Category: Special Interest Groups

Continuous Deployment with Codeship and WP Engine

Overview of continuous deployment pipeline

The purpose of this article is to share our approach to continuous deployment for WordPress plugins and themes on our servers at WP Engine. Continuous deployment is the automated testing and delivery of code to development and production environments. Knowing your web host’s requirements is essential to setting up a continuous delivery process. Once you know this, then you can evaluate a service and later develop a solution that meets your needs. I have implemented this for more than a dozen WordPress themes and plugins, and I believe that effort was worth the time it is saving us now.

Video Tutorial

Our Approach

Codeship automates the process of testing, building, and deploying code to your server, and was the first such product I found which would integrate with our web host (WP Engine). It watches a repository, clones an updated branch to a virtual machine, runs your commands on it, and then deploys the result to your servers. Services like Codeship allow us to automate our existing development and deployment workflow so that changes to the code in our Git repositories are automatically made on our servers.

We use three custom bash scripts in our Codeship projects: setup, build, and deploy. The setup script runs first and is mostly identical for all branches:

# Setup
# Get around restriction on shallow pushes by WP Engine
git filter-branch -- --all
git checkout branchname
# Add User Data
git config --global user.name "codeship-shortreponame"
git config --global user.email "youremail@email.com"
# Combine remote git servers
git remote add servers $SERVERNAME_ENVIRONMENT
git remote set-url --add --push servers $SERVERNAME_ENVIRONMENT
git remote set-url --add --push servers $SERVERNAME2_ENVIRONMENT
# Install needed modules
npm install -g grunt-cli
npm install -g grunt@0.4.0
npm install -g bower
npm install -g ruby
gem install compass
# Move repo files to a named folder
mkdir $FOLDERNAME
shopt -s extglob
mv !($FOLDERNAME) $FOLDERNAME
# Move repo files whose name begins with a period
mv .sass-lint.yml $FOLDERNAME/.sass-lint.yml
# Exclude development-only files from commit
rm .gitignore
mv .codeshipignore $FOLDERNAME/.gitignore
# Move named folder into a structure identical to the root directory of a WordPress server
mkdir -p $DIRECTORY
mv $FOLDERNAME $DIRECTORY
cd $DIRECTORY/$FOLDERNAME/

It adds git user data, defines a list of remote server repositories, and installs command line modules on the virtual machine. The staging servers are listed as remote git repositories in the staging branch’s setup script, and our production servers are listed as remotes in the master branch’s script. Then it replaces the repository’s gitignore file with our .codeshipignore file and moves all files into a folder structure relative to the root directory of our servers:

# RECOMMENDED BY WPENGINE
*~
.DS_Store
.svn
.cvs
*.bak
*.swp
Thumbs.db
# large/disallowed file types
# a CDN should be used for these
*.hqx
*.bin
*.exe
*.dll
*.deb
*.dmg
*.iso
*.img
*.msi
*.msp
*.msm
*.mid
*.midi
*.kar
*.mp3
*.ogg
*.m4a
*.ra
*.3gpp
*.3gp
*.mp4
*.mpeg
*.mpg
*.mov
*.webm
*.flv
*.m4v
*.mng
*.asx
*.asf
*.wmv
*.avi
# Directories that may or may not exist in repo AND should not be on the server
package.json
bower.json
.bower.json
.bowerrc
config.rb
node_modules
.sass-cache
*.md
*.txt
*.ai
*.scss
*.coffee
.gitignore
LICENSE
LICENSE-MIT
gruntfile.js
Gruntfile.js
werker.yml
.editorconfig
css/src
js/src
bower_components/**/foundation/scss/
bower_components/**/jquery/src/
bower_components/**/modernizr/*/
bower_components/**/modernizr/grunt.js
bower_components/**/picturefill/index.html
bower_components/**/picturefill/logos/*.png
bower_components/**/superfish/examples/
# Only using one file from bower_components/html5shiv
bower_components/html5shiv/
!bower_components/html5shiv/dist/html5shiv.js

Our typical build script imports Node and Bower modules and uses Grunt to compile Sass and Coffee files:

# Build
composer install
npm install
bower install
grunt develop

It uses the repo’s gruntfile (example) to perform a different set of tasks for the staging and production servers:

module.exports = (grunt) ->
  @initConfig
    pkg: @file.readJSON('package.json')
    watch:
      files: [
        'css/src/*.scss'
      ]
      tasks: ['sasslint', 'compass:dev']
    compass:
      pkg:
        options:
          config: 'config.rb'
          force: true
      dev:
        options:
          config: 'config.rb'
          force: true
          outputStyle: 'expanded'
          sourcemap: true
          noLineComments: true
    jsvalidate:
      options:
        globals:
          jQuery: true
          console: true
          module: true
          document: true
      targetName:
        files:
          src: [
            'js/*.js',
            'bower_components/foundation/js/vendor/fastclick.js',
            'bower_components/foundation/js/foundation/foundation?(.topbar).js',
            'bower_components/modernizr/modernizr.js',
            'bower_components/jquery/{dist,sizzle}/**/*.js',
            'bower_components/jquery-placeholder/*.js',
            'bower_components/jquery.cookie/jquery.cookie.js',
            'bower_components/respond/{cross-domain,dest}/*.js',
            'bower_components/html5shiv/dist/html5shiv.js'
          ]
    sasslint:
      options:
        configFile: '.sass-lint.yml'
      target: ['css/src/**/*.s+(a|c)ss']
    compress:
      main:
        options:
          archive: 'AgriFlex3.zip'
        files: [
          {src: ['AgriFlex/*.php']},
          {src: ['css/*.css']},
          {src: ['img/**']},
          {src: ['js/*.js']},
          {src: ['bower_components/fastclick/lib/fastclick.js']},
          {src: ['bower_components/foundation/{css,js}/**']},
          {src: ['bower_components/modernizr/modernizr.js']},
          {src: ['bower_components/jquery/{dist,sizzle}/**/*.js']},
          {src: ['bower_components/jquery-placeholder/*.js']},
          {src: ['bower_components/jquery.cookie/jquery.cookie.js']},
          {src: ['bower_components/respond/{cross-domain,dest}/*.js']},
          {src: ['bower_components/html5shiv/dist/html5shiv.js']},
          {src: ['vendor/**', '!vendor/composer/autoload_static.php']},
          {src: ['functions.php']},
          {src: ['README.md']},
          {src: ['rtl.css']},
          {src: ['screenshot.png']},
          {src: ['search.php']},
          {src: ['style.css']}
        ]

  @loadNpmTasks 'grunt-contrib-compass'
  @loadNpmTasks 'grunt-jsvalidate'
  @loadNpmTasks 'grunt-contrib-watch'
  @loadNpmTasks 'grunt-sass-lint'

  @registerTask 'default', ['compass:pkg']
  @registerTask 'develop', ['sasslint', 'compass:dev', 'jsvalidate']
  @registerTask 'package', ['compass:pkg', 'jsvalidate']

  @event.on 'watch', (action, filepath) =>
    @log.writeln('#{filepath} has #{action}')

Note that we use Compass’s expanded output with sourcemaps for developing Sass files and a compressed output for production. A web browser’s inspection tool can detect sourcemaps and use them to show you where a CSS rule is located in your Sass files. This is essential for troubleshooting or modifying Sass as quickly as possible.

Once the build script has finished, the deploy script commits changes to the cloned repository and pushes them to our WP Engine servers:

# Deploy
git add --all :/
git commit -m "DEPLOYMENT"
git push servers HEAD:master --force

If this is the first time you’re using the Git Push feature for a particular WP Engine install, you might need to use this git push command instead to avoid a “missing branch” error:

git push servers HEAD:refs/heads/master --force

We can only send code to WP Engine servers from Codeship using their git push feature. It replaces user input authorization with an SSH key. The .codeshipignore file allows us to exclude unneeded files from the commit and reduce upload times. Since our projects are authorized git push users with the WP Engine servers we push to, the last command pushes our final commit to the remote server repositories we defined during setup.

The video tutorial demonstrates how to implement this process. What follows are the same steps I take to connect each of our repositories to our WP Engine servers using Codeship.

Using Codeship to deploy Github repos to WP Engine

  1. Create a new Codeship project and connect it to a Git repo URL
  2. On the Codeship General Project Settings page, copy the SSH public key
  3. On each WP Engine install you want connected, use the SSH public key to add a new Git Push developer named codeship-shortreponame.
  4. Show what the variables page looks like On the Codeship project’s Environment settings page, create a new variable named SERVERNAME_PRODUCTION and SERVERNAME_STAGING for each WP Engine install you want connected.
  5. On the same page, define a FOLDERNAME variable as the name of the folder your repo’s files should be placed within. Also define a DIRECTORY variable as either wp-content/plugins or wp-content/themes.
  6. Show what the deployment pipeline page looks likeOn the Codeship project’s Deployment settings page, create one pipeline for the repo’s master branch and another for the staging branch.
  7. Create separate custom scripts in each pipeline for the setup, build (optional), and deploy portions of the process.
    • The setup script only has a few variables that need to be changed for each project: branchname, shortreponame, youremail@email.com, and SERVERNAME_ENVIRONMENT.
    • The build script contains your existing build process, such as importing NPM modules or preprocessing css and js files.
    • The deploy script has no variables.
  8. Ensure your Git repo has a master and staging branch.
  9. Checkout the staging branch of your repo and add a .codeshipignore file to its root directory using this template as a guide.
  10. Show what the build output page looks likeCommit the change and push it to your repository. This will trigger the Codeship build process, which you can watch on the project’s main page as it moves through each line of your custom scripts.
  11. Once the build has finished, it will send the code to the staging server if successful or stop on the first line that results in an error. If it is successful, it will be pushed to the server! Whether or not it is successful, you can click on any line of the script to see its output, so if it fails you can use this to troubleshoot that command.
  12. When your build is successful, you can merge the staging branch to the master branch on your computer and then push it to the repository. This will trigger the master pipeline, which will either deploy it to your production server or result in an error.

And that’s it! Now you have an automated deployment process integrated with your existing Git repository, and all of your servers can have the latest, tested version of your plugins and themes each time you push to it. If you found this article helpful, please leave a comment. You can view the public repositories of Agrilife Communications on Github for more information about their build processes. I can be reached by email at zachary.watkins@ag.tamu.edu.

Resources

Accessibility Resources from AccessU Conference

The Texas A&M IT accessibility services team attended the John Slatin AccessU conference hosted by Knowbility in Austin, Texas on May 17-18, 2017. From the various sessions, the team learned about new accessibility resources you can incorporate into your design, development and work processes.

If you have experience with any of these, please write a comment below. We would love to hear if these are beneficial.

Addressing the struggles of making sites accessible and usable

Accessibility and Usability Vin Diagram

Credit: Unknown

 

A question was asked at an Accessibility Special Interest Group meeting along the lines of, “Do we have access to a report that shows all the accessibility issues for our sites?” A comment was then made, “I just don’t know where to start.” I immediately reflected back to when Erick Beck and I gave a presentation along with representatives from SiteImprove of the various components of the SiteImprove suite. The same type of question was asked during the Q&A section. I felt it was time to write an article to share with the entire web community on campus my thoughts on bringing every site into compliance making our sites usable.

Triage known issues

The first step I recommend is triaging known issues on all your sites collectively and establishing a plan. Start by looking at reports, whether in SiteImprove or another reporting tool, and find similarities or patterns. For example, if you notice a contrast ratio issue on all your reports and the same theme is used on each site, then a simple CSS fix to the theme and your theme’s source files will resolve the issue.

Identify teaching opportunities

If you see a lot of issues on alternative text, such as filenames used as alternative text, use it as a teaching moment. Send a polite email to your content contributors stating that you have noticed a lot of images added with the filename used as the alternative text. Provide simple steps to correct the issue and avoid mentioning the rules or policies associated with it. Please do not misunderstand me and think that I do not believe the accessibility rules and policies are not important. The rules and policies are important but, the idea here is to gingerly tell those who contribute content to the site to be mindful of certain things. We don’t want to beat them into the ground with the rule book.

Make the content usable

Instead of embedding an image containing paragraphs of text, tables and supporting images, make the image accessible by making it usable. We all agree that we want Google, Bing and any other search engine to index our site. Why should we then mask our content within an image? We want visitors to be able to find something on a page. Why should we put all our text in an object that can’t be searched? We want those looking at our site with a mobile device to read what we have to say without pinching to zoom in and out. Why include it in an image that scales automatically making the text difficult to see? Extract the content from the image and place it on the page so that everyone can read it making is usable and accessible.

Remember, the end goal is to have our sites accessible by making them usable. Try your best not to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

  • Start by triaging the reported issues and establish a plan.
  • Identify the issues that pertain to a theme or template where one fix resolves the issue in several places.
  • Use your analytics to identify your top 25 or 50 most visited pages and resolve all the issues on those pages.
  • Work your way down to the fourth, fifth and sixth level pages eliminating the issues reported by your scanning tool.
  • Finally, you can review your site to check the tabbing order or if the appropriate landmarks are being used as both of these items need human interaction to verify they are within the guidelines.

Help is on the way!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The odds are high that someone has been in the same circumstance and can help you along the way. Join the accessibility sprint on July 14th where the goal is to bring people and technology together to improve the usability of our sites. This is a great opportunity to interact with others across campus who are also making updates that impact accessibility!

CMS Systems In Use Across Campus

Several years ago we did a survey of what content management systems were in use across campus.  After several years of change in this space we thought it would be good to see what those numbers look like now.

A trend of consolidation stands out.  Through self selection, the majority of us are naturally aligning around Cascade and WordPress.  Most of those who have not made that migration are considering it.  The exception is Provost IT, which is firmly tied to Kentico.

Cascade

  • Bush School – moving into Cascade
  • College of Architecture
  • College of Engineering – moving from Umbraco to Cascade
  • College of Geosciences
  • Health Science Center
  • Libraries
  • Division of Marketing & Communications
  • TAMU IT
  • TAMU Galveston
  • Tarleton State University – for the entire university

WordPress

  • AgriLife
    • Extension programs
    • Department of Wildlife & Fisheries
    • Department of Entomology
  • College of Dentistry – for news site
  • College of Education – moving from Drupal to WordPress
  • College of Engineering – for some smaller sites
  • College of Science
    • Department of Statistics
  • College of Veterinary Medicine – moving from Umbraco to WordPress
  • Health Science Center
  • Mays Business School
  • Division of Marketing & Communications – for news site
  • Public Policy Research Institute
  • Student Affairs
  • TAMU IT
  • TAMU Qatar
  • TEEX – will soon begin using for microsites

Drupal

  • Education – but actively moving to WordPress

Umbraco

  • College of Engineering – but actively moving to Cascade
  • College of Veterinary Medicine – but actively moving to WordPress
  • Finance & Administration – but considering moving to Cascade or some other platform

Kentico

  • Provost IT

Drupal

  • College of Education – but actively moving to WordPress

Sharepoint

  • TEEX

No CMS

  • Transportation Services -but considering moving to Cascade or some other platform

Custom

  • College of Science – but likely to change

Web Technologies & Development at 2017 Tech Summit

2017 Texas A&M University System Technology Summit
Moody Gardens Convention Center, Galveston, TX
February 20-22

The Texas A&M University System Technology Summit is the place technology experts come to learn from the best, exchange ideas on common challenges and spend time together. Professionals have the rare chance to blend technical learning across a wide range of subjects. Tech Summit offers sessions to help you master your daily work, while enjoying a taste of island time. This year’s web track is full of valuable sessions:

Pre-conference workshops specific to web development are:

GoWeb After Dark

Equidox by Onix treats you to hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary first drink. Join the Texas A&M GoWeb group and end your day in a casual setting. Network with web professionals and discuss everything web, from the latest trends on analytics, accessibility and branding to recent successes and challenges.

Please check out the complete schedule and we hope to see you in Galveston!


Donald St. Martin
Track Chair, Web Technologies & Development

HTTPS and the CAS Maestro WordPress plugin

At the College of Engineering, we are in the process of adding SSL certificates to all of our WordPress sites. On top of faster load times with HTTP/2 and higher page rankings in Google’s search engine, we also wanted our WordPress logins to be secure. It is a simple procedure that adds one more layer of obfuscation. Well, it was supposed to be a simple procedure but I ran into an issue when securing the WordPress login process.

What the Heck is Wuhcag?

WCAG 2.0 (pronounced wuh-CAG 2.0) is a set of web content accessibility guidelines that helps make websites work for people of all abilities. It’s the yardstick by which most institutions of higher education measure the accessibility of their sites, and Texas A&M University is no exception.

The reasoning behind the standards

Designing and developing sites with WCAG 2.0 in mind allows us to broaden our reach by making sure our content can be enjoyed by everyone, including individuals with cognitive, motor, vison or auditory challenges. It also takes into account unique user preferences, such as how we choose to view color, if we want to enlarge text, or even if we want to use only a keyboard to access online information.

WCAG 2.0, in a nutshell, allows us to make our websites perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Each of the criteria point directly to one of these four concepts. See web accessibility standards.

Types of evaluations

Using automated evaluation tools can provide a quick initial assessment and give you a good idea of the accessibility of the site on a large scale. Some automated evaluation tools are:

  • Enterprise tools such as Siteimprove and WorldSpace Comply offered through IT Accessibility Services
  • Online tools such as Wave and aChecker
  • Browser extensions such as Html_Codesniffer and WebAIM’s Wave
  • Desktop applications such as aViewer and Color Contrast Analyzer

Although these tools are very helpful in evaluating websites, they may only find 25 to 35% of accessibility issues. This is a start, but when it comes to getting our institution’s information out to the widest possible audience, this just won’t cut it.

A thorough testing program includes manual testing, as it examines accessibility issues at a more granular level and helps to verify the results of automated testing. As a best practice, manual testing should be performed in multiple browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Safari. The accuracy of results depends solely upon the knowledge and skill of the tester, so there’s no better way than to just dive right in and start testing.

Going a step further, usability testing helps organizations understand user needs, identify potential issues, and generate ideas for improvement. While usability testing is often used to evaluate a website’s user interface (UI), this method is also invaluable for discovering the best way to present information on your website. By paying attention to how people read, interpret, and access content, you gain a greater understanding of how to communicate, structure, and format information.

Where can you begin?

If you haven’t already, start with some training. IT Accessibility Services offers various training sessions including:

  • Web Accessibility Essentials and Advanced, both offered through Employee and Organizational Development (EOD)
  • Document Creation including Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as well as Adobe InDesign and PDF Accessibility
  • Procurement Training, which takes you step-by-step through the purchase of Electronic and Information Resources (EIR)

Custom sessions for your workgroup are also available, and IT Accessibility Services staff can provide consulting or even help you come up with a workable testing protocol. For more information, contact itaccessibility@exchange.tamu.edu.

Tools discussed at the GoMobile retreat

  • Foundation 5 – Latest mobile-first, responsive front end framework from Zurb
  • Codepen.io / Jsfiddle? – Allow real-time testing of html/css/js snippets
  • Regexr – Real time testing of regular expressions and great regex documentation
  • Browserstack – Test web sites on live virtual machines with just about every web browser.? Many mobile devices and OSs available as well.
  • Siteimprove – Web governance, scans for broken links, spelling and grammar problems, unwanted content, accessibility problems and more.
  • Ghostlab – Synchronized web development and testing
  • BrowserSync.io – Open source synchronized browser testing
  • Ghost Inspector – Automate front-end testing, checks the operation of specific functionality and page elements
  • Invision – Tool for collaboration on prototypes and mockups
  • Macaw – Responsive prototyping tool, outputs?HTML5 and css (also Froont, WebFlow, Adobe Muse, PineGrow)
  • Google Web Designer – Creates interactive HTML5-based designs and motion graphics, good for custom banners (Also Adobe Edge Animate)
  • Microsoft Edge Browser / Firefox Developer Edition

Mobility and Modern Web Conference

September 14-16, 2016

Los Angeles, CA

mmwcon.org/

MMWCon is about gathering educators, mobile enthusiasts, technologists, strategists, disruptors and innovators together to get a “glimpse” of what’s next and how we can get there together as a community and even a society. Attendees include mobile strategic thinkers, educators and instructional designers, researchers as well as entrepreneurs who want to connect with their peers and engage with the most interesting mobile and future tech innovations of our time.