Table Of Content
- What is a WordPress Staging Site?
- Why Use WordPress Staging?
- Difference Between a Staging and a Development Site
- How to Create a WordPress Staging Site?
- Managing and Using a WordPress Staging Site
- Our Recommended Best Practices for WordPress Staging Sites
- Create your WordPress Staging Site Today
What is a WordPress Staging Site?
For any WordPress website, however big or small, there are a variety of components involved to ensure the best functionalities and user experience. That means a whole lot can go wrong when the website goes live. So to prevent that from happening? Well, most expert WordPress developers opt for a staging site.
A WordPress staging site is a private, hidden version of your website that looks exactly like your live website. But it exists in a separate environment, so the users can’t see it. That’s where you can experiment and fine-tune your website without an impact on the user experience.
You can duplicate everything from the live website on the staging. That helps you check for any potential errors or goof-ups with the design, layout, features, and more. So when the site or page goes live, you can rest assured of its functionality and quality.
A staging site is basically like a hidden laboratory where you can perfect your website before opening it to users around the world.
In this blog, we’ll see why you should use staging and how it’s differentiated from the development site. Moreover, you’ll better understand how to set up, manage, and use the staging site.
Why Use WordPress Staging?
Now that you understand the WordPress staging let’s see why you should use it with your website.
- WordPress core updates: Staging allows you to test the core WordPress updates on the staging before applying them to your live site. That ensures the updates won’t cause any compatibility or functionality issues that may end up breaking your website. Through staging, you can identify and resolve any potential issues before updating your live site. That minimizes the risk of downtime or errors.
- Theme and plugin updates: Similarly, staging allows you to test updates to your themes and plugins and control your website’s visual appearance and functionalities without any risks. Testing the updates in a staging environment ensures they work correctly with your existing setup and don’t introduce any conflicts or errors. If any issues come up during testing, you can address them before updating your live website.
- Better customization: Staging is particularly useful when customizing the WordPress core. It provides a safe space to experiment with code modifications without affecting your live site. You can test the customizations thoroughly and ensure they function as intended without conflicts or security vulnerabilities.
- Testing and Quality Assurance: Staging also provides a dedicated space to test WordPress core, themes, plugins, and their updates. Doing so before implementing it on the live website allows you to ensure the updates won’t cause any compatibility issues. By thoroughly testing in a staging environment, you can identify and resolve any potential problems.
Note that not every developer or company uses a staging site. But those who do, opt for it to reduce the risk of website errors or downtime.
The staging approach lets you minimize disruptions and ensure a smooth user experience. plus, you’ll have the confidence to step onto the grand stage of the internet and captivate your audience effortlessly.
Difference Between a Staging and a Development Site
A staging site is a separate environment mirroring the live website, used for testing and refining the updates before implementing them on the live site. So you can test updates, new features, and customizations without any impact on the user experience.
A development site is a dedicated environment for the developers to experiment with code, design, and functionality before deploying the changes to a staging or live site.
Let’s take a look at a tabular comparison to get a better idea.
|Parameter||Staging Site||Development Site|
|Purpose||Test changes, updates, and customizations before going live||Build and develop a website from scratch or make significant changes|
|Usage||Replicates the live site for testing and refinement||Lets the developers with the coding, designing, and functionality|
|Content||Content mirrors the live website||Can be empty or have sample data for development purposes|
|Lifespan||It is a temporary environment made just for testing and review||May exist throughout the development process. Can be discarded or merged|
|Workflow||A staging site is used for final testing and quality assurance before deploying changes to the live site to ensure a seamless transition from the development phase to the production environment||A development site is primarily used by developers during the coding and building process to ensure a smooth and error-free transition from development to production|
|Collaboration||Collaboration among team members to review changes and provide feedback||Collaboration among developers, designers, and stakeholders for website development|
|Risk||There is little to no risk of errors or disruptions to the live site||Higher risk since it involves making significant changes to the website|
|Data Management||A copy of the live website data can be used to ensure a more accurate testing||May include dummy data, purely for development purposes|
|Visibility||Won’t be visible or available for access to the users||Can be password-protected or restricted from public access|
To summarize, a WordPress staging environment acts as an intermediate step between the development and live production environments.
How to Create a WordPress Staging Site?
Setting up a staging site for your WordPress website is quite important. It helps test the updates and customizations in the design, layout, and features without the risk of any impact on the live website.
So let’s check out the different ways to set up a staging site:
Create a Staging Site Through the Website’s Hosting Provider
A hosting provider offers the developer a variety of services for the website. That includes the ability to create a staging site through its dashboard. So check out the process of setting up a staging site through some prominent hosting providers:
Create a Staging Site Through Bluehost
Let’s start the process assuming you are using Bluehost as the hosting provider for your WordPress website.
Step 1: Log into the WordPress dashboard, where you’ll need to click on Bluehost at the top of the sidebar on the left.
Step 2: Then, you’ll see a Bluehost display on the screen with various options to choose from. Click on Staging.
Step 3: Select the button Create Staging Site and wait.
Step 4: After the process completes, you’ll see “Your staging environment is ready!”. Then, click on Go To Staging Site.
Step 5: You’ll be taken to the WordPress staging environment. A red button on the top will indicate that you’re in the staging environment.
Now, you can start changing the design, layout, and features as you wish without an impact on the UX on the live site.
Step 6: After being satisfied with the updates and customizations and being ready to deploy them on the live site, go back to the staging page on the WordPress dashboard.
Step 7: Scroll down to the Deployment Options and select the most suitable one. Then, confirm your option and wait for a while.
That’s it. Now, you can test features and designs on staging and deploy them on the live site efficiently.
Create a Staging Site Through WP Engine
Although you can create staging for your website through the WordPress dashboard as well as the WP Engine dashboard, the process with the former will be more efficient. So let’s start.
Step 1: Log into your WP Engine hosting account.
Step 2: Then, visit Sites and click on your website.
Step 3: After that, you’ll see Production, Staging, and Development. Click on Add Staging.
Step 4: Enter the name of your staging site, and select Create Environment.
Then, WP Engine will start creating a WordPress staging environment for your website.
Step 5: After that, go back to Sites to access the staging site.
Step 6: Check for the staging copy of your website with an ‘STG’ icon next to it. Click on the STG site, and you’ll be able to use the staging site effectively.
After you are satisfied with the staging copy, automate the process of pushing it to production through the Sites dashboard.
Create a Staging Site Through SiteGround
Creating staging copies for your WordPress websites with Siteground is quite straightforward. Let’s take a look at the process.
Step 1: Log into your SiteGround account.
Step 2: Then, on the sidebar on the left, you’ll see WordPress. Click on it and select Staging.
Step 3: You’ll see a screen showing “Staging Copies.” Enter your website’s domain name in the field Select WordPress Installation.
Step 4: Then, write the preferred name of your staging copy in the field Staging Name. After that, click on Create.
Then, SiteGround will analyze your website and check for any files and folders that aren’t necessarily a part of the standard structure. After detecting any, SiteGround will ask you whether you want to add them to your staging site.
Step 5: Click on the check boxes of the files to be added to your staging copy, and then Confirm the choices.
Finally, the staging copy of your website will be ready to test the updates, customizations, and more.
Create a Staging Site Through DreamHost
Let’s assume you have opted for DreamHost’s managed WordPress hosting plan. Then, here is the process for setting up your staging site.
Step 1: Visit your DreamHost control panel.
Step 2: On the left sidebar, you’ll see DreamPress. Click on it, and you’ll be met with the screen showing “hello.dream.press”.
Step 3: Then select Staging, and click on the button Create Staging Site.
After that, your staging site will be ready in a few min. Moreover, the subdomain will be generated automatically.
Step 4: To log into the staging site, enter the Username and Password under ‘Access Your Staging Website.’
The login credentials for staging will be the same as the live website.
Create a Staging Site Through WordPress Plugins
Among the biggest highlights of WordPress is there are thousands of plugins to customize the features and functionalities of a website. Some of these plugins can help you set up staging for your WordPress website quite easily.
Let’s discuss a few of these plugins:
Active Installations: 70K+
WP Staging serves as a one-stop-shop for staging, backup, cloning, and migration of WordPress websites. It can help create an exact copy of your website within minutes with a complete backup of all data.
A few of its best feats are as follows:
- It can entirely clone your live website into a subdirectory named <live site domain name>/staging-site.
- No server issues for bigger websites.
- Let’s use the clone site as a backup.
- Supports the popular servers: Nginx, LiteSpeed, Apache, and Microsoft IIS Server.
Moreover, it has a Pro paid version with some even better features like multisite support, backup transfer and retention, a high-performance background processor, and more.
Active Installations: 1M+
Duplicator is one of the best plugins to migrate, copy, move, or clone a WordPress website with a simple backup utility. It lets you easily duplicate your live site to a staging environment and vice-versa, and even bundle up the website for distribution and reuse.
A few of its best features are:
- Website transfer from one host to another.
- Duplicating a live website to a staging area
- Migration without the import and export of SQL scripts.
- Drag-and-drop installs.
- Custom plugin hooks for WordPress developers.
The pro version of this plugin offers even more exceptional features like a direct connection to cPanel, multisite installation, and more.
Active Installations: 20K+
WP Time Capsule is one of the best plugins for creating a staging environment for your WordPress website. It can also take real-time backups automatically in case an update causes any issues. But make you connect your website with a cloud app, like Google Drive, Amazon S3, or Dropbox. So the plugin can automatically take backups.
But we’ll understand if you don’t want to use the hosting service or plugins for staging.
Setting Up WordPress Staging Site Manually
There’s always the manual method if you want neither the hosting providers nor the fancy plugins for staging.
So let’s discuss the process of creating a staging site manually.
Step 1: Visit the cPanel and find Subdomains.
Step 2: Create a new subdomain and name it ‘test.’
Step 3: Click on the FTP Accounts. That will open a screen showing ‘Add FTP Account.’
Step 4: Set the login credentials for your staging subdomain.
Step 5: Then, copy the three folders, i.e.,/wp-content/uploads, /wp-content/themes, and /wp-content/plugins, from your existing live website into the staging account.
Step 6: After that, import the live website’s database to the staging site. You can do so through a WordPress migration plugin.
Step 7: After exporting the database, go back to the cPanel and select the MySQL Databases button.
Step 8: Create a new database and then a new user.
Step 9: Then, go to PHPMyAdmin in the cPanel.
Step 10: Scroll down to the new database and click Import.
Step 11: After that, select the file you exported with the plugin and click Go.
Step 12: Last but not least, edit the wp-config.php file on your new staging environment so that it points to the new database and username. After that, upload it back to the server over FTP.
Step 13: Now, you’ll be able to access the staging site with the same login credentials you use for the live website. But make sure you restrict access to the staging by selecting
Settings > Reading. There, select the checkbox against “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”
But since this process requires a certain level of knowledge and understanding of MySQL databases, not everyone may be able to create a WordPress staging site manually.
Managing and Using a WordPress Staging Site
Now that you have set up the staging site for your live WordPress website. Still, there may be some doubts regarding managing and using this staging environment. So let’s discuss them.
When to Push Your Staging Site Live?
Let’s check out a few factors and questions to ask yourself when pushing the staging site live.
- Have you tested your changes and updates thoroughly? First and foremost, you must thoroughly test your changes on your staging site before making them live. It’s the primary purpose of staging. You can make sure they are working as expected and not causing any errors. Also, test the changes on different browsers and devices to ensure the best responsiveness.
- Are you satisfied with the changes? After testing the changes, decide whether you are happy with them. If you aren’t happy with the changes, ensure you make the necessary changes on your staging site before deploying them on the live site.
- Is it the best time to deploy the changes? Often, there are times when it won’t be a good idea to make any changes on the live site. For example, Amazon encounters its highest traffic on Black Friday. Like that, your website may also have a time or day when the traffic is at its highest. So make sure you push any changes after that. Also, you must closely monitor the site after pushing the changes to identify any potential problems.
Essentially, you should deploy the changes from the staging environment onto the live website when you are satisfied and think it’s the best time for them.
How Often to Back Your Site Up?
The frequency of back-ups depends on a variety of factors:
- The type of website
- Content updation frequency
- Theme and plugin updation frequency
- Website Activity
- Tolerance to the risk of data loss.
It’s ideal to back up your site at least once a week. But the best move would be taking back-ups daily or maybe even multiple times per day (if yours is a very busy website).
How to Migrate a WordPress Site?
Well, there are two approaches to performing WordPress migration: manually and through plugins.
Let’s check out the manual process in brief:
Step 1: Choose a WordPress host.
Step 2: Take a comprehensive website file and database backup.
Step 3: Export the website’s database.
Step 4: Create a new MySQL database and import the content of the old one.
Step 5: Upload the files of your website to the host.
Step 6: Edit the wp-config.php file of your website.
Step 7: Configure your DNS.
But this process may only be suitable for those with an understanding of MySQL. For others, WordPress plugins like WP Engine Automated Migration, WP Migrate, WPvivid Backup plugin, etc., may help conclude the migration automatically.
So after creating and managing the WordPress staging site, let’s move on to the best practices involved with this aspect of web development.
Deleting A Staging Environment
Deleting a staging environment is a relatively straightforward process. However, keep in mind that this action is usually permanent, so ensure all the necessary data from the environment is backed up or moved elsewhere before proceeding. The following steps are generally applicable but may vary slightly depending on your hosting provider:
Step 1: Log into Your Hosting Account You will need to start by logging into your hosting account.
Step 2: Navigate to the Staging Environment Once logged in, find the staging environments section. This will typically be in the site management or a similar section.
Step 3: Choose the Staging Site to Delete You will likely see a list of your staging environments. Find the one you wish to delete and select it.
Step 4: Initiate Deletion There should be an option to delete or remove the selected staging site. Click on this option to begin the deletion process.
Step 5: Confirm Deletion In most cases, a popup will appear to confirm your decision to delete the staging environment. Remember, this is usually a permanent action and cannot be undone. If you are sure, confirm the deletion.
Step 6: Check Completion Ensure that the staging site has been successfully deleted. This is typically indicated by its absence from your list of staging environments.
That’s it! You’ve successfully deleted a staging environment. Remember that deleting a staging environment is a permanent action, so always ensure your data is secure elsewhere before proceeding.
Our Recommended Best Practices for WordPress Staging Sites
Let’s discuss some of the best practices involved with WordPress staging environments:
- Regularly update staging site: Make sure you keep your staging site updated with the latest WordPress core updates, along with the theme and plugin updates. That can help identify any potential compatibility issues before implementing it on your live site.
- Test All Changes: Before making any changes on your live site, test the updates, new features, design changes, and code modifications. Make sure everything works as expected.
- Protect Staging Site: Use strong passwords and restrict access to the staging site, along with other security measures like IP whitelisting or password protection.
- Exclude Staging Site from Search Engines: Add a “noindex” directive to the staging site’s robots.txt file. That will help prevent search engines from indexing your staging site.
- Regularly Sync Staging and Live Sites: If your active website has frequent updates, sync your staging site with it regularly. That ensures any changes made on the live site also reflect in the staging environment.
- Backup Staging Site: Like the live website, it’s crucial to regularly back up your staging site. So there are no unforeseen data loss issues.
- Document Changes and Procedures: Keep detailed documentation of any changes made on the staging site. That will serve as a reference to streamline future updates or troubleshooting processes.
These practices will help ensure a seamless workflow and minimize any risk of issues with the live websites. If done right, with the above-mentioned practices, a staging website can ensure risk-free experimentation. It can also help enhance the security and performance of the live site.
Create your WordPress Staging Site Today
Although not necessary, a staging environment can be quite beneficial for the live website. Through staging, The design and development team can do risk-free experimentations with new designs, features, updates, customizations, and more. Moreover, the owner and developer of the website can see how the website or any of its designs or features look before they go live.
So our WordPress developers have compiled this comprehensive guide on WordPress staging. It has everything from its importance and setup to the best practices involved. We have shown you the process of setting it up with the host, the plugins, and even manually. You can always contact a WordPress development company for more details regarding the staging environment.
We hope this documentation will help you set up a fantastic staging website to test everything, from the designs to the features, more efficiently. Happy coding!