Pantheon Community

A question I shouldn't have to ask, but

Hi folks - I’m new here, and rather afraid I’ll ask questions that make people’s eyes roll. But my CSE in chat today assured me you’re all friendly and helpful :slight_smile: so here goes.

First, some background for context on why I’m in this situation: I’m a random cancer survivor who stumbled into a second career advocating to make healthcare more patient-centered. For years I was rolling along with my own fairly simple WordPress blog. (Sample page from the Wayback Machine
here.) In those days I basically was my blog.

Then I decided I needed a responsive theme, and one that would serve different types of visitors. I asked a savvy consultant friend for help, and we ended up with the Genesis Streamline Pro theme, plus the WPBakery Page Builder. We also moved to Pantheon.

And here’s where we’re at: The result was this layout with three “rabbit holes” for different visitors to dive down, with generic content below.

But where my wheels came off was the concurrent switch to Pantheon, where I have for no credible reason been completely bamboozled by the dev / test / live sequence, even though I fully understand the reasoning … I just keep getting tripped up by the need to switch between SFTP and Git (why doesn’t it KNOW which to use???), plus - importantly - the fact that some things I need to do are not in theme settings. Like, changing my banner. And I have no clue how to sort out which sort of task requires doing what where.)

I know it’s not a Pantheon issue that some things are not in my chosen theme’s settings. But that’s why I need to come here and ask. I ended up having my virtual assistant learn how to do everything Pantheon, but:

… my business has shrunk substantially so my assistant is leaving and won’t be easy to replace … so either I learn everything or I switch away from Pantheon (despite my love of the great support ) or I just shoot myself and go out of business. :slight_smile:

Friends, where do I start in figuring out what to do? A high priority for me must necessarily be that the website can’t own my life. Should I go back to the “just a blog” approach? Other?

Thanks in advance -

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Hi Dave. First of all congratulations on your survival.
My biggest client is a massive healthcare system and I hear what you’re saying about patient-centered focus - we’re struggling with that in our attempts to revolutionize their web content and marketing. Good on ya for advocating.
Your site hassles sound like they have a lot more to do with Wordpress than with Pantheon.
Changing a banner for example - that’s a WP editing task. Now, if you want to test out a new banner on dev or stage before pushing it to prod, you could certainly leverage Pantheon’s workflow for that - but the actual content of your site, including images, text etc. - is handled by the CMS, not by the hosting platform. All Pantheon does is maintain the three versions for you, and help you sync them.
As for SFTP vs. git mode - what work are you doing that requires you to use one or the other?

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Welcome @deBronkart! Thanks for sharing the story of how you ended up in WP, and as @smooresonetrics said, congrats.

No such thing as a dumb question, so thanks for jumping in. I’ll try to answer the various bits as well as I’m able & perhaps some other folks can fill in the gaps.

I get this–it can take some getting used to. We do offer weekly demos covering that workflow, if you want a refresher. If talking over the workflow in real time with some Pantheon folks would help, we also have weekly office hours. This week’s office hours are dedicated to a pretty narrow topic, so I’d suggest waiting for next week if that seems like a good option.

I’d say that we designed it so you have to actively switch into the mode you want to use–I don’t think we could write a dashboard that could guess correctly 100% of the time and since switching from SFTP > Git requires a human choice (commit or delete changes), there will always need to be a human touching that. Sorry to hear it’s frustrating you, though. I’ll do some thinking on how this might be easier to use.

Thanks to both of you for the warm welcome.

Not sure, because it’s been a year since I did it personally - maybe @sparklingrobots can say; all I know is that it’s one of the things we always had to do when making one kind of change or another. (Heck, I’d completely blocked out the Commit stuff - for heaven’s sake, if there’s a common workflow that always requires the same steps, can’t that be automated?) If there’s not a standard answer know, I’ll ask my exiting assistant.

Totally understood. I lived without that flexibility for years - my needs ain’t that sophisticated :slight_smile:

When I was new to Pantheon years ago, I also got tripped up on the Dev/Test/Live workflow too. I came from Cowboy-Coding-Land where I made code changes to my site live all the time and this workflow thing seemed to be getting in the way.

That was until I realized how this dev->test->live saved me especially when it came to plugin and theme updates. I could test out the updates on dev/test before making them live and if anything went wrong, I could always restore from a backup and live would never be affected. That said, it does take a little bit to get used to so I get that.

In general, if you’re posting things in WordPress or changing theme settings, you don’t need to deal with git vs sftp - you’re doing those things in WordPress on live. However, when doing updates of plugins through the dashboard, you do need to switch it to sftp so the dev environment can write to the filesystem. Once completed and code committed, you can switch it back to git if you want to. For years, we used sftp basically all the time (unless Pantheon had a WordPress core update). Now, we run almost always in git mode, but it would seem you don’t necessarily need to do that for your site.

Pantheon does give regular classes on how the workflow works and I recommend them and the office hours. I hope this helps and I wish you luck with whatever you end up deciding.

-Marc

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I truly appreciate everyone’s help on this. Again, I have no trouble understanding dev/test/live; it’s all a question of WHAT to do WHERE, WHEN. Bear that in mind when I say this -

Consider how I feel with one experienced community member saying “Why do you need to switch between SFTP and Git” and another explaining the history of the issue. :slight_smile: Kinda reassures me that things are not as universally clear as the CSEs assure me :slight_smile:

So let me ask this: is there a simple one-page cheat-sheet to print, summarizing the few things that I find confusing? Like,

  • To update plugins: ____ …
  • To do things in WordPress: ___ …
  • To do ______: ______

Maybe it’s that simple.

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@deBronkart That’s an interesting idea (the one-page cheat sheet). We don’t have something quite so simplified, but perhaps it’s something we should put together.

Given that I think you aren’t working with a local development environment, I think this will help:

To update plugins: Update on DEV via your WP dashboard. Pantheon in SFTP mode.
To do things in WordPress, like add a post: Use your WP dashboard on LIVE
To do security updates: Update on Pantheon dashboard. Pantheon in Git mode.

At the heart of the WHAT to do WHERE question is the basic flow of CODE vs. CONTENT.

Plugin updates = code = DEV
New blog posts = content = LIVE
Uploaded images and documents = content = LIVE
Core updates = code = DEV

I hope I’m clearing, not muddying, the waters. :smiley:

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Thank you very much. This is probably 1/2-2/3 of what I need. Could you please label each stage of the gold and grey arrows? Where does Commit happen? Which ones use SFTP or Git? Maybe that will be 90% of the way to what I need.

But I also need to convey that you have no clue what a clueless WP user you’re dealing with, here. :slight_smile: For instance:

  • Before Pantheon, EVERYTHING I did was “in WordPress” to me, which you’re now calling Live. I can understand that.
  • But now I’m seeing that for code-related things I’ve always done in that same wp-admin login (like “Please update WordPress”) require on Pantheon that I log in to dev-. (And then do the multi-step push to Test then Live, grrr… if I never fiddle with hand coding, why do I need test??)
  • Core? WTH is core? Is that what WP techies call “please update WordPress”?

I’m starting to think that while my consultant’s advice to go to the Genesis Streamline Pro theme was great for my needs, perhaps I didn’t need the ability to tweak code (e.g. CSS) that is enabled by dev/test/live, so maybe I didn’t need Pantheon. (I wish there were a “Pantheon lite” that has the rock solid tech support I’m finding here, but without dev/test/live.)

What do you think? Thanks again for that “one-page cheat sheet” starter.

As someone who made wesbites all by myself and via FTP for many many years before using Pantheon, one thing that might help is to understand that even when you are working on your site in SFTP mode, you still have to “commit” your changes with Git. Fortunately, you can do this on the Pantheon dashboard. You don’t need to switch to Git mode, you just summarize the changes you’ve made (which should be listed there) and then click Commit.

Also, any time you are doing something that involves FTP, then you will be doing it on DEV (because you can’t make changes directly to the files on LIVE). Then move it to TEST, and then LIVE.

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