Staging Sites and Why You Should Use It
Weekly tips, strategy, and advice for building & leveraging your website to maximize your business.
Welcome to episode 16 of Websites Made Simple podcast where we are covering Staging Sites and Why You Should Use It!
In this episode of Websites Made Simple Podcast we are discussing staging websites. What they are, why you should use one, and how to use it to improve your website and reduce problems with your live site.
If you have never heard of staging sites, well then sit back, relax and let’s get after it.
What is a Staging Site
A WordPress staging site is an exact duplicate of your live website that is used for testing changes. The files and database are identical, but the staging website is not public-facing nor can it be accessed by your customers.
Staging environments are typically created on a subdomain of your live domain. Using my own website as an example, this is how I have it setup. My live site is at johndockins.com. However, my staging site is staging.johndockins.com. You don’t have to use “staging” in the domain name as it doesn’t matter what you call it. However, it does make it easy to identify later.
The staging environment would be an exact duplicate of my live site, with its files and database installed staging.johndockins.com subdomain folder. This would not impact the live website which lives under johndockins.com.
All of my development, updates, and any other changes I want to make would take place on the staging site. Once I’m satisfied the changes look good and any updates did not break the site, I would then push the staging site live. The website stored at staging.johndockins.com would replace the site currently sitting at johndockins.com.
Pros and Cons of a Staging Site
The Pros here are simple really. If you think about it for a minute, having a place to test all changes to see how they may change your website BEFORE you put them on your real site makes a lot of sense.
So the top benefits are:
- Enables a way to make changes but catch any errors or bugs before impacting your live website
- They are typically easy to create and use
- Less downtime or errors that impact your customers
In the end, you have a more solid and performing live site.
However, there are a few Cons we should consider as well.
- It will take longer for you to update your site because you are installing the changes and then testing (I personally see this as good risk management)
- Some web hosting service providers charge extra for a staging site so you need to be aware of what host you are with.
- You can also get around this by creating a staging site locally on your own computer
- If you are using caching on your live site, and you should, some staging sites do not have caching available so it would not be a 100% replica of how your live site performs.
Who Needs a Staging Site
Simple, I think anyone who is managing a website should be using a staging site. Just recently a new version of WordPress Core was released and it created havoc on themes and plugins. There were tons of horror stories of websites not performing correctly and in many cases either the site had to be rolled back to the older version or worse, a full website restore had to be performed.
This can all be avoided by simply using a staging site. Install the new WP version on your staging site and test it out. Is everything working well and as expected? If not, are there updates to your plugins and themes available? Update everything and test again. Still not working right? No problem. Restore your staging site and wait for the bugs to be fixed. Then repeat this process.
Does it take time? Yes but always better to spend time ensuring your site will work right in the background than pushing changes to your live site, shutting it down, and losing revenue because your customers could not make a purchase.
How to Create a Staging Site
There are 3 main ways you can set up a staging site. The first is through your web host and is the method I recommend. The 2nd is through the use of a plugin like WP Staging. And the 3rd is creating a staging site locally on your own computer.Since each web host is slightly different, it would be hard to discuss the details of how to do that here today. However, this is typically done through your web host admin or dashboard.
Sometimes there is an icon to install a staging website and others may just have you “add a site” from within your user portal. Either way, if you need help I recommend going through your web host information and/or contacting them on the exact process to set one up.
If you decide to use WP Staging plugin, they make it pretty easy to “clone” your site. Once you have installed and activated the plugin, follow the steps to clone your site. Once done you will have a unique URL to access and test your newly created staging site.
Lastly, there is the option to install a staging site locally. This one can be a bit more technical to get created and work correctly but there is a free option through Local by Flywheel. If you want to create a local staging site then I highly recommend you use Local as it will streamline the process to get one created and running.
How to Use Your Staging Site
Well, again this will vary depending on which method you chose to create your staging site. If you are using a staging site with your web host, typically there will be built-in functions for you to “copy to” and “copy from”.
This again is my recommendation and once you do it once, the process is pretty straightforward. Because there are so many different web hosts out there and each one has a slightly different way to accomplish pushing a staging site to your live site, please check with your current web host on specific instructions.
If you are using WP Staging plugin, well sadly this is not a free option and you would need to pay for the premium version. However, once you upgrade you can simply create backups of both staging and live sites and then push the changes over.
With Local by Flywheel, they do have a “connect” feature where you can connect the app to your website. Simply follow their documentation, which is pretty good, and you will be all set.
I am a proud affiliate of some of these tools. That means if you click the links and then make a purchase of those products, I will earn a small commission. Affiliate links absolutely do not cost you anything additional.
All of the affiliate links are clearly marked for your benefit. Please know that I recommend these products and chose to be an affiliate because I truly believe in them, use them, and know they work.
About the Show
Created for the non-techie entrepreneur, John Dockins reveals all of his website and online business strategies, income sources and killer marketing tips so that you can be ahead of the pack with your website and online business.
Self proclaimed “coffee addict”, you’ll learn how to build authority online using content management systems like WordPress, email marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and much more so that you can create something amazing without burning yourself out.
Websites Made Simple Podcast
John is a family man who also owns his own web design agency and has won several design awards for his work.