Developers everywhere have experienced this familiar scenario: your client needs something changed on their website and they approach you like this:
It’s a small, quick change. Can you just do it right now?”
Of course, there’s no such thing as a “small” change during any WordPress website development process. All changes, big or small, have the potential for huge impact on any live website and need to be handled carefully. Pushing changes live without utilizing a test environment (i.e. a staging site) is dangerous and could cause a number of negative consequences – including taking the site down.
The Dangers of Careless Coding in WordPress Website Development
Making changes to live sites on the fly or pushing updates to production without first utilizing a test environment is careless and could cause serious damage to your agency’s reputation. While making changes quickly and immediately for your clients might give them instant gratification and short-term appreciation for your work, it only takes one wrong push for the relationship to go south. The client won’t care that they encouraged you to make changes immediately in the past – they will only care that things are broken now and you’re the cause. The consequences of careless coding include:
- A Down Website
- Broken Functionality or Appearance
- Poor Website Performance
- Lost Visitors & Conversions
- Damage to Your and Your Client’s Business Reputation
- Decreased Search Engine Rankings
None of this sounds good – but they are all easily avoided with the number one best practice in WordPress website development: Test Everything.
Save Your Clients (and Yourself!) with a Staging Site
A staging site is an exact copy of your client’s site with the same hardware, software, and configurations, but is hidden from the public. This staging site is an effective test environment for any code changes or site updates that need to be made before pushing them live into production. A staging site for your WordPress website development provides you with the ability to ensure your changes won’t break the site and will work as planned.
1. Test Plugin, Theme, and WordPress Core Updates
It’s a huge security risk to not update plugins, themes, and WordPress core files when any updates are released, but with custom WordPress sites it’s easy to accidentally break something in the process. A staging site can help you test all updates before they go live, so you’ll know if you need to make adjustments in your code.
2. Install New Plugins or Themes
When your client wants a new plugin or theme installed, it may not be as easy as they think. A staging site will allow you to install the plugin on the hidden site and find out if it’s compatible with the site’s code before it goes live.
3. Make Customizations to Themes
Finding a theme that does everything your client needs is difficult, so customizations are often needed. Test these customizations on a staging site first to ensure your client’s site is always running and functioning properly during any major changes.
4. Enjoy a Smoother Development Workflow
When you make code changes locally, push them to production, and hope they’ll work properly, you’re signing yourself up for the hassle, stress, and cost of needing to fix things in the production environment – or worse, accept a down website until you can upload clean files. With a staging site, you can enjoy a smoother and more linear updating process. Make your changes locally, test on your staging site, adjust as needed, and only push to production once you’re sure everything works.
5. Seek Client Approval Before Going Live
The beauty of a staging site is you can use it in your client approval process. Simply share the link of the staging site and they can experience the site as it would appear live, with the reassurance that nothing is final and changes can be made. Not only does this make life easier on you, but it’s also more professional and invites the client to take an active role in the process.
Whether you’ve been burned by making website changes in production before or not, the benefits of a staging site are inarguable. Work smarter, save time, and avoid careless coding in your WordPress website development process – implement a staging site for all of your client projects.
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