Workflow is an important part of any WordPress developer’s job. However, some people can get stuck in the way they’ve always done things, and that can be very limiting.
Some developers employ what’s called Cowboy Coding.
Cowboy coding is an undisciplined approach to software development that gives programmers complete control over the development process. In this context, cowboy is a synonym for maverick — a loner who does things his own way.
While that’s the official definition, this is how I define it:
- No design
- No testing
- No requirements
- Unmaintainable code
- No feedback from users
- No schedule or deadlines
- No collaboration either on an individual level or at a team level
When it comes to WordPress, some examples of this kind of code look like this:
- Download a file from FTP > Edit > Upload > Refresh the browser (— something went wrong, and you repeat the process).
- You start coding a file without caring about inline documentation (you have no idea about file headers of function docBlocks)
If you can make this method work for you and you like it, that’s great. I find Cowboy Code inefficient and difficult to stay organized, so I prefer to use Local WordPress Development.
Local WP Development
If you aren’t familiar with local WP development, these are my favorite plugins to get you on the right track.
The name of this plugin says it all — it helps WordPress developers develop. The Developer is a collaboration by Automattic along with a whole bunch of other developers. It optimizes your developmental workflow by ensuring that all the necessary tools are installed.
Even if you’ve been a developer for years, access to the debugging information is a must. WordPress has a set of decent debugging options out of which I think the Debug Bar plugin is a popular choice. After the installation, a menu called ‘Debug‘ is added to the admin bar that can help you analyze info like slow sites, cache, query, as well as other debugging information.
No matter how experienced you are, theme rejection always happens. Ensuring that the theme is coded according to the theme review standards is quite critical. The Theme Checker plugin provides an easy way to test your theme for all the specs. The plugin is coupled with the same toolset which is utilized by WordPress.org for the theme review process. See your results instantaneously.
This one’s my favorite. Query Monitor is another debugging plugin. It offers an advanced feature set when compared to its counterparts. It offers an intuitive way of monitoring the database queries, conditionals, HTTP requests, hooks, redirects, and a lot more. Just like the Debug Bar plugin, Query Monitor also adds a new admin menu from where you can access all the information which is being queried on the page you are on.
Debug Meta Data is an intuitive debugging plugin for WordPress. It handles the meta-data information exclusively. The plugin creates a meta-box featuring the meta-data information of a post for all post types. Several other data is also fetched like meta key, meta value, and its var_dump ‘ed values. It is a straightforward plugin. Just install — activate it, and you’ll have the meta box displayed in your WP dashboard.
Building a website is not only about code. You have to take care of many other aspects. The Development Environment Notification plugin informs you that whether you are viewing the development or the production environments. The best thing about the plugin is that it offers this functionality without checking the host files etc. Once the plugin is installed, a simple notification button is added to the admin bar which keeps you informed about the environment all the time.
If something goes wrong or you want to use a single demo site for testing purposes, then you’ll need to reset back to the default WP installation. This used to be an arduous task but not anymore. The Reset WP plugin resets the WP database to default installation by removing all the content and custom changes. I use this plugin a lot. It will not edit or delete any of your files. So, if you are a developer, then this is a must-have tool for your arsenal.
There are many log viewing plugins for WordPress, but WP Log Viewer plugin offers a stress-free debugging experience. In one click, without any page reloads, I get to keep an eye on the debug.log. It offers many handy features like one-click filtration for errors and log clearing, secure download of debugging info, etc. Just like several others, WP Log viewer also adds a widget in the admin bar from where all the information is processed.
My friend, Andy built this cool plugin called GitHub Updater which can automatically update your GitHub, Bitbucket, or GitLab hosted WordPress plugins and themes — just like you do via WordPress.org. It’s helpful when you are working for a client with hosting account that doesn’t support Git. Your plugin and theme’s header contain information about the location where it is hosted on GitHub. So, the plugin makes use of this info and updates any GitHub hosted WordPress plugin or theme.
It happens quite often that while customizing a third-party plugin or theme you hit the update button and all your efforts go waste. The Local Development plugin handles the notifying process while you are working in a local environment. It places the notices all over your plugins and themes page. This keeps you cautious all the time and prevents you from updating the particular set of themes and plugins. This plugin prevents updating of selected plugins and themes.
Start writing better code and level up your WordPress development game with these plugins. You’ll thank me later.
Finally, you can catch all of my articles on my profile page, and you can follow me on my blog and/or reach out at Twitter @MrAhmadAwais; where I write about development workflows in the context of WordPress.
As usual, don’t hesitate to leave any questions or comments below, and I’ll aim to respond to each of them.