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Have you ever visited a show home and thought wow, I’d love to buy one of these houses? I have, it’s a great feeling, and helps real estate agents sell a lot of homes.
I’ve also visited a lot of websites, some of which I found very impressive, others made me not want to spend my money with that company.
Just as you would stage a home, so you should stage your website. Don’t invite visitors onto your website while you’re still getting ready, so to speak.
Making live edits, additions and additions to your website can cost you business.
What is Staging?
Staging a website is creating a duplicate environment where edits, updates and additions are carried out without affecting the live website.
It’s basically a copy of your website used for testing and new features.
What makes Staging so powerful is that your changes can be pushed to the live site once they have been signed off.
How does WordPress Staging work?
To create a WordPress Staging environment, a copy of your live website is created. Everything is exactly the same, except your customers don’t see this staging environment.
It is created on a subdomain, usually something like – staging1.yourwebsite.com
This subdomain is password protected and not made public. Only you the customer and your developer can access it, by typing in the Staging access credentials.
Staging vs Bad Practice
Many small businesses don’t use a Staging site. In fact, many online stores making hundreds of thousands in annual revenue don’t even use Staging either.
This is bad practice as it can cost you money and damage your reputation.
The current bad practice is to edit, update and add to the live website while customers are using it.
This can potentially be catastrophic, if core functionality breaks or your website doesn’t work for several days. It could put off existing and new customers alike and is unprofessional.
Staging Site WordPress Use Cases
What are some examples of when you should absolutely be using a Staging environment?
1) Making Live Edits
If you are editing your pages, posts or functionality, this should be done on a Staging environment first and then migrated to live.
Even if you are a developer, this is unprofessional as it can cause breakage and potentially migrate untested bugs to your live website.
2) Updating plugins
This is a big no no, unless you are a trained developer. In particular for ecommerce websites, updating plugins without testing them can break functionality which can render your live site useless and cost you revenue.
3) Adding Functionality
New functionality should always be added to a test environment before being pushed live.
It can take days, sometimes weeks, to add and test new functionality correctly as well as ensure it performs as intended on different screen sizes.
4) Designing a New Website
When designing a new website, a Staging environment is the perfect way to do this. A duplicate of your website can be created and your new website can be developed on the Staging environment and pushed live once complete.
5) Switching to HTTPS
Installing an SSL certificate (secure socket layer) and using HTTPS is now not just essential for ecommerce, but for all websites.
If your site does not use HTTPS, it will generate a security warning in Google, Firefox and the other primary web browsers. This tells visitors that your site is not secure.
Switching to HTTPS is not a task that should be undertaken without testing, as it can make your website inaccessible, break links, display security warnings and make content unavailable.
6) Changes to your functions.php file
The functions.php file is where PHP code is added to ammend or add new functionality to your WordPress website.
This file is very important and small errors can break your entire website if not managed correctly.
What happens if you don’t use WordPress Staging?
If a Staging environment is not used and breakage occurs there are two options available to you:
- Allow your developer time to debug the error whilst your live site is broken
- Restore to a previous version losing work in the progress
Whilst it is possible to use advanced staging to restore your website, doing this will erase your live database with a previous version.
This can have unwanted consequences.
Potential problems caused by not using Staging
- WooCommerce orders and data can be lost
- Incorrect plugin settings can be pushed live
- SEO data can be lost or broken
- Content can be lost or deleted
- Website outages
- Loss of revenue
- Corrupted database
To name a few!
How to setup a WordPress Staging Site
Setting up a Staging environment if you are not a developer can be daunting.
The easiest method to do this is to pick a host who offer advanced Staging functionality and can manage this for you.
For instance, at WP Staged, we offer easy to setup Staging environments with advanced Staging functionality.
Customers can choose to push all of their Staging environment live, or just certain parts of the environment.
Finding a WordPress host who offer Staging is essential if you want to safely edit, update and add to your website without losing customers.
Migrating to a host which offer wordpress Staging is a relatively painful process and can generally be carried out within a couple of days, so that you can start taking advantage of Staging functionality to manage your WordPress website effectively.