Site Build: VeganRVA

Recently I helped build and launch a new site:  It was quite the project, lots of things happened but in the end it all came together.

The Idea.

My fiance and I were talking about how there weren’t any sites that really focus on the vegan scene here in Richmond Virginia and we wanted to change that. Originally the idea was to start a food critic style blog and eat lots of food. The idea progressed though, and eventually I started asking around if anyone was interested. I found out that someone I knew had a similar idea and so we started collaborating.

The Blueprints.

After many conversations about what we wanted to do, we decided on building a site that offered a little bit of everything, food reviews, things to do, product reviews, restaurant listings, the whole deal. Structuring the information architecture was fairly straight forward. One we had it all figured out the next part was getting a decent design. I’ve never really been one who was amazing at design, but this project made me really dive into it. Some of the flat design I was seeing really made me want to try it out.

Working with my friend (who is a designer) we were able to come out with a very simple comp of how we wanted the site to look. We wanted to use a grid system to make it really easy to build, and we used a lot of really interesting and vibrant colors.

Getting Our Keyboards Dirty.

Now that a solid design was laid out, it was time to start building. I really wanted to start using Git more in my process, and I also wanted to use Compass because it seems like the future of development on the web. In the end we decided on using the Foundation 5 framework, more specifically Foundation Press. It has all the tools we wanted, plus it has a lot of great built-in functionality so we can use the reusable patterns provided. That helped to cut down on development time, and I learned a lot.

Version controlling WordPress can be a big p.i.t.a but we managed. There were definitely a lot of hiccups along the way, and a few merges that got really tough to sort out. The wp-config.php file is one of the files you really have to watch out for. You pretty much have to git ignore a local and dev config file, and make sure you do so in the beginning to save a headache or two. We did a few no-nos such as images in the repo (stop clenching your teeth!).

Go Live!

After many revisions, tweaks, undos, redos, deletes, undeletes, and more revisions the site was ready to go live. Our tool of choice for this was Beanstalk. I cannot tell you enough how much I love using it. Beanstalk itself is both a private repo, and a deployment tool. That means you can push all your version control commits to it, and then watch it deploy on your site(s).  During the process we automatically pushed changes from our local repos to the dev site, and now it manually deploys if we need to do any more work.

Lessons Learned

This whole project taught me a lot about working in a team and setting realistic expectations. When you are working on a personal project, lots more things get in the way and it is easier to miss deadlines. When you set a goal you need to stick to it and not back down otherwise it will sit on side-burner for a long while.  Don’t be afraid to use new tools on a project, that is really the only way to really find out if you will like to use that tool at work or again on another project.


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