all your code on a website like GitHub, that doesn't make the project open source. Without a license, it means that you own all copyright and that usage is restricted. By providing a license, you can enable some 'features' of the code and therefore the project. For example, it defines if people are allowed to use the code, modify it, or even redistribute it. And if so, under what conditions.

Show what it looks like

When installing an app on your phone, chances are good that you first looked at a screenshot. Based on that, you may have decided to go ahead and install the app. The installation of an app is typically effortless. Unfortunately, that can not be said for most open source tools. So before you have a potential user performing the installation, show at least a screenshot or textual output. This way you gain more trust that your tool is what he or she is looking for.