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Our WordPress Development Workflow

How we wrangle WordPress @kohactive.

WordPress is a big part of our front-end development flow here at kohactive, but its base tooling doesn’t suit us super well. With the help of some solid open source tools, we’ve been able to mold a modern workflow in-sync with other technologies we use.


We start with our sage-but-better repo as a boilerplate, which contains all the files needed for a complete WordPress install. This allows us to keep a central starting point for managing core version updates, plugin updates, etc. The theme is really Sage with a few minor updates. Sage sets up a couple things that we want:

  • A boilerplate theme setup
  • NPM & Bower
  • Gulp for compiling Sass & JS(+ CoffeeScript currently, but that will probably go away)

The “but-better” part includes a couple other things we want:

  • Shell scripts for installation, development, & deployment
  • wp-config setup for local & Pantheon(our WordPress host of choice) environments


The repo also contains some plugins that we use in just about every WordPress project we do:

  • Advanced Custom Fields Pro: I don’t know where I’d be without ACF. Probably nowhere near WordPress. ACF is free, but the paid version is totally worth it. $76(USD) for unlimited use(which is extremely underpriced, imo). We basically build admin pages with this plugin. It makes the admin side of things much more user-friendly and allows us to keep restrictions in place to fend off user error.
  • WP Migrate DB Pro: Migrate DB Pro is one of those things I didn’t bother with for a while(if only they’d consider sponsoring a podcast or something). Dumping and importing SQL files is easy enough, etc…until you use this plugin. Don’t deal with dumps. Don’t deal with find-and-replace. Migrate DB Pro is another plugin that is far more worthy than its price(especially if you catch it on sale) when dealing with multiple environments & devs.
  • Contact Form 7: CF7 is pretty standard and does a lot of the junk you probably don’t want to deal with for forms. It can feel a little archaic to set up and use on the back-end, but it’s easily customizable and there’s a response out there for just about every problem you’ll run into.
  • Yoast SEO: Not much to say here. This plugin does a pretty good job of “just working” and giving some standard SEO out of the box. There’s a lot more to it if you want to dig into it, but it’ll get you a sitemap and some decent SEO with little poking & prodding.


We’ve gone through a few different hosting options and landed wholly on Pantheon. It does everything you’d expect from a WordPress hosting service, plus a couple other things that are quite nice.

  • wp-config Setup. The wp-config setup is hassle-free. The Pantheon wp-config file uses ENV variables, and each dev has a wp-config-local that contains their connection info. Done.
  • Git Push. This one’s not super unique, but it works better/more easily than other services we’ve used. Basically there’s a Git repo hosted on Pantheon and it automatically updates the site when pushed to.
  • Dev/Test/Live Environments: Each site created in Pantheon starts in the Dev environment. Dev code syncs with the master branch of the Pantheon-hosted Git repo. This tripped me up a bit initially when thinking that branches represent the different environments(which they do in my next point, but not here). This creates a specific workflow that actually ends up being quite nice. To that same point, Pantheon makes it really easy to move uploads & databases down to keep things in sync.
  • Multidev: Want feature review? Of course you do. Don’t merge it in just to get a review, get it its own url. Create a new Multidev environment, push up the code to the remote repo branch of the same name, there ya go.
  • Downside: Pantheon doesn’t really do multisite(they do, but only on an enterprise level). Can’t say I blame them, but if needed, head over to WP Engine.

All in all, it’s a good setup. Is it perfect? Not quite. I need to spend some time playing with Bedrock and/or finding a good way to manage plugins a little better(committing them to the repo makes me sad). I’m also not crazy about force-committing the dist/ directory to deploy to the Pantheon remote. It stays out of the review/“main” repo per-se, but it could be better.