Why Feature Branching Matters to Marketers (Spoiler: It Can Make You Faster)

What if no one could change anything on your brand’s site for the next three months, year, or even longer? Your marketing efforts would come to a full stop. So much for driving results or staying ahead of the competition!

That kind of slowdown can happen when your IT department or development team is creating a new site or is working on some other website project. If you want to change or add anything to the existing site, you are locked out until the IT team is done working on their existing project.

I heard a sad story from a marketer who works at a large health system. The health system had grown dramatically with mergers and acquisitions, and its existing site had thousands of pages and was awkward to navigate. A new site was desperately needed, and during its year-long development, no changes could be made to the existing site. The marketing team lost a whole year of digital marketing opportunities, while their competitors moved ahead.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not for that health system, and not for you. The workflow that sends all marketing content through IT isn’t the only model out there. And it definitely isn’t the most efficient one. With the right host and configuration, you can take control of the content stream without breaking anything the IT department is working on.

The solution you’re looking for is called “feature branching.” Here’s how it works.

Why Feature Branching Is Your Friend

Imagine your website is a house. You build a strong foundation, frame it out, put in your electrical and plumbing, and when it’s done, you live in it.


A feature branch is like an exact replica of your house. You create one so you can build an addition onto your house, while life in the original house goes along like normal. To ensure that the new work is taking place in an exact replica of the house you’re living in, every night, any changes you made that day are automatically copied into the replica house. When you move furniture, the replica’s furniture moves too.

This is called parallel feature development. You can create as many replica houses or feature branches as you want and develop them all at the same time. Development work is always taking place on an exact copy of the original. When the new site or additions go live, nothing is lost or overridden. Meanwhile, you had the benefit of living in the house, changing the decor, etc. without any disruptions.

Without feature branching, the dev team creates a version of the original site and works on it in an isolated test environment. The version they have is the exact same as the day it was created. If the original live site gets out of sync with the one in the test environment, then all those changes disappear when the new version of the site goes live.

The delays created by developing in an isolated test environment impact more than just marketing. The IT team can only work on and launch one project at a time. Everyone has to get in line and wait for their turn. With feature branching, teams can work in parallel and merge changes when they’re done.

Feature Branching Mini Case Study

Here is what feature branching looks like in real life.  

At Pantheon, every day we make all sorts of content changes to our website. We post new blog posts, case studies, and fix typos. At the same time, we are building a new website, and we have a website speed testing project underway, among other projects. We have lots of different work happening simultaneously.

Every night, we push a button and all of these separate projects are synced. Each change is marked so we can tell who made what updates, and every day everyone is working from a feature branch of the same version.  

Our marketing team doesn’t have to wait, development teams don’t have to wait. Our marketing efforts keep their momentum, our site improves, and our visitors get uninterrupted service.

Pantheon is the only web host with this type of development workflow built into the platform. We call it Multidev, and it works whether you’re a small business, enterprise corporation, or digital agency.

Marketing is a fast-paced profession. You need the capacity to make changes regularly, quickly, and nimbly to stay ahead of the competition and earn your audience’s attention. With the right workflow and platform, your website doesn’t have to be a bottleneck for your marketing team.


Version Control & Workflow
Want to use version control and follow enterprise-grade workflows without slowing down? Pantheon makes the best practice the path of least resistance.

Topics Development, Website Technology

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