The problem: working on a live web site is a bad idea
Anyone who's ever worked on a sufficiently complex web site knows it's a bad idea to work directly on the live server hosting the site for a couple of important reasons:
- It's disruptive to visitors: If - sorry when you break something - your visitors are going to be exposed to it. Nothing creates a bad impression faster than a broken web site.
- Fear is stressful, stress kills productivity: you know if you mess around too much with the web site there's a good chance you'll break it. Naturally you don't want this to happen so your mind becomes preoccupied with the fear of making mistakes, and its hard to focus on what needs to be done.
We develop this web site and test all non-trivial changes in a local TurnKey Drupal instance running inside a virtual machine. This means we can experiment and screw things up with no consequences. I find removing that source of stress makes you much happier and more productive as a web developer.
Working like this raises a few practical questions though:
- How do you push changes from the development box used for staging to the live web site without accidentally overwriting changes made by someone else?
- How do you track who changed what?
- When you screw things up on your development box, how do you reset the changes you've made and start again?