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May 19 2004

Increasing Developer Productivity

Usability, design, accessability are key for the user. For the developer, we worry about productivity. My time is valuable, just like the users. I don’t have precious minutes to waste on hunting for files, rewriting whole sections of code, or find a hack for a (free or
) CMS. I’ll try to lay out a few ideas that have helped me save time in my production work, as well as personal work.

Use Dynamic Pages

Server-side scripting is not as scary as some might think. Even working with databases these days can be done using a few short lines of code. The few hours it might take to learn the right commands and implement them are short compared to the days it might take you to change a whole folder of files. For you programmers out there, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t, resources are available to help you learn. It’s hard to find a host these days that doesn’t support one server language or another, so there’s no excuse not to learn, at least enough to save yourself time.

Use Include Files

Making modular code has probably been the most time-saving and productivity-increasing thing I can do. I use separate files for functions, classes, settings, actions, etc., all of which can be included into one dynamic page. To simplify it even further, you can include these files into one all encompassing file, and include that in your scripts. Something like




//site content and script below

This makes utilizing these same file on other sites as easy as cut-and-paste. Only slight modifications to files are required instead of reworking entire documents. Including any site-specific information, such as URL’s, file roots, database settings, and the like, in one ‘settings’ file can make site transition a breeze, and increase your overall productivity.

Use URL Rewriters

Some web hosts do not allow for URL rewriting, but for those that do, this can make your website all that more attractive to search engines, and make your URL’s more human-readable and memorable. For those of you not familiar with URL rewriters (ISAPIRewrite for IIS, <a href="" title="URL Rewriting for Apache">mod_rewrite for Apache), they take an incoming URL such as and run it through a series of Regular Expressions, and spit out something like;model=stratus
which the server can understand. This virtually eliminates the need for file directory structures, and allows for minimal file counts. (I should mention that if you use this method, all local links, images, stylesheets, etc.
should be called by their full URL, not referenced locally.) My website utilizes a grand total of 9 PHP pages with with a handful of include files and a database. That’s it. When I make an adjustment to a page template, it’s updated everywhere immediately. And that saves me time.

There are countless other methods, and I’d like to hear some more, so bring them on. Let’s get this site update off our plate, and go lay on the beach for the rest of the day.