In the age of continuous integration and development, managing WordPress sites using version control, particularly with Git, has become more than just a trend—it’s a best practice. At the forefront of this is the idea of pushing only the theme that you’re working on. But why would I recommend this approach, and what benefits does it offer? This article sheds light on this best practice and its importance.

1. The Genesis: Understanding Git and WordPress

Before diving deep, let’s briefly understand the conjunction of Git and WordPress. Git is a version control system that allows developers to track changes, collaborate without overriding each other’s work, and revert to previous versions. WordPress, an open-source CMS, has a structure comprising core files, plugins, uploads, and themes. The marriage of these two ensures streamlined development and management.

2. Why Push Only the Theme?

The simple reason is clarity. Pushing only the theme you’re working on means that you’re focusing on a specific, contained set of changes. Here are the compelling reasons behind this:

2.1. Isolation of Changes

When you’re developing a theme, the changes you’re making are isolated to that theme’s files. Pushing only the theme ensures that any issues, updates, or changes can be traced back directly to your recent commits. This makes debugging and tracking changes infinitely easier.

2.2. Reduced Risk

By pushing only the theme, you’re not risking unintended changes to other parts of your WordPress site. Plugins, core files, and uploads remain untouched and stable. This minimises the potential of introducing bugs or issues from unrelated components. In addition, you’re focusing only on the changes you are introducing. Keeping track of those changes are far easier than trying to keep track of a constantly evolving WordPress core and third-party plugins you have no involvement in.

2.3. Faster Deployment

With a narrowed scope of changes, deployment is faster. You’re not re-deploying the entire WordPress site or unnecessary components—only the theme. This ensures quicker load times, efficient testing, and a smoother deployment process.

2.4. Streamlined Collaboration

When working in a team, focusing on a single theme ensures everyone is on the same page. Developers can collaborate more efficiently without the distraction of unrelated changes in other parts of the site.

3. Best Practices for Managing WordPress Themes with Git

3.1. Use a .gitignore File

This file tells Git which files or directories to ignore in a project. For a WordPress site, you can set up a .gitignore file to exclude everything except your theme. This ensures that Git only tracks changes related to your theme.

# .gitignore


3.2. Always Commit with Clear Messages

Each time you make a change and commit it, use clear and descriptive commit messages. This helps in tracking changes and understanding the evolution of the theme.

3.3. Use Branches for Features and Fixes

For every new feature or fix, create a new branch. Once tested and ready, this can be merged into the main branch. This ensures the main branch always has a stable version of the theme.

3.4. Regularly Pull and Merge

If you’re collaborating, regularly pull the latest version and merge changes. This ensures you’re working with the most recent and stable version and reduces potential conflicts.

4. Potential Pitfalls to Avoid

4.1. Avoid Large Commits

Large commits make it harder to pinpoint issues. Instead, commit small, incremental changes related to a specific task or function.

4.2. Don’t Push Directly to the Live Site

Always test your changes in a staging or local environment first. Once you’re confident about the stability and functionality, then push to the live site.

4.3. Avoid Mixing Tasks

Don’t work on multiple features or fixes simultaneously without branching. This muddles up the clarity and can lead to conflicts.

5. Conclusion

While Git offers a robust environment for managing WordPress sites, the true magic lies in how you utilise it. Pushing only the theme you’re working on brings focus, efficiency, and clarity to the development process. It isolates changes, streamlines deployment, and reduces potential risks. In the vast world of WordPress development, this focused approach is not just a best practice—it’s a game-changer.