Developing a Website with React, Feature Flags, Netlify and GitHub Actions

Last updated 81 days ago by Timon van Spronsen

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In recent weeks I've helped develop a website for a very exciting project at Awkward called Coffee by Benjamin. Coffee by Benjamin is a coffee roasting kit that allows anyone to roast their coffee at home, this guarantees the freshness of the coffee. The project will launch on Kickstarter soon. If you'd like to keep notified about this project you can follow them on Instagram or visit the website.

This project is my last one at Awkward as I'll be taking up a new challenge at another company soon. Even though I won't be a part of the project going forward, I still want to share something about the way we've been developing and shipping the website by utilizing React, feature flags, Netlify, and GitHub Actions.

Problem statement

The website will launch in three separate phases outlined below. We're currently in phase 1 but we're nearing completion on phase 2. Meanwhile, we've already started development on phase 3.

  • Phase 1: a simple landing page where people can fill in their email address to get notified when the project launches.
  • Phase 2: a full-fletched website which contains more information about the project, a FAQ and a support form. This will launch together with the launch of the Kickstarter campaign.
  • Phase 3: integrate Shopify into the website to sell the product directly. This will launch after the project has been successfully funded and shipped.

Even though phase 3 won't launch till much later, we wanted to start development on this phase as soon as possible because it's the most complicated part of the website to build. This allows us to start testing the shop functionality long before it's launched and catch costly bugs from creeping into the website.

Now we could build phase 3 in a separate branch, but we'd have to constantly update and solve merge conflicts on this branch when we update the phase 2 website. This is especially hard because there are a lot of overlapping parts that we'll change in phase 3. Furthermore, this would result in having to merge a gigantic pull request when phase 3 launches which comes with the risk of bugs in existing functionality. Instead, we want to gradually merge functionality from phase 3 in the main branch without exposing it to the public. We also want the team to be able to check the progress on both phase 2 and phase 3. Finally, we'd like to completely exclude any code from phase 3 while phase 2 is live so that we don't ship any unnecessary code.

In the rest of the post I'll explain how we used a combination of feature flags, Netlify and GitHub Actions to achieve these goals.

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