Long time member, somewhat lacking contributor here.
I'd like to take some time to discuss the development of a workflow for building Wordpress websites. For pretty much all of my commercial time developing websites I have used mostly static html to develop Dreamweaver templates which our clients were able to update using Contribute. Occasionally I'd write some snippets of PHP where I needed any extra bit of functionality.
However myself and a colleague have been dabbling with Wordpress for the last few months and have decided to draw a line under the old style of static site that we had been building in favour of buildings sites using Wordpress as a CMS. We actually plan on dropping Dreamweaver completely from our workflow as we've found ourselves living in the code view of that in our experiments with Wordpress and so I see no need to pay the huge asking price for a piece of software we no longer need. (Komodo Edit seems to be working out fine as an alternative).
I guess I'm a little nervous about making the move to developing these new sites in Wordpress since we had our old workflow down to a fine art in terms of the complete development cycle of a project. Now with Wordpress I am trying to come up with a workflow that works and wanted to see what the community at Sitepoint did in relation to this and to get feedback on how I think we might do it.
Here's my proposed workflow leaving out elements such as discovery, spec work, design, testing, etc - really just interested in the build process and deploy process here.
Each of us has a local copy of Wordpress running. We would have some dummy data here and would use this to develop the initial template for the project along with any functionality or plug ins that need to be created.
When the template is finished we create a fresh Wordpress installation in a development server that is accessible by the client. This development server is identical in every way to the final live server where the website will eventually be deployed. We upload the template to this server and begin to develop the structure of the website as per our discovery and spec work. We allow the client access to this server so that they can see how their project is developing and can offer feedback if required (keeping in mind that we make a point of not going back on our milestones in the project unless we have to meaning any feedback may not be relevant).
When this development version of the website is complete we install a fresh copy of Wordpress on the live server under that clients directory. We export all of the data from the development server to the live site and amend the url entries in the options table of Wordpress.
When it comes to creating the development version of the Wordpress website are there any things that I should NOT do that should be done on the live version? Would there be settings that I might set on the live server as part of the installation that might be overwritten when the development data is uploaded? One thing that springs to mind is when I am asked about making the site viewable by Google. I'd imagine that I'd set this to no on the develoment installation but would want this then amended for the live site.
One thing that stands out to me about this process is the constant need to install fresh copies of Wordpress at various stages. I'm wondering if this is the most efficient method to develop these websites?
Also having several live Wordpress sites (we average one website a month with our current work output) will mean that they will need to be kept up to date with the latest version of Wordpress. I'm just wondering what is the best way to do this short of logging into each site individually and updating them? I know that we can use one database for all of the different Wordpress sites but in my eyes this would still involve having to update each site individually anyway.
I know that this is quite a long post and it asks alot of questions but I don't want people to think that I just came on here to to make you guys tell me the answers that I need. I have researched this as best I can and have found some articles and blog posts dealing with the matter of a Wordpress development workflow but they don't always answer the questions that I have. Whatever happens it's going to be trial and error for us and in the end we will work out our workflow but I'm still curious to hear from the Sitepoint community and also it'd be interesting to read about your own processes in relation to this.
So, thanks for reading and I look forward to discussing things in more detail further along.