Build Your Site

What Is a Build Process

A build process is a set of tasks to compile and test code before deployment. Learn which tasks to include in your build process and why.

TL;DR

  • Build steps shouldn't be linear and manually driven; they should be cyclical and automatic.
  • Your build process tools must optimize for performance; they should automatically minify and concatenate JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and images.
  • Testing across many devices is a laborious task. Automate as much as you can!
  • Limit context switching; integrate build tools with debugging tools so you can iterate with ease.

How should the build process be used in your workflow?

Your build process shouldn’t be a separate set of tasks that you run towards the end of your development workflow. Instead, integrate your build process with your coding, testing, and iterative debugging cycles.

What tasks should the build process automate?

Get tools that automatically run these build tasks so that you can keep coding:

  • Test the code compiles and report errors.
  • Optimize the code by minifying and concatenating JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and images.
  • Test responsiveness.
  • Test performance.
  • Compile optimized code.
  • Reload code in the browser.

We prefer and recommend Gulp because it’s an expressive, streaming build system that’s easy to set up.

Regardless of whether you’re using a command-line set of tools or a GUI like CodeKit, your build process tools should automatically optimize your code as you work, and iteratively update compiled code.

Additional build tools that support this workflow:

Automate testing

Testing across many devices is a laborious task. Automate as much as you can!

  • Your build process should integrate with live reloading and support synchronized navigation so you can test your site on many devices in one-click.
  • Integrate your build process with a responsive screenshot tool like BrowserStack (commercial) so you can check your site’s layout across lots and lots of devices.
  • Integrate your build process with a performance tool like PageSpeed. Make it easy to check performance all the time and on any device.
  • Get your build process to kick off unit tests that ‘emulate’ your site on as many devices as possible. Mimic hardware and network constraints as much as possible in these tests.

Integrate with debugging tools

Limit context switching; integrate build tools with debugging tools so you can integrate with ease. Avoid at all costs the separation between debugging your code and seeing the results on a range of devices. This slows your development to a halt and you’ll start to think maybe it’s OK to just have a site that works nice on a desktop.

Seamless integration with debugging tools means you can debug your code and see it live on as many real and emulated devices as you deem necessary. You can keep debugging your code, and the build tools automatically push code changes live.

What’s in the Web Starter Kit build process?

At a glance, the Web Starter Kit build tools automate these tasks:

  • Cross-device synchronization; synchronizes clicks, scrolls, forms, and live-reload across multiple devices as you edit your code.
  • Live browser reloading; reloads the browser in real-time anytime you edit code.
  • Built in HTTP Server for previewing your site so you can test your pages without setting up other tools.
  • PageSpeed Insights Reporting.
  • Performance optimization; minifies and concatenates JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and images.
  • Compiles Sass into CSS.

The next section covers the Web Starter Kit build process in detail.

web starter kit in action

Updated on 2014-05-29

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