Tools and Techniques That Have Improved Development Tasks

This post is part of the series Tools and Techniques for Organization

Other posts in this series:

  1. An Intro to the Tools and Techniques that Transform my Work Life
  2. Methods and Tools I’ve Applied for Organizing Communication
  3. Tools and Techniques That Have Improved Development Tasks (Current)

Next up on my run-through of things that have improved my workflow is development tasks. This is one area where I know that I need a lot of improvement, as there are so many tools out there.

Starting Projects

I typically begin each WordPress based project via Vagrant and a VVV box on my local machine. We did a meetup on this and other local development environments last month, and some notes and links can be found on our recap post.

I started using Brad Parbs’ excellent addon Variable VVV, or just VV. It’s made creating new development sites even easier, and adding blueprints on top of that have made it even even easier. For instance, this basic blueprint installs the Genesis framework, installs a Genesis child theme that I made that is in need of update, activates that child theme, installs Gravity Forms, activates and licenses it, installs and activates Jetpack, and loads some test content from wptest.io so I can see how the site that I’m creating looks with various content. Not bad for what becomes a one line command!

{
  "genesis": {
    "themes": [
      {
        "location": "An up to date Genesis Zip",
        "activate": false
      },
      {
        "location": "davidwolfpaw/obm-genesis-child",
        "activate": true
      }
    ],
    "plugins": [
      {
        "location": "An up to date Gravity Forms Zip",
        "version": null,
        "force": false,
        "activate": true,
        "activate_network": false
      },
      {
        "location": "jetpack",
        "version": null,
        "force": false,
        "activate": true,
        "activate_network": false
      }
    ],
    "options": [
      "current_theme::obm-genesis-child"
    ],
    "demo_content": [
      "link::https://raw.githubusercontent.com/manovotny/wptest/master/wptest.xml"
    ],
    "defines": [
      "WP_CACHE::false",
      "GF_LICENSE_KEY:: My Gravity Forms License Key"
    ]
  },
}

The most important thing for me is that I have things to start with. VVV and a starter theme or plugin do more for me than just save time. They also save mental energy and keep me away from that dreaded blank page that makes even simple projects more daunting. With a starter I feel like I’m half done when I get started, because in essence I am. Every project doesn’t need a complete rewrite, and the time and energy saved can be better put to the specifics of this one project.

Maintaining Projects

I’ve been getting better at committing code to a version control system for every project. I’m still working on most things solo, but when someone else needs to jump in or review, it’s been a big help, at least in making me look more professional. For clients we use Bitbucket, but in general I’m going to start posting more things up on Github. I’m at least going to put up a gist library of common code snippets that I use and reuse with lots of projects, as that cuts down the amount of work and places where mistakes could crop up if I am constantly redoing it.

I keep copious notes, often in Drive in a client folder, that I can review for later, as well as the tasks in Trello that I mentioned yesterday. Even if I’ve got a feature or change that I know is not coming up now whether through time or budget constraints, I prefer to keep it in mind so that it doesn’t surprise me later. Plus, there are often easy wins, like being able to reuse member registrations for one portion of a project for another, that can allow me to offer extra value to clients with little additional work. Writing something right the first time is a lot easier than writing it one way then having to shoehorn a feature in later.

Conclusion

I specifically didn’t go too in depth, because when it comes to tools, I mainly feel that what works for you works. I use Sublime Text as my editor, but there are a lot of great ones out there. I personally don’t really like using an IDE for general web development, and like the versatility and breadth of plugins that Sublime offers. I also think the process that works is the one that you stick with. Despite the things that I know that I need to get better about (setting up projects in Sublime, utilizing Grunt as a task manager, etc), I can still be productive and slowly add new knowledge over time.

Do you have any specific tools or processes that have saved you lots of time or that you expect to save time in the long term? I’m always looking for ways to level up, so let me know!

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