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Cowboy Coding Nostalgia

Working on-server is how most website developers start; the classic “cowboy coding” approach of making changes in production on a live running website, where every update is immediately visible, and one syntax error can bring the whole thing down. Everyone agrees that this isn’t the best idea, but let’s not forget that developing on production does have a number of benefits:

  1. Immediately see and share the results of your work online.

  2. No need to hassle with local development stacks, virtualboxes, or the like.

  3. Confidence that your code works in production.

  4. Ability to directly collaborate with other developers.

None of these is worth the stress of crashing the site with a typo, or the confusion of coming back to a project after a few months off with no record of your changes. But… those are still pretty awesome advantages.

What if you could have it all? With Pantheon’s ability to support on-server development, plus the addition of Multidev—a feature-branch workflow for multiple developers to collaborate—you can enjoy all the benefits of cowboy coding while avoiding the hazards.

There’s a reason it’s so popular.

Since the very beginning, Pantheon has offered a unique feature: the ability to safely use both a “local git push” or the “on-server development” style of workflow via SFTP. You can choose to push code to Pantheon, or work online, turning your changes into Git commits via our dashboard:

This is great because it means:

  1. Developers can use Pantheon to ramp up on version control without having a big learning curve. That makes getting the whole team onto best practices much less of a slog.

  2. You can debug directly against the platform if something isn’t working right. Way better than speculatively committing locally and pushing code up to see if it fixes something.

  3. The team gets the fastest-possible data sync operations to freshen or prepare their development environments. Less time waiting is more time doing.

  4. Every development environment is a fully operational website that can be easily shared with other developers or stakeholders for help, feedback, input or approval. No more black boxes.

It’s nice to be able to noodle quickly on your desktop, or to get work done on an airplane, but it’s even nicer to be able to share your work immediately with colleagues and stakeholders, and know for sure they will be able to integrate and deploy your changes when they’re ready.

I think on-server development is currently under-valued. Nobody wants to go back to the bad old days, but trying to do everything on your local machine is probably an over-reaction. Our experience working on large projects with diverse teams has shown that standardization, speedy workflow operations, and easy collaboration are game-changers, and in some cases can only be delivered with an online solution.

Topics Website Technology, Development