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Version Control for Web Projects: Git and GitHub for Teams

Introduction

For smooth web development collaboration and minimizing risks, implementing version control with Git and web-based platforms like GitHub or GitLab is invaluable. Version control enables branching complex features, contributions across distributed teams, easy rollback of problematic code, and adaptable project management workflows. This guide covers foundational Git terminology and operations, essential commands, suggested workflows leveraging branches and pull requests, approaches for managing releases, and top practices for productive version control.

Why Version Control Matters

Major benefits afforded by version control systems:

  • Track Changes Over Time View any file state at any historical point.
  • Enable Parallel Development
    Work simultaneously within branches before merging.
  • Support Concurrent Engineering Allow dispersed teams to collaborate.
  • Attributions for Changes Codes commits and changes back to individual contributors.
  • Environment Staging Test updates on a deploy preview before going live.
  • Roll Back Changes
    Revert to any previous commit as needed.
  • Preserving Project History Maintain complete timeline of contributions.

Version control is indispensable for seamless team web development.

Basic Git Terminology

Key terms and components:

Repository – The full project folder tracked by Git. Contains all files, history and branches.

Commit – Snapshot of changes. Contains details like author and commit message.

Hash – Unique ID identifying each commit.

Branch – Independent line of development of commits.

Merge – Join branches together by combining changes and commits.

Remote – Common repository on external server like GitHub.

Clone – Local copy of remote repository and commit history.

Push/Pull – Upload/download changes to sync between local and remote.

Fetch – Retrieve remote commits but doesn’t alter local files.

HEAD – Current position in repository.

Key Git Commands

Essential commands for version control workflows:

  • git init – Initializes empty Git repo in existing directory
  • git clone <repo> – Downloads project from remote repository
  • git add <files> – Stages files to commit
  • git commit -m “message” – Commits staged snapshot
  • git push origin main – Pushes local commits to default remote
  • git pull origin main– Pulls latest remote commits into local
  • git checkout -b <branch> – Creates and checks out new branch
  • git merge <branch> – Merges branch into current branch
  • git log – Shows commit history

Many Git workflows revolve around some combination of these core commands.

Suggested Git Branching Workflows

Common approaches to organize collaboration:

Main/Master Branch

  • Reserved for production-ready state only
  • Development branches created separately

Topic Branches

  • New branch for each new feature or fix
  • Enables parallelization and isolation

Gitflow Workflow

  • Standard release branches for preparation
  • Short-lived feature/bug branches

Trunk-Based Development

  • Main is integration branch
  • Small short-lived branches

Adopt workflows optimizing productivity for your team scale and preferences.

Git Branching Benefits

Why branching is preferable to direct main updates:

  • Parallel Development Work independently without impacting main.
  • Isolate Changes Each branch encapsulates one logical update.
  • Protect Main
    Reviews and tests precede merging to main.
  • Environment Isolation Branches get own staging deployment.
  • Adopt Agile Practices
    Map branches to stories, sprints etc.
  • Identify Releases Dedicate branches preparing sets of features for versioning.
  • Suspend Changes Park incomplete work in branches temporarily until ready.

Branches let multiple contributors efficiently interleave work.

GitHub Pull Requests

Key benefits of pull request (PR) code reviews:

  • Visibility on Proposed Changes Share changes before merge for feedback.
  • Discuss Implementation
    Comment on specific lines and commits.
  • Require Approvals Mandate reviews before merge to main branch.
  • Assign Code Owners
    Ensure specific contributors approve changes impacting their code.
  • Run Automated Checks Unit tests, linters etc. before allowing merge.
  • Track Issues Resolved Link pull requests to issues they address.
  • Preserve History Close PRs rather than delete for record.

Formal reviews result in more robust, thoroughly-vetted code.

Git Revert and Reset

Commands for undoing local changes:

git revert

  • Revokes individual commit
  • Preserves project history

git reset

  • Deletes commits back to specified point
  • Rewrites existing history

git restore

  • Discards uncommitted changes
  • Restores files to previous commit state

Use judiciously when needing clean project state.

Preparing Releases

Manage versioning thoughtfully:

  • Maintain Change Log
    Note significant updates per release.
  • Choose Scheme Wisely
    Semantic, numeric etc. allowing room for growth.
  • Git Tagging Mark version numbers and milestones.
  • Gitflow Release Branches Formalize release candidate prep.
  • Time Release Planning Coordinate teams hitting deadlines.
  • Automate Packaging Script building installers, containers, binaries.
  • Follow Semantic Versioning Format like MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH based on change significance.

Consistency improves coordination around shipping software changes.

Deployment Strategies

Methods for taking versions live:

Direct Deploys

  • Push main branch directly to production.
  • Simpler but riskier.

Blue-Green

  • Copy environment for new release.
  • Cutover routing when ready.
  • Easy rollback.

Feature Flags

  • Wrap unfinished features in flags.
  • Control availability independently.

Incremental Rollout

  • Slowly shift percentages of traffic.
  • Catch issues affecting only subsets.

Choose patterns managing risk for your needs.

Hosting Remote Repositories

Popular Git hosting platforms:

GitHub

  • Public and private hosting options.
  • Issue tracking and project management features.
  • Access controls and permissions settings.
  • 3GB storage free tier.

GitLab

  • Open source community edition available.
  • Complete DevOps platform capabilities.
  • Integrated container registry.
  • Unlimited private repositories.

Bitbucket

  • Unlimited private teams with 5 users.
  • Integrates with Jira and Bamboo.
  • Graphical web-based interface.

Evaluate cost, features, integrations and UI in selecting your provider.

Security Best Practices

Steps safeguarding repository integrity:

  • Carefully Manage Access Limit push permissions conservatively.
  • Audit Contributors Require multi-factor auth, validate affiliations.
  • Perform Code Reviews Scrutinize changes for logic flaws and vulnerabilities.
  • Scan Dependencies Detect compromised third-party libraries early.
  • Monitor Activity Logs Review history for unauthorized or abnormal activity.
  • Enable Flags and Locks Block force pushes to protected branches.
  • Use Available Security Features Like required commit signing.

Automating Releases

Streamline rollout processes:

Continuous Integration

Automate build and test pipeline.

Continuous Delivery

Push changes to staging post CI.

Continuous Deployment

Promote staging builds to production automatically.

Issue Linking

Connect code changes back to tickets.

Changelog Generation

Auto-assemble release note summaries.

Matching workflows to team size and risk posture maximizes efficiency.

Onboarding Tips

Help teams adopt version control:

  • Start with Central Tutorial Group walkthrough introducing concepts and platform.
  • Provide Quick References Concise cheat sheets for common commands.
  • Model Workflows in Repo Craft repo illustrating ideal use of branches, PRs etc.
  • Incorporate Into Daily Tasks Apply version control actions as just part of regular flow.
  • Encourage Communication Reinforce asking questions rather than guessing to prevent errors.
  • Designate Experts Peers providing informal support scaling knowledge.
  • Automate Where Possible Reduce need for manual Git commands.

Guide teammates learning curves gracefully to build familiarity.

Conclusion

Version control systems enable scaling software initiatives seamlessly across teams while minimizing risk. Tools like Git and GitHub provide proven models for coordinating any web project. Repository workflows should balance appropriate controls with developer productivity. Approach version control as a fundamental skill like coding rather than a periodic interaction. The traceability and streamlined collaboration empowers developers to enhance web projects fearlessly at any scale.

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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