So, we have learned the basics of launching a website and hosting it. However, running a website is not only about setting it up and keep adding more content. There are times when you would be looking to make a few changes to the site and add newer improvements. But, would you be willing to do them right away and make them public? Absolutely NO! You should make use of a concept called Staging before you can go live with your website and the changes therein. So, what is staging and how would you do it?
What is a Staging Site?
Setting up your WordPress site and managing it may not be a simple one time process. It is, in fact, a never-ending process. As you keep learning more about building and customizing the website, you would want to make the changes in your site. However, we are not sure how these changes will take effect. So, you would definitely not want to make the changes straightway on the live site and affect its functionality and create a nuisance to your visitors.
That means you would need an environment solely for testing the changes you are about to make in your site. The best way to do it is through the creation of a Staging Site. It can be termed as a cloned copy of your website. The staging site is also referred to as a Development Site or a Testing Site as well.
What is the need for a Staging Site?
A staging site should be your playground. It is here that you would be making changes in your website and apply multiple themes and plugins to check the functionality. Since the site is not live and only you can check the changes if any in the working of the site, your visitors or the prospects of your website are not at all affected.
A staging site can be created in a variety of different options. Ideally, a few web hosting services offer an option to launch a staging site as part of their service. So if your hosting services have the options enabled, it works as one of the best options you can get. You can make use of this test area for experimenting with your site without affecting the functionality of your live site.
However, it is important to make sure that the staging site is not accessible to your visitors. You would also need to make sure that Google or other search engines pick it up as a real site.
How to create a Staging Site?
There are two different ways you can configure a staging site for your main website on WordPress. One of them is to create a local hosting environment on your computer. The service will be entirely equivalent in every respect to creating a website on your live site. The only difference would be the fact that the site would be completely local in its appearance and will not be visible in the world wide web. Another method would involve the default functionality within your web hosting service for creating a staging site.
1) Create a Staging site Locally on your Computer
If you are looking to create a localized version of your website on your computer, you may find several options. There are plugins that aid you in setting up a staging site with ease. There are tools such as XAAMP that help you convert your computer into a simple hosting environment. There are a few other tools like the ones used to create virtual servers on your computer. However, they suffer from an inherent issue where it may be a little tricky to transfer the changes you made to the staging site to the live site directly.
You can make use a few dedicated plugins to create a staging website. The exact functionality is dependent upon the plugin you choose, however, the task will be simplified to a greater extent. If you are a newbie, it is advisable to go with the plugins rather than going at it alone. You can find several plugins that are helpful in the task and are specifically created for the specific purpose. WP Staging is one of the excellent plugins that offers you a straightforward functionality coupled with ease of use. What makes it a great option is it creates a clone of your website and saves it in the main installation. The best part of the plugin is it does not require a greater technical know how to use it effectively, thus making it one of the best options for the beginners.
2) Create a Staging Site within your Hosting Service
Another option is to use the staging functionality provided within your hosting service. In fact, it is the best and easier method to create your staging site. Since you have already configured a site using the hosting service, you are already aware of the process flow that the hosting service follows.
However, the downside of this option is not many web hosting services offer it as part of their service. If your web hosting service offers you the functionality, do not hesitate to go for it. That will be the best option for staging a site with excellent functionality.
Moreover, an integrated staging site within your web hosting service will make it easy and simple for you to transfer the changes you made on your staging site to your live site. Unlike the issues, you may come across when using the plugins for creating your staging website, the built-in staging site functionality in your hosting service would be easy to migrate the changes with one click.
What are the Benefits of a Staging Site?
Well, you may as well be asking why should you use a staging site. There are several use cases where you may find it extremely useful and practical. A few of the advantages can be summarised as here below –
- The staging site lets you create a new site and test it before making it live. You can keep the site private until it is actually ready fully.
- Even when you are not launching a new site right away, launching a staging site can be helpful in learning more about WordPress and its functionality. You can also use it to use new plugins or themes and test their functionality.
- It helps you take up bug fixing in your live site if any. You can make the necessary changes in the staging site and then migrate it to the live site when the fix is ready.
In essence, everyone who is running a website needs access to a staging site. In case you are running a lot of operations and sites, staging sites are one of the most important aspects you need to take care of. There are cases where a few updates can introduce bugs on your website or make them unusable. In such cases, using a staging site for updating your site and applying the fixes and then migrating it to the live site is a better option than applying the updates directly on your website.
The Concluding Thoughts
Staging should be one of the best options to test the changes before you can push them directly to the site. Though there are several options for hosting a staging website, we recommend opting for one that is offered by your web hosting service as a primary option. Even when the service is available on a subscription basis, you can consider going with it – thanks to the extra functionality and the ease of use that it offers you.