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Old Mar 5, 2013, 03:09 PM   #1
BryanSchmiedele
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How to allow users to see their site while in development

I am doing some web design on the side. Using MAMP Pro, Coda, and hosting on MacHighway. Have virtual hosts set up on my Mac so I can work on more than 1 site at a time.

I want a way to have customers take a look at their site without me physically visiting them. I understand I could do DynDNS, tried to set it up but no luck.

Would prefer to just have a place on the web where I could load up the sites, not have to open up my computer.

Anyone know of such a thng?
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Old Mar 5, 2013, 04:15 PM   #2
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I can think of 3 ways, and I've done all of them.

1. Package the site in a folder, compress it, and email it to the client if it's not too big.

2. Package the site in a folder, upload it to Dropbox (or equiv.) and let the client download it.

3. I don't know anything about MacHighway, but can't you create a space for each site . . . upload the sites and send links to your clients. If that won't work, grab a cheap hosting package (sign up for a month or a quarter) and upload the sites there. It doesn't matter what the site's called, so long as you can direct your client to the folder(s) with the site.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 02:01 AM   #3
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Beyond the outstanding advice of monokakata you might consider a common professional solution such as http://www.conceptshare.com/

Free trial.

This is an online collaboration site which allows you to mockup your graphics or fully realized templates and designs and allow the client to optionally send feedback, annotate fixes or problems, etc. Very nice looking and easy to use interface, you upload your stuff, set up an account for your client and direct them to their area where they view the project as you wish them to see it and as it progresses if you wish.

Clients appreciate this kind of interactive thing and I feel it truly makes you stand out from your competition just by even using it. It also serves as a showcase/portfolio for past work if desired. And of course you keep your privacy as to your sandbox as you requested.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 04:45 AM   #4
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You could put the WIP in a password protected folder on your web server or have the client give you access to their web server and stage it there. You could use Remote Desktop to deposit the site on a machine they open up to you on their network -- I realize this one is a little complicated.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 05:25 AM   #5
BryanSchmiedele
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monokakata View Post
I can think of 3 ways, and I've done all of them.

1. Package the site in a folder, compress it, and email it to the client if it's not too big.

2. Package the site in a folder, upload it to Dropbox (or equiv.) and let the client download it.

3. I don't know anything about MacHighway, but can't you create a space for each site . . . upload the sites and send links to your clients. If that won't work, grab a cheap hosting package (sign up for a month or a quarter) and upload the sites there. It doesn't matter what the site's called, so long as you can direct your client to the folder(s) with the site.

I got a reply back from MacHighway:

"Every hosting plan has a temporary url which follows this formula servername/~username
With that you can build a site and test it without using a domain name."

That sounds like a great idea to me!
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 07:56 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BryanSchmiedele View Post
I got a reply back from MacHighway:

"Every hosting plan has a temporary url which follows this formula servername/~username
With that you can build a site and test it without using a domain name."

That sounds like a great idea to me!
Right, but when multiple clients and/or coding involved where the docroot can't be shared between different clients it would require multiple usernames (users or reseller based users, i.e. OP needs to check hosting plan to see if doable).

Remember the OP said, "Have virtual hosts set up on my Mac so I can work on more than 1 site at a time" which is exactly why I mention this!
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 08:32 AM   #7
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So what to do???

Quote:
Originally Posted by SrWebDeveloper View Post
Right, but when multiple clients and/or coding involved where the docroot can't be shared between different clients it would require multiple usernames (users or reseller based users, i.e. OP needs to check hosting plan to see if doable).

Remember the OP said, "Have virtual hosts set up on my Mac so I can work on more than 1 site at a time" which is exactly why I mention this!
Yeah, I agree, so what should I do? I assume that this is a "solved problem" but I cannot find anything on the web telling me which direction to go.

Also, the folder the ISP told me to go to was "servername/~username". Can't find that folder anywhere...
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 08:37 AM   #8
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Another option might be a NAS. Synology makes it easy to locally host multiple web sites and offers a free dynamic DNS type service.

It'll run 24/7 and uses only a few watts of power. Also handy as a backup device plus more.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 11:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BryanSchmiedele View Post
Yeah, I agree, so what should I do? I assume that this is a "solved problem" but I cannot find anything on the web telling me which direction to go.

Also, the folder the ISP told me to go to was "servername/~username". Can't find that folder anywhere...
Servername = the domain to access the public web content, i.e. http://myhostingplace.com
~username = the tilde represents the path to the user's home directory, it's a shortcut

You'd give to your client for example: http://myhostingplace.com/~usernameofclient

The discussion here was you can setup multiple users each with their own docroot so you can use the above syntax for multiple clients on the same webhost. Contact your webhost how to create the accounts.

Now let me take a step back and clarify your options thus far:

* Send client static files in email or download somewhere online (simple approach)
* Webhost with site for each client
* Third party collaboration site - web based, no hosting necessary, very common professional solution
* Local hosting using network resources you maintain at your location (the NAS concept)

Contact your webhost on the second, visit the link I gave you on the third, talk with an Apple store tech guru in person to get familiar with networking/server/hosting options for your Mac.
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Last edited by SrWebDeveloper; Mar 6, 2013 at 11:21 AM.
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Old Mar 6, 2013, 12:44 PM   #10
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Here's what I do:

Let's say my company website is: www.mycoolcompany.com
Let's say they want their online site to be called www.theirawesomecompany.com

I set up a subdomain for them: theirawesomecompany.mycoolcompany.com
I password protect it and send them the link and password.

In the footer of the development site I put a little textfield that says something like: I wish this page would:___________________ [submit]

That way I can get instant feedback on each page as I build it. I also warn the clients that sometimes their site might be blank or full of crazy stuff as I'm working on it. If they see something weird, just give it a little time.

Hope that helps.
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Old Mar 7, 2013, 07:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BryanSchmiedele View Post
Also, the folder the ISP told me to go to was "servername/~username". Can't find that folder anywhere...
If you're using a single hosting plan, that would be the root folder. So when you connect via FTP (or whatever you use) you'll most likely already be in that ~username foler.

I'd suggest doing what 960 has posted, create a folder inside your folder for each website you're working on. Then create a subdomain and point it at that folder and add a .htaccess file to put a simple password in place (providing your host allows you to). Then simply send the subdomain url and password to the client.
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Old Mar 7, 2013, 01:21 PM   #12
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That's how the OP can make real web sites with unique docroot for each client without registering a domain (or at minimum one) and sharing a single host setup and how to password protect it. Based on the OP's question about not finding the "servername/~username" folder I doubt they know .htaccess and .htpasswd and so on. Nothing personal to you, Ap0ks.

Maybe the collaborative site I noted is the way to go considering they're a designer and may not even need a real web site to demonstrate a theme to a client. Or if true, simply add folders for each client such as:

servername/~username/client1
servername/~username/client2
etc...

They can put in graphics mockups there, screen shots, even simple HTML.

I agree with all the other advice if OP needs a fully functional site to demo a theme fully functionally or the need for security.

KISS principle here considering the OP's skill level is why I mention this.

But thanks everyone for posting the advanced stuff too, it's great to see so many cool suggestions from such experienced folks out there.
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Old Mar 7, 2013, 03:00 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by SrWebDeveloper View Post
Based on the OP's question about not finding the "servername/~username" folder I doubt they know .htaccess and .htpasswd and so on. Nothing personal to you, Ap0ks.
Depending on the hosting provider, these options may be provided in the control panel for the account.

Keeping it simple is good advice, it does really depend on how far/much the OP is wanting to invest in a solution
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Old Mar 8, 2013, 05:55 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ap0ks View Post
Depending on the hosting provider, these options may be provided in the control panel for the account.

Keeping it simple is good advice, it does really depend on how far/much the OP is wanting to invest in a solution
Good point and agreed.
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Old Mar 9, 2013, 01:06 AM   #15
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The other big thing to consider here is how complex the site is.

Even if it is a large site, if it is mostly flat files, css, and some javascript, you're fine to just show it as is.

If it relies on backend stuff such as a database, then you'll either need to show it "design only" or have it on a server with that back end in place.

I always liked setting up subdomains to my own server for things like that when I was active in web design, as it made it easy to allow for preview and active development of any level of site, even if I was going to hand them a full fledged server to drop in their data center when I was done.
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Old Mar 13, 2013, 05:45 PM   #16
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pardon my ignorance on this topic... but why not just let them view a sample page live on the server?
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Old Mar 14, 2013, 12:05 AM   #17
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pardon my ignorance on this topic... but why not just let them view a sample page live on the server?
This discussion is about different type of server setups depending on how much time and money the OP is willing to spend. To offer ideas to exploit single user webhosting for example, but broadly we're defining what "the server" is.
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Old Mar 15, 2013, 04:27 AM   #18
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Few options I use daily:

For hassle free no dicking around with hosting

http://progrium.com/localtunnel/

http://clickontyler.com/virtualhostx/ with lift off

Or:

Use a git/github approach. With github they provide hooks where you could have it target your hosting dev environment and it'd pull the latest repo every time push to github. Basically you'd have a local, GitHub and remote directory of your project. Where the remote would could even be your clients server long as it had git support.

I prefer the top options. Far as security you can use an htacess file to password protect your local.

Last edited by iPaintCode; Mar 20, 2013 at 01:48 AM.
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Old Mar 15, 2013, 10:15 AM   #19
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Maybe I'm looking at this from just the non-technical designer perspective, but as most of my client sites are just HTML sites that don't involve database/wordpress I just put them up at www.myportfoliosite.com/clientname (and password protect that if needed).

A basic hosting set up can be had for under $10/month which is about as economical as it gets.
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Old Mar 16, 2013, 02:48 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 960design
I set up a subdomain for them: theirawesomecompany.mycoolcompany.com
I do the same thing.

You just have to keep an eye on your naming conventions especially if you're working on a site that you host yourself. If you aren't paying attention it's easy to create your test site in its proper subdomain and accidentally over write your live database.. Haven't done that yet but I'm always worried I will!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 960design
In the footer of the development site I put a little textfield that says something like: I wish this page would:___________________ [submit]
This I don't do, but it seems like a great idea. I'm going to try and do something similar myself now.

I do mostly WP sites now and use a plugin called Duplicator to backup and migrate sites to other domains, subdomains, and databases.. There are other plugins, I just happen to have good luck with this one.

I have used MAMP Pro for years but now find with broadband, a "proper" hosting account and decent computer the difference in speed isn't as much as it was in the past. I still use it on occasion, but then have the same trouble you are having. Collaboration using MAMP isn't always the easiest..

Last edited by jdr999; Mar 19, 2013 at 01:10 PM.
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Old Mar 16, 2013, 02:59 PM   #21
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Beyond the outstanding advice of monokakata you might consider a common professional solution such as http://www.conceptshare.com/
That's an interesting option I haven't seen before. Is this something that you've used? If so, how easy is the learning curve for your clients?
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Old Mar 16, 2013, 07:14 PM   #22
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This might be a lot more than what you're asking for, but if you aren't already it might be a good idea to learn a Version Control System like GIT or SVN. Then create a few branches and write some simple scripts to promote them to specific domains you have for each site.

For example you could create several subdomains like:

dev.yourclient.yourcompany.com
review.yourclient.yourcompany.com

Create a script that links the development repository to your dev. domain. Then you can promote that branch and it'll update the review domain. When you're ready for production you can create a production script that promotes the code to the live website.

This way you're able to make your changes to your code on dev and only have the "client ready" site on your review subdomain when you decide to push the code to that domain.

Things get more complicated if sites have databases that accompany with them, but there are tools like whiskey_disk that help.

It's probably not worth it for the current site you're working on, but maybe something to keep in mind for any future projects, especially if they get large in scope or you're working with others on them. The suggestions above are all very good options.
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Old Mar 17, 2013, 10:54 AM   #23
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Quote:
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This might be a lot more than what you're asking for, but if you aren't already it might be a good idea to learn a Version Control System like GIT or SVN. Then create a few branches and write some simple scripts to promote them to specific domains you have for each site.

For example you could create several subdomains like:

dev.yourclient.yourcompany.com
review.yourclient.yourcompany.com

Create a script that links the development repository to your dev. domain. Then you can promote that branch and it'll update the review domain. When you're ready for production you can create a production script that promotes the code to the live website.

This way you're able to make your changes to your code on dev and only have the "client ready" site on your review subdomain when you decide to push the code to that domain.

Things get more complicated if sites have databases that accompany with them, but there are tools like whiskey_disk that help.

It's probably not worth it for the current site you're working on, but maybe something to keep in mind for any future projects, especially if they get large in scope or you're working with others on them. The suggestions above are all very good options.
GIT and SVN is a convenient way to publish code between server environments such as local/dev, staging and production and is intended for novices and professionals alike. However, the main reason to use this is for version control - to track changes and publish only what has changed, and to rollback in the event of error or data loss. Of the two I suggest GIT as it is far more stable plus the process becomes easy when creating and maintaining repos via the web based GUI, GITHUB (http://github.com). I also appreciate the simplicity of .gitignore to skip folders/files that don't need to be published (debug code, comments, content files that change constantly and take up room) and GITHUB site makes starting a repo as easy as enter a name, copy and paste commands.

But whatever form of version control you prefer, be sure to learn it and use it if you're concerned about the stuff I just mentioned, work in a group with shared code, or a professional developer or consultant as this is expected knowledge at that level. Even DIY's appreciate GIT/GITHUB for their home page being able to clone, push/pull and create branches as noted by walangij who brought up a point worthy of note and discussion here.
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Old Mar 17, 2013, 03:37 PM   #24
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That's an interesting option I haven't seen before. Is this something that you've used? If so, how easy is the learning curve for your clients?
This is a professional solution and is one of many products like it that allow you to showcase your stuff, clients to view latest changes easily via web with option to collaborate, and the client interface is of course very easy to use as the product is meant for that purpose.
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