WordPress is a great platform, but it can also be a bit unorganized at times – at least from a code perspective. This is because the code has gone through many iterations, and as updates roll out, sometimes things aren’t coded as efficiently as they could be.

Just because the code can be a bit all over the place at times doesn’t mean your development process must follow suit. Though messy code is often excused due to fast production schedules, you stand to actually make more as a web developer by implementing a proper workflow.

In this article, we will cover some tips to help you develop WordPress sites in the right way with the right tools on hand. We will also provide a step-by-step walk-through to help you follow these tips.

By following this guide, you can avoid some of the common problems that occur when developing WordPress sites. And you will also be able to create a site that is easy to maintain and update.

So, let’s get started!


Attributes of High-Quality Code

Before we delve into our full guide on creating a WordPress development workflow, let’s pause a moment to discuss why high-quality code actually matters. A lot.

When thinking about the code for your site, there are a few key attributes that you should keep in mind. These attributes will help to ensure that your code is clean, well-organized, and easy to understand.

Here are some attributes of high-quality code:

  • Streamlined
  • Easy to follow
  • Modular
  • Well-commented
  • Can be reused and maintained easily

These attributes may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but don’t worry. We’ll fully cover how to attain each in our guide. But first, we need to talk about why your development workflow simply must abide by these standards.

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Why WordPress Development Needs Top-Tier Coding Practices

In order for a WordPress website to function properly, the code that makes up the site needs to be high quality. This is especially important for WordPress websites because they are often complex, with many different moving parts.

There are many reasons why coding practices are important for WordPress development:

  1. WordPress websites are complex.
  2. A single line of code can have a big impact.
  3. Code needs to be well-written and well-tested.
  4. High-quality code is easier to maintain.
  5. Quality code can help improve performance.

Keeping these points in mind as you move through your development planning process can help you keep your eye on the prize, so to speak.

WordPress Workflow Improvement Tips

Now that we’ve talked about why it’s important to have well-written code let’s go over some tips to help you improve your WordPress workflow for every single project. Each of the following tips will help to ensure your WordPress code is clean and optimized, which is what your priority should be in 2022 and beyond.

Utilize Staging

A staging site is a copy of your live site that you can use to test changes before making them on your live site. This is a valuable tool because it allows you to experiment with changes without affecting your live site.

There are many benefits of using a staging site:

  1. You can test changes before making them on your live site.
  2. You can avoid potential problems by testing on a staging site.
  3. You can make sure that your changes are working as intended.
  4. You can avoid potential downtime on your live site.
  5. You can reduce the risk of breaking your live site.

And when you use the Premium Staging Environment add-on for Kinsta, you can automatically create a staging environment with each of your WordPress sites without having to perform any manual operations. It’s a real time-saver.

Selecting a Premium Staging Environment in MyKinsta.
Selecting a premium staging environment in MyKinsta.

Implement Version Control

Version control is a system that tracks changes to files over time. This is valuable for WordPress development because it allows you to track changes and revert back to earlier versions if necessary.

For most, this means using Git, which is a popular version control system. If you’re unfamiliar, Git is a free and open-source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.

Git website
Git

It’s especially useful when working with a large distributed team. The last thing you want to run into is multiple versions of your functions.php file, all named something slightly different, in your WordPress installation because multiple people were making changes at once.

Git vs. GitHub

Git is a version control system, a tool to manage your source code history. GitHub is a company that provides hosting for software development projects that use Git.

They are two different things, but most people use the term “Git” to refer to both Git and GitHub.

Schedule Automated Backups

One of the most important aspects of WordPress development is backups. Backups are vital because they allow you to restore your site if something goes wrong.

There are many ways to automate backups, but one of the easiest ways is to use a WordPress backup plugin. There are many great backup plugins available, but we recommend using the Kinsta Automated External Backups add-on.

Kinsta Automated External Backups Add-on
Kinsta Automated External Backups Add-on

This add-on will automatically create backups of your WordPress site on a daily basis and store them on an external server.

Take Advantage of Linting

Linting is the process of checking code for errors. This is valuable for WordPress development because it can help you find and fix errors in your code.

Sublime Text website
Sublime Text

Many code editors do this automatically, but if you want to be certain yours offers this feature, consider using one of the following code and text editors:

  • Sublime Text: This code editor has many features, including linting.
  • Atom: This code editor also has linting built-in.
  • Vim: This text editor also offers linting as well as many other features.
  • Visual Studio Code: This code editor has linting available by default.
  • PHPStorm: This is a paid developing environment that has linting available.

Use a Code Generator

A code generator is a tool that can automatically generate code for you. This is valuable for WordPress development because it can save you time and help you avoid errors.

GenerateWP website
GenerateWP

There are many code generators available, but some of the most popular include:

  • GenerateWP: This code generator can generate code for custom post types, taxonomies, metaboxes, and more.
  • Hasty: This code generator can generate code for custom post types, taxonomies, and fields.
  • Nimbus Themes Code Generator: This code generator can generate code for custom post types, taxonomies, and fields.

Use WP-CLI

WP-CLI is a command line interface for WordPress. This is valuable for WordPress development because it allows you to manage your WordPress site from the command line.

This is especially useful when you need to do tasks that are repetitive or require a lot of steps. For example, WP-CLI can be used to install WordPress, create posts and pages, install plugins and themes, and much more. It’s also helpful when you need to make changes to multiple sites at once.

Use a WordPress Development Framework

A WordPress development framework is a tool that can help you streamline your workflow. This is valuable for WordPress development because it can save you time and help you avoid errors.

Bootstrap website
Bootstrap

There are many WordPress development frameworks available, but some of the most popular include:

  • Genesis: This framework from StudioPress is designed to help you build WordPress sites faster.
  • Underscores: This framework from Automattic is designed to help you start developing WordPress themes quickly.
  • Foundation: This framework from Zurb is designed to help you create responsive WordPress sites.
  • Bootstrap: This framework from Twitter is a super helpful way to create responsive designs for WordPress websites.

Use Task Runners

A task runner is a tool that can automate tasks. This is valuable for WordPress development because it can save you time and help you avoid errors. It also allows you to run multiple tasks simultaneously.

Gulp website
Gulp

There are many task runners available, but some of the most popular include:

  • Gulp: This task runner can be used to automate tasks like CSS preprocessing, JavaScript linting, and more.
  • Grunt: Grunt is a Javascript task runner that helps to automate many of your more repetitive tasks.
  • Webpack: This task runner can be used to automate tasks like bundling JavaScript files and more.

Get Familiar with Vue.js or React Now

Although you may not be using Vue.js or React right away, it’s important to get familiar with these frameworks now. This is valuable for WordPress development because they are becoming more popular and are being used more and more as time goes by.

Vue.js is a JavaScript framework that allows you to create reactive user interfaces. React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces.

Both Vue.js and React are popular choices for WordPress development because they are fast, lightweight, and easy to use and are essential for turning WordPress into a headless CMS.

Why Spending Time on WordPress Workflow Planning is Vital

WordPress websites are complex, and it’s important to have a well-planned workflow before starting any project. By taking the time to plan your workflow, you can save time and avoid potential problems down the road.

There are many benefits to planning your WordPress workflow:

  • You can save time by knowing what needs to be done.
  • You can avoid potential problems by planning ahead.
  • You can make sure all the necessary tasks are completed.
  • You can ensure that your workflow is efficient and effective.
  • You can prevent issues when handing off projects to collaborators or clients

Spending time on WordPress workflow planning is vital because it can save you time and help you avoid potential problems. By taking the time to plan your workflow, you can make sure that all the necessary tasks are completed and that your workflow is efficient and effective.

The Ideal WordPress Workflow for Development

There are many ways to approach WordPress workflow, but there are some essential steps that should be included in your development process.

Step 1: Setup a Local Development Environment

The first step in any WordPress workflow should be setting up a local development environment. This is important because it allows you to work on your WordPress site offline, which can save time and prevent errors.

There are many ways to set up a local development environment, it just depends on what setup you prefer to use. We recommend DevKinsta for this.

We recommend using Kinsta Staging and the Premium Staging Environments add-on. This gives you a complete WordPress development environment with a one-click push to live.

You can also work on multiple projects at the same time and merge changes before going live. It also comes with built-in A/B testing, plugin compatibility testing, and resource-intensive testing to help further ensure your builds are structured appropriately.

To get started with the Premium Staging Environments add-on, you simply need to purchase it through your Kinsta account. To turn on the staging environment, go to MyKinsta, then click Environment > Create new environment at the top of the screen.

Create a new environment using the Premium Staging Development Add-on.
Create a new environment using the Premium Staging Development Add-on.

Step 2: Set Up Version Control

The second step in any WordPress workflow should be setting up version control. This is important because it allows you to track changes to your code and revert back to previous versions if necessary.

To do this, you can use a tool like Git. That process looks like the following

1. Create a Repository on GitHub

To create a repository on GitHub, you can use the following steps:

  1. Log in to your GitHub account and click on the + sign in the top right corner.
  2. Select New repository from the dropdown menu.
  3. Enter a name for your repository and a description, then click Create repository.
Create a repository on GitHub.
Create a repository on GitHub.

2. Clone the Repository to Your Local Development Environment

In our case, we’ll be using DevKinsta for our example.

  1. On the GitHub page for your repository, click the Clone or download button.
  2. In the Clone with HTTPs section, copy the URL for your repository.
  3. In your development environment, open up a terminal and change to the directory where you want to clone your repository.
  4. Type the following command, substituting in the URL you copied from Github:
git clone https://github.com/YOUR_USERNAME/YOUR_REPOSITORY.git

This will clone your repository to your local development environment.

3. Add Files and Commit Changes

  1. Add the files you want to track with Git to the repository directory on your computer.
  2. Type git add followed by the name of the file, or use git add . to add all of the files in the directory.
  3. Type git commit -m followed by a message describing the changes you’ve made.
  4. To push your changes to Github, type git push.

You can now continue making changes to the files on your computer and pushing them to GitHub. When you want to retrieve the latest version of the files from Github, you can use the git pull command.

If you’re not using GitHub, you can also use Bitbucket in a similar fashion.

Step 3: Develop Locally

After you have set up your local development environment and version control, it’s time to start developing your WordPress site locally offline.

When developing locally, you can test changes on your staging site before pushing them live. This is important because it allows you to catch any errors or bugs before they affect your live site.

To push changes from your local development environment to your staging site, you can use a tool like DevKinsta. This tool makes it easy to push changes from your local development environment to your staging site with just a few clicks.

Step 4: Make Use of WP-CLI

WP-CLI is a command line interface for WordPress that allows you to manage your WordPress site from the terminal. This can be useful for tasks like creating and managing users, installing and updating plugins, and much more.

To install WP-CLI, follow these steps:

  1. Download the WP-CLI phar file.
  2. Move the file to a directory in your PATH (for example, /usr/local/bin).
  3. Rename the file to wp.
  4. Make the file executable (for example, chmod +x /usr/local/bin/wp).
  5. Test that WP-CLI is installed by running wp –version.

From there, you can use WP-CLI to manage your WordPress site from the command line. For a full list of commands, you can check out our in-depth guide to WP-CLI v2.

Step 5: Automate Your Workflow With Gulp

Gulp is a task runner that allows you to automate tasks like minifying CSS and JavaScript files, compiling Sass files, and much more.

To use Gulp, you first need to install it globally on your system. To do this, you’ll need Node.js, npm, and – of course – Gulp. Run the following command in Node.js:

npm install gulp-cli -g

Once Gulp is installed, you can create a gulpfile.js file in the root of your project. This file contains the code for your Gulp tasks.

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For example, the following gulpfile.js file contains a task for minifying CSS files:

var gulp = require('gulp');
var cleanCSS = require('gulp-clean-css');
gulp.task('minify-css', function() {
 return gulp.src('src/*.css')
 .pipe(cleanCSS({compatibility: 'ie8'}))
 .pipe(gulp.dest('dist'));
});

To run this task, you can use the following command:

gulp minify-css

Step 6: Use Linting

Linting tools are static code analysis tools that help you find errors in your code. For our purposes here, we’re using Atom.io with the following linting packages:

  • atom-beautify
  • atom-ternjs
  • linter
  • linter-eslint
  • linter-php
  • linter-sass-lint
Atom.io website
Atom.io

In your terminal, navigate to the directory you want to lint and run the following command:

find . -name "*.js" -o -name "*.scss" | xargs eslint --fix

This will lint all of the JavaScript and Sass files in your project.

If you want to lint a specific file, you can run the following command:

eslint --fix file-name.js

Replace file-name.js with the name of the file you want to lint.

Step 7: Use a CSS Preprocessor

A CSS preprocessor is a tool that allows you to write CSS in a different language and then compile it into CSS. The two most popular CSS preprocessors are Sass and Less.

In this tutorial, we’ll be using Sass. To use Sass, you first need to install the Sass command line tool. To do this, run the following command:

gem install sass

Once Sass is installed, you can use the following command to compile a Sass file into CSS:

sass input.scss output.css

Replace input.scss with the name of your Sass file and output.css with the name of the CSS file you want to create.

If you want to watch your Sass files for changes and automatically compile them into CSS, you can use the following command:

sass --watch input.scss:output.css

Replace input.scss with the name of your Sass file and output.css with the name of the CSS file you want to create.

Step 8: Use a Deployment Plugin

A deployment plugin is a tool that allows you to easily deploy your WordPress site from a local development environment to a live server.

There are a number of different tools you can use for this purpose, but we recommend using WP Pusher. WP Pusher is a free deployment plugin that you can use with your WordPress site.

The WP Pusher website
The WP Pusher

To install WP Pusher, first, download the ZIP file from the WP Pusher website. Then, log into your WordPress site and go to Plugins > Add New. Click on the Upload Plugin button and select the ZIP file you just downloaded. Once the plugin is installed and activated, you can go to Settings > WP Pusher to configure it.

Once WP Pusher is configured, you can deploy WordPress plugins and themes to your live server without having to interact with the FTP interface at all or messing with your WordPress database.

Step 9: Make Use of WordPress Rest API

The WordPress REST API is a powerful tool that allows you to interact with your WordPress site from outside of the WordPress admin interface.

The WordPress REST API can be used to build custom solutions for your WordPress site. For example, you could use the WordPress REST API to build a mobile app for your WordPress site or to create a custom dashboard.

To get started with the WordPress REST API, you will need to interface with it via the WordPress Command Line Interface. We published a tutorial on how to set up the WordPress REST API recently that can walk you through each step.

Step 10: Create and Follow a Style Guide

A style guide is a set of guidelines for coding and designing your WordPress site. A style guide helps to ensure that your code is consistent and easy to read.

There are a number of different style guides you can use for your WordPress project. We recommend using the WordPress Coding Standards as a starting point. However, you’ll likely make numerous modifications and additions as time goes on.

WordPress Coding Standards in the official WordPress Codex.
WordPress Coding Standards in the official WordPress Codex.

Any style guide you create is likely to be changing all the time. But the important point is that it provides a defined collection of steps to take and guidelines to follow for all developers on your team.

Essentially, your style guide should be your WordPress workflow in written form.

Step 11: Push Your Site Live

Once you’ve completed all of the steps above, your WordPress site is ready to be pushed live. If you’re using a deployment plugin like WP Pusher, this process is as simple as pushing your code to your remote Git repository.

You can do this directly within Kinsta, too, by going to MyKinsta > Sites, selecting your site, then clicking Environment actions. From there, click Push to Live.

Pushing a site to a live server using Kinsta.
Pushing a site to a live server using Kinsta.

Next, check the box next to Files or Database (to check both), type in the site name, then click Push to Live.

If you’re not using a deployment plugin or Git, you can simply export your WordPress database from your local development environment and import it into your live server. You can do this by going to Tools > Export in your WordPress admin dashboard.

Then, select All content from the export options and click on the Download Export File button. Once you have your database file, you can import it into your live server by going to Tools > Import in your WordPress admin dashboard. Select the database file you just exported and click on the Upload file and import button.

You can also manually transfer your WordPress files from your local development environment to your live server using an FTP client like FileZilla. Simply connect to your live server using FTP, then drag and drop your WordPress files into the public_html directory.

Once you’ve pushed your WordPress site live, you can take your time to test everything out and make sure that everything is working as it should.

This would also be a good time to make sure Kinsta AMP is up and running properly. This performance monitoring tool will keep an eye on your server performance and make sure that your site is running as fast as possible.

Kinsta AMP
Kinsta AMP

 

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Summary

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into properly creating a WordPress development workflow. But following these steps will help to ensure that your WordPress site is well-organized, easy to manage, and running smoothly.

And you can’t go wrong by leaning on Kinsta products like DevKinsta, Premium Staging Environments add-on, and Kinsta AMP. These tools will make your WordPress development workflow even easier and more efficient.

Do you have any questions about creating a WordPress development workflow? Let us know in the comments below!


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