Getting started with Deploybot & why you should stop using FTP

5 min read
Watb Team
Image of Deploybot's logo

I’ve known for a long time that manually transferring websites over FTP wasn’t the correct way to do it, but having the time to investigate and implement another method was tricky, we work to tight schedules here at WATB. Luckily though after completing a recent project I had some time to look into deployment, and the tool we ended up trying out was Deploybot.

Deploybot acts as a sort of tunnel between your Git repositories and your hosting. It allows you to link up a repo to multiple hosting accounts, through what it calls environments. An environment allows you to control exactly where your deployments end up.

For example, a basic implementation, and one ideal for most of our projects, involves having a Staging environment and a Production environment. We connect our staging environment to our testbench – this is a portion of our own hosting we use for testing client sites. The production environment is then linked to the clients live hosting.

We’re then able to link different branches of our repos to each environment. so we have a Staging branch and our usual Master branch which we use to push to production.

Here then is a simple walk through of how we set up Deploybot. It won’t cover everything in detail but it should give you a pretty good idea of how it works.

Step One – Tidy up your Repo and prepare Git

Your projects probably aren’t best set up for Deploybot off the bat. I’d therefore strongly suggest a good old fashioned repo tidy up – removing dud files, cruft and anything that isn’t relevant to the project, for example rogue PSDs. Once your repo is OCD level of clean and tidy, add a Staging branch by running:

git checkout -b STAGING
git push origin STAGING

Step Two – Connect your repo to Deploybot

Setting up a Deploybot account is straight forward so I won’t bore you with the details – but once you have done so login to your dashboard. Then, from the menu at the top, select Repositories and click the Connect a Repository button. You’ll then get a screen like this:

Connect Repo to Deploybot

If you haven’t already connected a Bitbucket, Github or self-hosted Git account, you’ll be prompted to do so. It’s pretty straightforward, at least for Github or Bitbucket.

Once you select your repo and click Connect, you’ll need to wait a few minutes for Deploybot to connect the repo to your account. Then, click through to your repo from the Repositories page. You’ll then get a page of environments, a bit like the one below, but yours will be empty.

Deploybot Production and Staging

If like me, the Staging and Production setup is enough, you’ll need to add these. Click “Add an environment” and you’ll get a page like the one below.

Deploybot Environment

Make sure you select the correct branch as per you repo, so that your Staging environment uses your Staging branch, etc. You should also only enable automatic deployments for staging. If you break your staging site, it isn’t of tremendous consequence. Breaking a live client site with a rogue deploy could have serious consequences for both you and your client, so you should only manually deploy.

Step Three – Connect your Servers to Deploybot

Your next step will be to connect to the relevant server. Remember to connect to yours for Staging, and your clients for production. You’ll get a screen like this:

Connect Servers to Deploybot

You ideally want to use SSH/SFTP if possible, but many clients still use shared hosting so normal FTP is possible. You still avoid many of the pitfalls that you experience using FTP clients.

When you finish adding in the server information, Deploybot will attempt to connect. If successful, you’ve finished setting up your environment. You can then repeat this process for setting up each environment you need.

Remember to specify the server path to your project. For WordPress themes this will be the theme folder. I generally recommend not including the whole CMS in a repo. I also recommend that you empty folders before you run your first deployment, to avoid any potential issues, but of course backing up first.

Step Four – Deploy a Commit

You’re now all set up and ready to rock and roll with Deploybot. You should first test your Staging deployment by pushing a commit to your Staging branch. If all goes well, the deployment will automatically run and you should see the change on your server.

Deploybot Advantages

We’ve already found numerous benefits to using a deployment tool.

  • A streamlined workflow. Not having to manually upload files to staging/testbench servers saves us a bunch of time. Less time uploading, more time working on the important stuff.
  • Ability to quickly and easily roll back – Deploybot lets you roll back to any previous commit with one click of a button. If you encounter any problems with your build, this makes rolling back so much easier.
  • Helps eliminate user error. FTP clients are open to user error, it’s far too easy to overwrite a site or upload to the wrong server – we’ve all done it! Deploybot means we won’t make mistakes dragging and dropping. I’ve accidentally hit a keyboard button and slipped with my mouse causing my uploads to mess up when using an FTP client.
  • Makes Git even more useful. We already loved using Repo’s to track our work and changes, but Deploybot makes Git Repo’s even more useful.

There’s many other benefits, but these were what I could think of. We’ve only been using Deploybot a few days and already it’s clear to see how tools such as this allow for a better, more efficient, more safe front-end workflow.

Deploybot acts as a sort of tunnel between your Git repositories and your hosting. It allows you to link up a repo to multiple hosting accounts, through what it calls environments. An environment allows you to control exactly where your deployments end up.

Social Media Management Software

In order to promote your business and reach consumers that spend an entire 24 hours a week online, you need to make sure that you have a viable social media strategy in place.

By posting unique and interesting content on your social media platforms, and by actively engaging with followers, you can start to turn this into a funnel for generating leads.

In order to stay on top of your social media strategy, it’s important to have some form of social media management software to do some of the heavy lifting. Software such as this is imperative for scheduling, tracking and monitoring social media content.

At its best, social media management software can help you not only plan your content months in advance, but also remain reactive by letting you tune into ongoing news stories or trending topics.

Screenshot of Hootsuite's homepage

We recommend: Hootsuite

There are a whole bunch of social media management companies out there and all of them offer roughly the same sort of package but Hootsuite is the only one that offers an actually free service (as opposed to just a free trial period).

They do try to hide it on their website though so make sure you follow this link in order to get to the right page.

The free version of this software lets you:

  • Manage up to three social media profiles from a choice of channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Schedule up to 30 posts in advance at any point in time
  • Track follower growth, likes and comments
  • Integrate two RSS feeds in order to find and share compelling content
  • Access Hootsuite’s online help center and community forum

Of course, there’s also a number of paid-for packages that you can buy from Hootsuite that give you access to a great number of services including higher ad spend budgets, automated post scheduling and custom analytics.

But if you’re a small business looking to get started, the free version of the software should be comprehensive enough to allow you to get your social media strategy in motion.

Website Tracking Software

We’ve said before that the secret to a successful lead generation strategy is to keep analysing and refining your methods. Well, website tracking software is the best way to conduct this analysis.

By digging into the analytics of your visitors’ actions, you can start to gain a better picture of why people come to your site, what they want from it, what they dislike about it and how you can improve upon their experience next time.

There are a wide variety of services that can fall into the category of website tracking software, including heatmaps, funnels, user polls, surveys, visitor recordings and more.

Basically, any kind of software that collects data about the ways in which your visitors interact with your site can be considered website tracking software.

Screenshot of Hotjar's homepage

We recommend: Hotjar

Whereas there are a multitude of smaller software companies that focus in on just one website tracking service, Hotjar offers an array of useful tools.

Hotjar tools include:

  • Click, move, scroll, download and share heatmaps that can also be split by device type
  • Visitor recordings that allow you to replay sessions of real site visitors
  • Conversion funnels that identify on which page and at which step the most visitors are leaving your site
  • Form analysis that can help you to discover which fields take too long to fill, which are left blank and why your visitors abandon your form and page
  • A customizable widget that allows you to create pop-up feedback polls
  • Responsive surveys that can be distributed through web links and emails, or featured your site just before your visitors abandon the page in order to discover what their concerns are
  • The ability to recruit test users in order to get instant feedback on your site

Hotjar’s free service is able to collect data from 2000 page views a day and will give you access to up to 300 visitor recordings and 3 heatmaps, forms, funnels, polls and surveys. Unlimited users can be added to your account and Hotjar will also store your data for a full year.

While we’d normally recommend free services when possible, it’s probably worth paying for Hotjar’s Plus plan to begin with.

For just under £25 a month you can collect data from 10,000 page views a day and have unlimited services and reports. Plus there’s even a 15-day free trial for you to test out whether you like their software or not.

Remember

Lead generation doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour.

What’s important is that you put real effort into all of your interactions with potential leads - whether that’s through educational and informative blog posts, social media interactions or even just a chat on the phone.

If you believe in your business’ ability to help its customers then all you have to do is let that shine through.

Ultimately, these tools are just there to help you meet potential leads on their level. The rest is up to you.

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