If you plan on upgrading the theme on your WordPress site, adding plugins, or drastically changing the direction, it’s a good idea to spend some time testing it before the changes go live.
However, this is easier said than done. WordPress doesn’t offer any built-in staging functionality to test and evaluate the changes you make. Everything you do gets recorded and uploaded, which isn’t perfect.
The answer is to create a staging environment. Here are six ways to test planned changes on a WordPress site before they go live.
What is a WordPress staging site?
Setting up a WordPress test site is not impossible,
Web host staging tools
Test the changes in WordPress with a staging plugin
Manually copy the site to a subdomain
Install WordPress on your computer and test it out
Create a staging site on a virtual server
Build a WordPress test server with an old or cheap computer
For best results, changes to your pre-production WordPress site can be easily applied to the live environment after testing. This can be done by clicking a button (in the case of staging plugins), repeating the setup on the live site, or by copying and roughly overwriting the live site with the files from the test site. . If you choose this option, make sure that both sites are exact replicas before continuing and take backups first.
Here are six ways to create your own WordPress test environment before deploying changes to a live site.
The easiest way to create a test environment for WordPress is through your web host. Some provide the tools you need for staging as part of the monthly hosting subscription.
If you are looking for a simple solution, it is as easy as it gets. All you need to do is log into your hosting cPanel, select the relevant website domain, and choose the option to create a staging site. From there, you basically have a clone of your live site where you can make changes without impacting it.
Unfortunately, not all web hosts offer this option. Three that do are WP Engine, Bluehost, and InMotion Hosting.
2. Use a staging plugin like WP Staging
A little more difficult, but much simpler than most solutions for cloning your WordPress blog for testing purposes, is to use a dedicated plugin like WP Staging.
To download: WP Staging
This plugin – which can be installed from WordPress or downloaded – will create a subfolder on your web server, in which a staging environment will be created for testing. You can then install plugins, change themes and layouts, and make other adjustments to your website without affecting the live site.
One thing to note is that WP Staging does not support WordPress multisite setups without upgrading to the premium version.
An alternative to WP Staging is WP Stagecoach, but it doesn’t have a free version.
3. Manually copy your site to a subdomain
Aside from automated solutions, you can manually copy the folders that make up your WordPress installation to a new subdomain.
Start by creating a subdomain in your host’s cPanel. Then, using FTP or the browser-based file management tool provided by your host, copy the WordPress public_html directory key to the subdomain directory. You will also need to back up the database to make a copy and then create a new database to download the copied data.
You can then direct your browser to the subdomain to access the WordPress pre-production site. Test this by opening the usual URL in your browser followed by a slash and the subdomain or use the subdomain instead of the www in the URL. For example:
Your WordPress test site is ready to be staged.
4. Install WordPress on your PC
Local hosting on a PC is also possible for WordPress.
This solution is not too difficult, but it can take a long time. Installing WordPress on Windows means:
Installing XAMPP or WAMP
Creation of a database
Install WordPress and create a website
To populate this website with your existing site, you use a backup plug-in to export live site data and import it into the test environment. When you’re happy with the results, reverse the process.
5. Use virtualization to create an intermediary site on your PC
Another option for running a WordPress test environment is to set up a virtual server on your PC. The easiest way to do this is to download a dedicated app installer from www.bitnami.com. This is a free tool from VMware that allows you to install various web applications on your PC.
WordPress is one of the many apps included. The installer creates a virtual machine on your computer, configures the chosen web application, and then lets you configure it as if you were using a web server.
To download the correct version, select Applications> Win / Mac / Linux and click WordPress to download the installer. If you are familiar with virtualization, you can also choose the Virtual Machines option to download a virtual machine and configure it in your virtual machine software instead.
6. Build a dedicated test server on an old PC or Raspberry Pi
Your last option is to use an old PC or buy a cheap computer like the Raspberry Pi. All that is required here is to install the operating system and then install WordPress as explained above. This is a good solution if your current computer is not up to the task of hosting a website for testing purposes.
Don’t have an old PC? A Raspberry Pi 2 or later should do the job perfectly and starts at around $ 40. [LINK]
Make changes to WordPress? Use an intermediary site for testing
You cannot make significant changes to a WordPress live blog. If something goes wrong you will have to undo it, potentially forcing your site offline and wasting valuable time undoing the change and potentially restoring a backup.
Staging sites are ideal for testing changes to WordPress. Use one of these methods to prepare your own WordPress test site.
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