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Five ways preview sites support a DevOps workflow

GitHub comments showing a PR and preview sites workflow

What if you could quickly spin up a copy of work-in-progress that could be shared as a live website with stakeholders, or used for testing and QA? A workflow that supports both the tools you already use and the way you work with others can help ease some bottlenecks and communication mishaps. That’s what DDEV Preview offers! In this blog, we’ll talk about how using a shareable preview site as one step in a software release process can support a DevOps workflow that incorporates safety for the humans and security for the code.

Make testing easier and ultimately ship better-quality work

Preview sites are created from a pull request (PR) in your GitHub repository, or a merge request (MR) in a GitLab repository. They are available via URL, interactive via CLI, and can be connected to other tools using an API token. It takes one command to create a pull request preview site, which can then be used to test whatever upgrades you’ve made, catch bugs, and finally deploy with confidence.

Plus, with the user-friendly URL a preview site can be tested for accessibility, plugged into visual regression testing tools, run through QA or user acceptance testing (UAT). This flexible workflow empowers engineering teams to use whichever tools and methodology they prefer. Don’t wait until the last minute to make sure the work is right, test early and often!

Get stakeholder feedback faster and move on to your next feature

Once a new feature or bug fix is in place, you might want to confirm the change with a stakeholder from the business team, or even a client. Instead of waiting for an environment to be provisioned or setting up your local machine to be a web host, set an expiration, share a URL, and take the evening off.

By removing the bottlenecks in the review process such as waiting on server provisioning or the availability of one reviewer, work can move forward at a steady pace. Create a preview site and leave the link on your PR so your code reviewers can click through and see it live. That makes it even easier for reviewers who may not have their local environment set up for quick code pulls to see work-in-progress in action. No need to wait until the project is live online to make sure the work is right; stakeholders can participate and validate work throughout the process.

Truly collaborate with team members around the world

A functional, healthy, engaged team is key to getting basically anything done. How can we help various team members to work in harmony? By giving them tools to participate, enabling them to self-serve without bottlenecks, and creating a sense of safety to experiment and to fail. 

As a reviewer, I want to quickly view my colleague’s design work-in-progress in order to leave a review for them. As a QA expert, I need to be able to see new work in a production-like environment before we deploy. As a business stakeholder I need to see what to expect in the upcoming release without needing to understand how to brew code. As a project manager, I need to show the client the new feature they’re requesting before we deploy. And as a developer, I want to demo and stress-test the cool new feature I’ve been working on without breaking prod.

Every one of those needs can be enabled by a preview site. A project owner, say the developer or the project manager, can create the preview site with a command and share that URL with others. Being able to conduct work simultaneously in different stages of the workflow means no one is waiting for each other or slowing the flow. The net result is faster development, increased margins and increased customer satisfaction.

Save time and money by only paying for the resources you use

Preview sites can also be thought of as on-demand staging environments. The idea is that they are temporary, not taking up resources any longer than is needed, but also available when you need them. That’s why a preview site is actually a clone created based on a parent site, using the new code from a PR in combination with the assets and config from the parent. This reduces the time to create the preview and helps ensure that you’re working with a production-like environment.

Preview sites can be used alongside your current tools and hosting providers — you don’t need to use DDEV for hosting your live site. Sites are manageable through the ddev-live command line tool and can be tagged, organized, and deleted. All you really need is a project in a repository on GitHub or GitLab to connect to and start working from. Preview is something you can get up-and-running right now in just a few minutes and start using it, no matter your current development workflow

If you’re using DDEV-Live for your hosting needs already, then the Preview features are a nice value-add for your investment. Since it’s already part of your software development lifecycle (SDLC), the benefits are even greater because the infrastructure is already part of your workflow. The flexibility to spin up and automatically delete preview sites almost at will can be a big boon to your bank account when you’re running testing and qa on multiple projects.

Transparent workflows support communication and agile development

A lot of DevOps philosophy boils down to making workflows transparent. Transparent workflows are visible workflows, and visible workflows enable clear communication between all involved. Offering visibility into work-in-progress very literally with a preview site fits in nicely. The benefits to dev team members, business stakeholders, and clients include rapid iterations, continuous alignment, and more frequent successful deployments. 

We don’t need to release a unicorn feature every quarter. Releasing a small, useful feature every week that truly benefits the end user and creates customer loyalty keeps everyone engaged with regular doses of success and moving forward toward our shared goals.

Ready to start deploying with confidence?

DDEV solves the problem of opaque workflows and dangerous deployments by giving all team members the ability to create preview sites to view or test work-in-progress, eliminating silos and creating security to move quickly. The Preview feature in the DDEV platform allows team members to create a preview site by adding a single comment to a PR `/ddev-live-preview-site`. The site is accessible with a URL, which can be shared to anyone, anywhere.

Start a free DDEV-Live trial to experiment with Preview today, or drop us a line to schedule a demo and talk about how DDEV fits your DevOps workflow.

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