Until recently my workflow when running and updating my website was dictated mostly by the CMS I used. This was a CMS I built myself using PHP that worked with the content of my site in a very precise way and allowed me to update every page pretty much from the click of a button. I didn’t even have to paste the text into a box ala-WordPress, I could simply upload a text file with my article in it and the system would take care of the rest. Rather elegant if I do say so myself, and a compelling argument for creating your own content management script rather than relying on a cookie-cutter like WordPress.
But then there’s a downside to that too. Recently I decided to overhaul my website you see, and ended up changing the site so much that the CMS would no longer work. That means that until I get around to rebuilding the content management system from the ground up, I’m stuck uploading files the old-fashioned way and manually editing every page each time I do.
Fortunately though I’ve recently happened upon some software and tools, that along with the right code and hardware have sped up my workflow almost to the point where I don’t need a CMS. Almost…
The first thing I’m using that has made all the difference is Notepad++. Most web designers should be familiar with this piece of software – it’s essentially the notepad we all know and love with bells on. Those bells include the ability to find and replace strings across entire folders and more importantly: tabs.
The great thing about tabs in Notepad++ is that they stay open even when you restart the program. What that means is that you can keep open the tabs that you regularly update – including your Index page for instance and a template for each content page that you can easily copy and paste into a new file each time you want to update.
Add to this another piece of software that you should be familiar with, that you can nevertheless get more from than you might realise, and you can enhance your workflow further. That software is Filezilla – the free FTP client. Using this piece of software you can open the folder where you store your files locally, and you can use ‘quick connect’ to jump right onto your server. Drag and drop the files you want to upload and they’ll be visible immediately on your site.
Now the process of updating your website is as simple as opening Notepad++, copying your template into a new file, adding the content, editing the Index to add the link and then dropping it all onto the server using Filezilla. That’s pretty straightforward…
Setting Up the Code
In terms of code there are a few things I’ve done to make the process even simpler. Specifically I’ve set my server up to treat every HTML page as a PHP file, and then I’ve used ‘include’ files to create the site layout. All a page is then is an include at the top and bottom with all the content in an ‘echo’ that goes in the middle.
This means I can update the look of my site as easily as editing those two included files, and I don’t need to worry about deleting the wrong thing when I add in the content.
Also important is of course to keep a copy of all my files in the same folder which means I can find them quickly and easily to upload, and which means I’ve have a local copy to work from.
Of course if you’re going to be coding in PHP then you might also want a coding environment to test it in. A great IDE for PHP is PHPStorm which will allow you to see if your code works without having to upload it all to your server necessarily. It has FTP synchronisation too though which can further improve your workflow.