Podcast Episode

487 – Organizing Tools for WordPress


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Leave at Door for WooCommerce is a plugin that will allow the option for customers to leave their delivery at the door.

Organizing Tools for WordPress

  • Put files in the same locations for every project
  • Use blue prints for Local by Flywheel or Desktop Server
  • Create a folder with all plugins / code you reuse regularly
  • Follow a specific deploy / testing strategy
  • Spend some time setting up your code editor
  • Slowly add new skills

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

In today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about tools and how we can organize our tools, get our files ready, and all kinds of things to make it more efficient when we’re working in WordPress, right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, Episode No. 487. Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler, and I’m excited to be here with you this week, just like I am every single week, and today we’re gonna be talking about tools, and organization, and all that kind of nerdy stuff, which I really like to geek out on sometimes.

But first, I’ve got two announcements and a plugin to share. The first announcement is not really WordPress-related, but it is about GitHub, and GitHub now opens up free plans to unlimited collaborators on private repositories, so this is really kind of cool, and I’ve noticed that some of my public things that were public can now be private and whatnot, and so, I use GitHub to store a lot of files for different plugins that I’m working on, and just some workflows for me deploying and pushing code out to live servers, and I’ll talk about that in a little bit. But, that’s the way that I’ve got things structured, so I use GitHub some, so this was kind interesting news. It was on WP Tavern, so it is kind of in the WordPress space, but not really in the WordPress space.

And then, the other plugin – or, the other piece of news that also came from WP Tavern this week, and it’s a pretty nonsensical, trivial-type thing, but there is now a Blockosaurus embeds. It is a side-scrolling T. rex game via the block editor. Like I said, it’s very nonsense, and I can’t wait until next week to share it as a plugin, so I wanted to talk about it this week. It is a plugin called Blockosaurus. It’s a game.

Usually, you get it when you’re in Chrome, and when you’re in Chrome, when you try to load a webpage and you’re not connected to the internet, you get this little dinosaur, and if you didn’t know, you hit spacebar, and the dinosaur actually moves from left to right across the screen, and then, as you get close to cactus, you hit the spacebar, and then you jump over the cactus. You can play this for hours and get a high score or whatever. You can do all this if you really like and you’re really bored waiting for the internet connection to come back.

But now, you can add that functionality to your WordPress site if you want to, and there’s all kinds of information about that. You basically add a plugin called Blockosaurus plugin, and then you can – you can set the speed so you can go faster or slower, and you can mute the audio if you want as well. So, that is – you can put different backgrounds on, so that’s probably the coolest part about the game, but that is what I wanted to share with you this week. It was in the news this weekend. There’s not a lot happening in the news. We just got WordPress 5.4, and just not a lot happening right now in the space. So, those are the two announcements that I wanted to share with you today.

The plugin that I wanna share with you today is a very timely plugin. It’s made by a friend that I know, Scott Delusio, and he has a plugin called Leave at the Door for WooCommerce, and this is a plugin for a restaurant or a store that offers local delivery to your customers, and you may not want to open the door to receive that, or the customers might not want to actually receive things. Think about getting a pizza and just leaving it on the front porch – something along those lines, especially as we’re in this age in April of 2020 of social distancing ourselves, staying away, not coming in close contact with people, But, that is what the plugin is. It allows you to have a contactless delivery. That’s what I wanted to share. This is the plugin, and you can find it by searching “Leave at Door for WooCommerce,” or you can find a link to it in the show notes for Episode No. 487.

All right. Today, like I said, we’re gonna be talking about tools. I talk about this because I 1). Like really organized things, like keeping things organized and having certain workflows for different things, and then, the other reason that I came up with this topic this week is because I am – I’m working on a lot of home projects. This lockdown or this stay-at-home order has been really great for me. As you know, we built a new house last year, or we moved in in late 2018, so it’s two years ago that this house was being built. And, it’s like, “Oh, a brand-new house, I won’t have any projects.” Well, I’ve had tons of projects and tons of things that I wanted to work on, and so, I’m working on all these projects in the basement. Now, it’s time to get outside.

One of the things I hate – and, I don’t know why; I’m not very good at this – is I can never find my tools – well, most of the time I can, but sometimes, I just set it down, and I don’t remember where I’ve set it. So, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos and just trying to figure out how I can build a workbench and incorporate some storage into different things so I can put my square – I can put that in the same spot every time, my pencil, same spot every time so I don’t have to look. You spend two minutes looking around my shop – what is my basement – looking for things. And so, that’s kind of what came about and what I was thinking through, like okay, I’m struggling with this as a thing that’s in real life, but then I was like, “How can I turn this and spin this and talk about WordPress?” So, that’s what I wanna talk to you today.

So, one of the things – and, these are just in the order that I thought of them as I was coming up with this idea, but the first one is put files in the same location for every project, and I know that this just makes so much sense, and – “Dustin, why don’t you do this?” I don’t know why. Sometimes, this doesn’t work, but I was working on a project, I’m helping my wife, of course, with websites that she has, and she’s like, “I need this logo in a different format.”

So, in general, I create – all of my dev sites are saved on my local install, my local computer, and then they’re under the “sites” folder. So, I go to “sites” folder, I go to the site that I’m looking for, and usually, what I do is in that first folder, inside the root directory, I put a folder called “assets.” All the rest of the WordPress files are in there, but I call it “assets,” and that’s where I put logos, images, text, or things that are really assets that don’t live in the theme, they don’t – they’re not part of a plugin. So, I go there, and of course, they’re not there, and then it’s like, “Okay, where did I put those?” And now, it’s in some shared Dropbox folder with a million clicks later, and it’s not in an easy-to-locate place.

So, that’s the first thing. Put files in some location that you’re going to be able to find them. If you have custom plugins or different things like – or, plugins isn’t a good thing, but if you have documentation, assets from a customer, or maybe you store all your notes, follow-ups, text documents, or things like that, the best place to put them is all in a folder connected to the project. That way, they’re right there, you don’t have to click around 100 times just to get the things you need. So, that’s the first thing: Put files in some location – wherever they are, the same location for every project.

The other one – the next one on my list is to use blueprints for Local by Flywheel or Desktop Server. If you’re creating brand-new sites and you use the same plugins regularly, I recommend doing this. I have – I’m not using local right now, I’m using – Valet Plus is the technology I’m using for my local sites, but Local by Flywheel or Desktop Server – both of those have the ability that you can go in and you can say, “Okay, I want these plugins installed, I wanna use this version of WordPress, I want it to use this, this, this,” and you can set up a default configuration. And so, when you create your next WordPress site, it’s gonna automatically install those things.

A couple ones that I have just kind of handy and sitting around is I have a – there’s a plugin that I use to automatically log in, and so, it is a plugin that I only run on dev sites, which makes sense that I don’t have to remember dev sites, and then, it basically gives me a – it has the username and password on the login field, and then, right underneath it, it says “select username.” Then, I can click the admin username and just log right in without a password. That is something that came from Desktop Server that I turned into a plugin, and that’s super handy. If you’re interested in that, just let me know, and I’d be happy to share that code with you.

And then, the other one is a plugin – and, both of these go in the “must-use” plugins folder when I create local insols, and they are excluded from being deployed, and so, I don’t actually – will never get these to a live server, but the other one is called – it’s something along the lines of “Custom Admin Color Bar,” and I just wanna make sure that all of my local sites have an orange admin login bar – or, an admin bar across the top. That way I can know quickly I’m on my dev site or I’m on my live site. So, I use orange because I’m obsessed with orange. I use orange for everything I can, and so, that is a must-use plugin.

But those are ones that I install on every local site, so I just keep those in a handy spot so that I can grab them and copy them into that since I’m not using blueprints, but I do recommend if you’re using one of those tools – Local by Flywheel or Desktop Server – that you use those blueprints. Like I said, that’s the option, or the other one – the next thing on my list – is about create a folder with all plugins or reusable files, so it’s pretty much the same thing. Inside my “sites” directory, there’s one called “tools,” and that’s where I put anything that could be useful that I may reuse, and so, that’s how I handle that.

The next one on my list is to follow a set step of deployment or testing strategies. I know that in the past, it used to be one of those things that, “Oh, I can cowboy code this” or “Oh, there’s a problem here. Real quick, let me go fix that on the live server.” And now, all of a sudden, I’ve updated that on the live server, and now, the staging server is outdated, and now the two aren’t the same, and so, the next time I run into an issue, I’m either gonna have to fix what I had previously fixed – so, now I’ve got two things to do, and then to do it right on the staging server – or I’m gonna just update on the site.

I’m gonna do a cowboy code again, I’m gonna update it live via FTP, and now we’ve got multiple changes that are out of sync and out of whack, and it’s just a real pain and a big headache to try to figure out “Is my staging server ready to make changes? If I update that, is it gonna overwrite things on my live site? What’s the deal here?” And so, I’ve just really come to a conclusion – even if it is the simplest of simple tweaks – maybe I’m changing a period or changing something very small on the live end that needs to be updated via FTP – I always do it through the staging server, and then I store those changes with Git, and then, from Git, I deploy them directly to my site.

And so, I have this, and I’ve been using this for years. There’s a webinar – if you head over to yourwebsiteengineer.com/webinar, there’s one that talks all about this process of me, and it really hasn’t changed, so the webinar might be outdated in the fact that some of the screenshots are outdated, or the tools have changed a little bit, or Safari or WordPress has changed a little bit, but it has really been the same for probably the last six years or so. I’ve been doing the same thing, so I keep – the local version on my computer has Git running behind it, so anytime I make a change, if I update a plugin, that’s considered a change, and then I save that as a revision inside of – I save that as a commit message or as a commit inside of GitHub, and then, each one of those – I can always roll back to a previous spot when I do something.

So, it’s a neat process, and it’s the way that I’ve set it up, but the overarching thing is just follow a set SEP of deploying or testing strategies, so you’re doing the same thing repeatedly, over and over again. If you are going to test the latest version of the Jetpack plugin, test it on your local site, do whatever you need to do, and then update it on your live site. Just try to make sure that your testing environment and your live environment are exactly the same at all times – well, not necessarily at all times. If you are working on something, and then you leave for the day, and then you come back, it’s okay if they’re not exactly, but you know what I mean.

If you’re working on a project, finish that project before you start the next thing. That’s kind of what I’m getting at. I think I can talk about that as finish one project before you work on the next, and that’s not how I work at all. I’ve gotten, like, 19 projects going on at one time here in my house – different little things that I’m working on, so I can’t take that advice either.

Anyways, this is my next one. Spend some time setting up your code editor. This is a great thing to do whether you’re making the fonts a little bigger, or you’re changing the color scheme so it matches the rest of your work tools, or just spending a little bit of time learning the keyboard shortcuts and different things – and, this goes along the lines of making – when you’re in your workshop and you’re building a wood project, you wanna make a jig or you wanna make something that’s gonna make your life easier, well, learning your code editor inside and out is going to make your life easier.

There’s a cool function in some of these code editors where you can use a keyboard combo, and I always have to look it up because I don’t use it enough, but it will allow you to – I think it’s called line bubbling. So, if you have a list of maybe four things and you wanna move things up or down, you can use this line bubbling. It’s something like control, options, up and down arrow. So, it’ll move lines up and down, which is really handy when you need that type of feature instead of highlighting, copying or cutting, and then pasting, yada yada yada, something that’s really quick like that is a really neat feature, and it’s built into some code editors. So, learn a new skill every once in a while, and that’ll just help to level up and allow you to use your code editor more easily and more quickly.

And, that rolls into the last point, which is just slowly add new skills, whether that is learning a little bit of code – maybe you’re gonna learn a little bit of PHP or CSS and try to fix things and make things work a little bit better or a little faster, or maybe you’re learning a tool, or a new framework, or a new something. You just learn a little bit over time, and you’ll continue to get better.

So, that’s that one, and then, the last one is if you see something that’s broken or you see something that needs fixed, just fix it. Don’t wait and have this huge list of things. I find that sometimes it’s like, “Oh, I could do this, I could update this, or I could update this, or I could do this. I’ll do it next time…” And then, that’s it. Little nag every time you use it – so, a great example is Text Expander, a tool that I use to do a lot of live chat replies and things at Automatic where I work. It’s like, “Oh, this could be worded a little better, but I’ll do that the next time. Oh, I’ll do that the next time.”

Every time the next time comes and you don’t do it, you’re like, “Oh, I should have done it months ago, and then I wouldn’t have to be doing it now.” So, it’s the same thing. If you’re at a workshop or whatever, and you’re building, and you see “Oh, I could pick this up and throw it away so it’s not in my way.” Well, do it right now; otherwise, it’s gonna be in your way at some point when you are building, or working, or whatever. So, those are the things that I wanna share with you today, just different ways to organize your tools, your tasks, your things, and just if you have an organized mind and an organized computer, it’s gonna make your life that much easier and that much easier to develop and build out those WordPress sites.

I think if you’re a developer in this day and age, especially with websites or stores that aren’t allowed to open, they’re all going towards ecommerce, and we’ve just seen a huge flux of new ecommerce and WordPress users, which is really incredible and exciting in that more and more businesses are becoming online, but if you are in the development market and you’re looking to help different store owners, the faster that you can build and the faster that you can use these tools that are at your disposal, maybe the more money that you can make or the more people that you can help during this time and help them save their business. And so, that’s what I wanna share with you this week. Take care, and we’ll be back next week. Bye-bye. For more great WordPress information, head on over to yourwebsiteengineer.com.