Development workflow - webdev

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This page describes the development model used by the web development team at WormBase using git as our version control system. This includes our branching strategy and release management.

Overview Diagram

Git Workflow - WormBase4.png

Editable version of the diagram


Whenever you begin work on a new issue you should create a new branch for it. Any new major features should branch off staging. Once the feature is ready for testing, it can be merged back into staging. These aren't necessarily branches in the main repository - can be local, or on a developer's fork. Read more on our branching strategy

git checkout -b myFeature staging

Now you can make your changes, commit some code. Read more on commit messages

When you're ready, you can push your branch to your fork

git push origin myFeature

Continue making changes until your new code satisfies the following:

  • Have written tests demonstrating the problem in the issue
  • Pass the tests
  • Complete the issue as much as possible without curators seeing an example
  • Code style meeting the standards (indentation, comments, no debug statements)

When your code is ready, go to GitHub and create a Pull Request. More info on Pull Requests.

  1. Go to the repository where you pushed your changes
  2. Switch to your branch (myFeature)
  3. Click the green Compare & review button
  4. After reviewing all the changes, click on Create pull request in the header to send the pull request
  5. In the description, write a short summary of the issues and changes made along with some links for testing

Wait for another member of the web development team to review and merge your pull request. If more changes are requested, you can push more commits to the same branch and it will be added to the pull request.

Once your pull request is merged, locally bring in the changes and delete your issue branch

git checkout staging
git pull
git branch -d myFeature

Go to the original github issue:

  1. Add the Under testing label to your issue
  2. Comment on the issue to notify all involved that it is ready for testing. Add links for testing for the ease of testers.
  3. Another member of the WormBase group will close the issue once they have tested it

Branch Strategy

We use branches to help with our release management, testing strategy, and helping with parallel development among the team.

Main branches

Inside the WormBase/website repository, there are three main branches: master, staging and production.

  • master: current, stable code. All new changes brought into master have been tested on and approved by either the curator requesting the change, or the development lead.
  • staging: any features/changes ready for testing should be pushed to the staging branch. This code gets pushed nightly to
  • production: the code currently in production. Branched off of master at each release.

Supporting branches

Other types of branches used can include feature branches and hotfixes. These branches are only intended to live until the new feature is merged into staging or the fix is completed.

Feature branches

Any new major features should branch off staging. Once the feature is ready for testing, it can be merged back into staging. These aren't necessarily branches in the main repository - can be local, or on a developer's fork.

Testing issues

All issues need to be tested and closed by at least one person who is not the developer who made the change. Ideally, it would be the curator asking for the feature/fix.

If you would like to help test:

If you are not the developer who pushed the code for this issue:

  • You can test out the changes and leave any feedback you have in the issue comments.
  • If you think this feature/fix is ready for production, you can remove the 'under testing' label, or close the issue.

Moving a feature to master (pass testing)

First, check to see which issues are currently being tested: open issues 'under testing'

If this list is empty, staging can be merged onto the master.

In github, create a pull request for staging. Look at the Commits and Files changes. In the comment, summary all the features/issues introduced and make sure they are stable. Click on send pull request.

Once the pull request is reviewed, it can be merged into the master branch.


If a major bugfix is needed in production, create a hotfix branch from production. When finished, the branch needs to be merged back into production and staging

Begining a fix

git checkout -b hotfix-issXXX production

Fix the bug and commit the fix in one or more commits. Reference the github issue:

git commit -m "Severe production bug
* search redirecting to home page
* fix #XXX"

Closing the fix

The fix needs to be merged back to both production and staging

git checkout staging
git merge hotfix-issXXX
git checkout production
git merge hotfix-issXXX

Commit Messages

Keep your commit message as descriptive as possible, reference any issues affected, close any this resolves:

This is a summary of my commit.
* here is a breakdown of the different changes
* mention github users (@tharris) when appropriate
* related to #YYY
* fix #XXX

Here is a template originally written by Tim Pope at

Short (50 chars or less) summary of changes

More detailed explanatory text, if necessary.  Wrap it to about 72
characters or so.  In some contexts, the first line is treated as the
subject of an email and the rest of the text as the body.  The blank
line separating the summary from the body is critical (unless you omit
the body entirely); tools like rebase can get confused if you run the
two together.

Further paragraphs come after blank lines.

 - Bullet points are okay, too

 - Typically a hyphen or asterisk is used for the bullet, preceded by a
   single space, with blank lines in between, but conventions vary here

issues and commits

issues 2.0 the next generation

Link to an issue whenever a commit is related to that issue #xxx.

Using fix #xxx will close the issue when this commit is pushed to master and notify that the issue will be closed [1]. The following synonyms are supported:

fixes #xxx
fixed #xxx
fix #xxx
closes #xxx
close #xxx
closed #xxx

Development Timeline

See: WormBase Release Workflow

Release Management

When production is ready to updated for release WSXXX:

Create a new pull request from master to production. Review all changes going into new release. Merge in the pull request. Tag production branch with appropriate release name.

git checkout production
git tag -a WSXXX