What Is GitHub and How Can You Use It?

While running a business, you use a variety of digital tools, from email design tools to analytics platforms. In many cases, that means using tools other people or companies have created. But sometimes you might want to modify those tools or create your own company tools.

In either of those cases, you’ll need to have basic knowledge of coding, as all digital tools and websites are fundamentally built on code. But if you’re not an expert at editing raw code, you might want a platform that will help you with the process.

If so, GitHub might be the best option for you. But what is GitHub? Keep reading for a full GitHub overview. Then partner with WebFX for our digital marketing services. Just call 888-601-5359 or contact us online today!

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What is GitHub?

In short, GitHub is a cloud-based platform designed to help you store, create, and modify code via a tool called Git.

To help you better understand that definition, let’s first talk about what Git is.

What is Git?

Git is a free development platform that GitHub helps you use. More specifically, Git is an open-source version control system. But what does that mean?

A version control system is a tool that helps you create different versions of code to edit it. Think of it this way — if you want to experiment with editing some of the code on your site, you’re taking a risk that it won’t work out. So, you don’t want to directly edit the main code source.

Instead, you’ll want to essentially create a copy of the code and edit the copy. If it works out, you can then merge the copy with the original again. But if it fails, you can delete the copy with no harm done to the original.

That’s what Git helps you accomplish. 

Why should you use GitHub?

Now that we’ve covered what Git is, let’s return to GitHub. As we already mentioned, GitHub helps you use Git. Of course, you might be wondering, why opt for using GitHub when you could use Git directly?

The answer is that GitHub enhances several qualities of Git, particularly ease of use. Using Git directly is fine for experienced developers, but for everyone else, it can be hard to figure out. GitHub lays out everything in a more intuitive format so you can better navigate it.

Common GitHub terms

To continue our GitHub overview, let’s look at some of the most common terms you’ll hear when using GitHub. There are many terms GitHub uses, but here are a few of the main ones:

  • Branch: A separate workspace where you can edit a piece of code without affecting the original version
  • Fork: A copy of a project that is completely independent of the original (which you might create so you could make an entirely new project)
  • Commit: The act of saving your changes to a branch file
  • Merge: The act of combining two branches, such as making an edited branch go live on the original website
  • Pull request: A request for an edited branch file to be merged with another branch
  • Repository: A folder in which all versions of a file are stored

By knowing these terms, you’ll have an easier time navigating your way around GitHub.

Core GitHub features

In addition to GitHub making Git easier to use, it also brings a few additional features to the table. Here are some of the functions that help GitHub stand out:

Social networking functionality

One of the best GitHub features is its sharing capabilities. When you create or edit code in GitHub, it’s not limited to you. You can share your code with others on the platform.

You could share code if you want to show off your latest project in the same way someone might share their art on Instagram. Alternatively, you might share a piece of code you create so that others can use it or create their own branches of it.

Collaboration capabilities

GitHub can do more than let you share your projects with other people. You can also collaborate on projects with others, with everyone making separate edits to the same piece of code.

The way this works is that each of you creates a separate branch, performing your own edits on each one. When you complete the work, you can then merge all your branches into one copy of the code without messing up each others’ work.

You can also use GitHub’s “Issues” section to note problems that arise with the project and discuss how to resolve them.

Open-source and private repositories

Another of the best GitHub features is that you have options for setting the privacy of your projects. Sure, collaboration is great, but odds are, you don’t want your competitors accessing the code you write — so what approach do you take then?

Thankfully, GitHub comes with options. If you opt for the free plan, it lets you write open-source code, not to mention that it offers you access to plenty of other open-source code from different developers. But at the same time, you can choose a paid plan that gives you more security and privacy.

By purchasing a private repository, you can work on projects that only you and your team can access. That means you can still take advantage of the collaboration feature without making your code public — unless you want to, of course!

How to get started with GitHub

Now that we’ve reached the end of our GitHub overview, you’re likely wondering what you can do to get started with GitHub. It’s a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Start by visiting https://git-scm.com/ and installing Git on your device for free.
  2. Visit GitHub’s website and set up an account using your email address.
  3. On your new account dashboard, click “Create repository.”
  4. Walk through the process of creating your repository.

That’s it! From there, you can begin working on projects in your newly created repository, branching and forking as desired.

Let WebFX help you master GitHub

Want some help using GitHub to improve your site? WebFX would love to work with you. Not only can we give you insights into how to improve your site, we can do the work for you and implement the changes you need.

With our web design services, you’ll get help optimizing your website for the user experience. If you’re unsure about partnering with us, just check out our more than 1,020 client testimonials that speak to the quality of our services.

To get started with us, just call 888-601-5359 or contact us online today!

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