The Uniqueness Trap: Why You Shouldn't Try to Create a Unique Project

You don't need to create a unique project, learn a practical approach to picking project ideas that stand out
Yair Cohen
Yair Cohen
APR 21, 2024
5 min read

Have you ever heard the advice that you should build a unique project? If so, I suggest you ignore it.

I understand where this advice is coming from - classic projects such as a todo list, inventory system or Spotify clone are more common than ever and can provide some practice.

But in 99% of cases, these kinds of projects get completely ignored, which is why developers shift towards trying to find unique ideas.

While this is a better direction than ultra generic projects, the problem is that truly unique ideas are rare. Especially for newer developers, the likelihood of coming up with a completely original idea is quite low.

So what should you do? On one hand you don’t want to pick a generic project because it will be ignored. On the other hand picking something unique feels nearly impossible 🤔

Value Over Novelty: A Practical Approach

Fundamentally we use projects that solve a certain pain or fulfill a desire we have.

This is why you don’t actually need a unique idea, you need an idea that either:

  1. Solves a problem, thus solving a pain

  2. Answers a need, thus fulfilling a desire

If your projects can do either of these, it will be unique enough to the users of it.

But the key part here is that focusing on an idea that solves a problem and provides value is much more practical than a unique idea. It sets an attainable goal instead of a standard that sets the bar too high, leaving developers flustered.

From Personal Pain to Project Gain

So you know you should solve a problem or answer a need. To do that, you need to understand your users pains and desires well.

Getting into the mind of users in an area you’re not familiar is hard, and while not impossible, the much easier way is to pick an idea that relates to an area you are familiar with.

As unique as we like to think we are as human beings, our problems and needs are usually not that unique!

It’s likely that there’s a large number of people experiencing the same problems and desires you have, which is why the best ideas usually come from within.

A Unique Angle, Not a Unique Idea

You don’t need to a completely unique idea to solve a problem or answer a need, you just need a unique angle. Examples of unique angles include:

  • An integration to an existing product that provides additional functionality

  • Taking an existing idea that has bad UX and improving it

  • Taking an idea that exists in Desktop apps and re-making it to mobile (or vica versa)

  • Building a tool for developers that doesn’t exist in your framework/language of choice

  • Building an app focused on featuring a solution that exists but costs money

Notice that while this list isn’t derived from ideas being unique, all of these ideas are still unique in a way, but as a side effect of giving value.

What makes them unique is that they solve a problem in way that hasn’t been done for a set of users who are interested in that.

Shifting to Product Thinking

From experience previously explaining these concepts to developers I mentored, I know this is not straight forward at first.

Usually after a discussion where I describe these ideas most people still find it hard to come up with ideas that solve a problem and have a unique angle.

This is a long process, it requires a certain mindset shift to look at things from a perspective of what can be done in a better way.

A good thought exercise is - in an ideal scenario, what would I expect to have in a tool/product?

The more you practice it, the more flaws you will find in existing solutions, and new and improved ways to do things will be clear to you.

I’ve seen this first-hand, after a while practicing this thinking the “problem” people have is having too many ideas to choose from!

##Daily Practices to Improve Product Thinking

To wrap up, here are a couple of tips that could help you employ this type of thinking in your day-to-day.

  1. Whenever writing code, especially for something time-consuming or complex, ask yourself what you wish the library you’re using had. Maybe a library for what you want to do doesn’t exist yet 💡

  2. Whenever using a product or a tool, notice when something is missing. If you stopped using a tool because something was missing, explore what it is and if there’s any alternatives. Often you will reach a point where you realize something is missing, but hasn’t been implemented in the way that you’re looking for💡

  3. Research GitHub Trends, Reddit, use different apps and solutions, experiment. Sometimes looking at popular projects will give you an idea to do something similar in another nicheđź’ˇ


Chasing the advice to “build a unique project” is more of a trap than a good practice.

True uniqueness is rare and especially challenging for newer developers.

Instead of striving for uniqueness, focus on projects that solve real problems or fulfill actual needs—these make your work inherently valuable and uniquely beneficial to its users.

By shifting from seeking originality to addressing genuine user pains and desires, your projects are more likely to stand out whether in bringing more job interviews, improving your branding or attracting users.

Thank you for reading!

Do you have any tips for picking better project ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comments.