What is Website Staging and should you use it for your WordPress website?
8 minutes reading
Changing integral parts of your website when you have thousands of visitors actively using it all the time is inconvenient and may lead to considerable losses in clients and profits. It’s not uncommon for major changes to crash the already existing website, which causes significant downtimes at best and losing information at worst.
On the other hand, you can’t just leave your website untouched for the duration of its existence. But how would you follow trends, add new content, apply new features, change the look, and fix bugs and crashes? In such cases, you definitely need a way to test how any change you make will look before implementing it. That is possible thanks to a feature called website staging, and today we will help you decide whether to use it or not when applying new changes to your WordPress website.
What is Website Staging?
Simply put, a website staging environment (also known as staging version) is a replica of your exact website, which, however, is not accessible by outside users.
Nothing is more repulsive to a user than a website that crashes, especially if they have to add their personal information or credit card number. Imagine how they will feel if the crash happens right after they’ve clicked the buy button and their money is already gone, but they haven’t received a confirmation. Naturally, you will reimburse them or send them the product or service, but that little mishap will damage your reputation and lead to some bad reviews online.
So essentially, a staging environment for your website is where you can apply all the changes you need and make your final check if the added features, plugins, or code works as predicted. This eliminates all bugs, issues, and cracks on your website before its new version reaches the end visitor. Ensuring your website is fully operational will retain your brand’s good name and won’t embarrass you in front of your potential customers.
On a more fundamental level, the stage environment can be where your developers combine their work to check if everything works as intended. It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together with several people. Everyone has their little corner that they are working on. Naturally, before you glue the whole thing, you put it on a table and check if everyone’s work fits. If something is messed up, you bring it back to the “developer”, who will have to fix their part so it can fit perfectly. The same is with any website feature or process. The developers, although working side by side, need a place where they can put everything together and see if it will fit. Doing that on a live website is not ideal by a long shot. It brings way too many risks, and the additional time that will be spent testing is well worth it.
When do you need Website Staging?
There are many reasons, despite the already mentioned, when you will need a website staging environment.
When you are introducing new content on your website
The obvious one is adding new crucial features or refurbishing your website. It’s a no-brainer that changing places of buttons, for example, while someone is trying to click on them, is not a great idea. Not to mention the potential bugs, code mistakes, and even CSS incompatibilities with WordPress themes.
When you cannot afford to have your website down
Issues with your website are truly devastating to your business, especially if you are just starting. This may result in some drawbacks and customer loss for a huge company, but for a startup, it may be the difference between success and failure. On average, every website is down three hours each month. This is mainly due to server problems, overloads, or malicious attacks. According to Small Business Trends, this costs $10.6 million annually.
Moreover, it leads to lost profits and customers. For example, 9% of all users never return to a website they couldn’t reach. Additionally, the downtime will negatively affect your SEO efforts, further hindering your income.
To avoid this, at least partially, you need a strong and trusted hosting provider, and lucky for you HostArmada is precisely what you’ve been looking for. We offer cloud-based hosting, meaning that all our servers are virtual, and your information is spread across all of them. If one stops working, the stream of requests is automatically rerouted to another server, eliminating the chance of downtime altogether. In addition, we offer many other features that are simply impossible with a physical server. Check them out here.
When WordPress Automatic Updates are on
WordPress is known for the great option to have automatic updates enabled. However, sometimes the automated updates may decimate your website, and trying it first in a secure environment is always a good idea. WordPress usually does its job meticulously, but when they have a core update, the chances of something breaking are there because WordPress cannot guarantee.
When you would like to experiment
Furthermore, the website staging environment it’s a great room to experiment with the functionality and your design as a whole. People often wonder if a widget would look better in the footer or right next to the Headline in the header. Moving it around while there are thousands of potential buyers on your website is a recipe for disaster. You can do it safely in a staging environment, knowing that you (and your team) will be the only ones to see it.
How to get Website Staging for your WordPress website?
Creating a staging environment for your website is definitely not a simple task. It requires certain knowledge to be acquired to handle it proficiently. Generally, it involves the process of copying your website and its database to an entirely new location (for example, a subdomain – staging.domain.com). All this should be handled on a Web Hosting service level since copying files, creating databases, creating subdomains, and reconfiguring WordPress are features delivered by the hosting web service.
So probably, you might have figured it out already, but it is not uncommon for your Web Hosting service provider to ease this process for you. In fact, many of the Managed WordPress Hosting providers already include Website Staging as a standard feature either done by their Technical Support staff or by some useful web interface that you can use to do it on your own with a few clicks. Our Managed Cloud WordPress Hosting is no different in that regard. We provide Website Staging for WordPress both as a standalone feature you can use on your own and as part of our 24/7, Chat/Phone/Ticket Technical Support service.
If you are in need of Website Staging, simply drop us a line, and our representatives will guide you further.
There are three main reasons why everyone should use a Website Staging environment, even if they are making something as simple as installing a new plugin.
Typically, plugins are well-developed and don’t mess up your website, but at times they are known to contradict other plugins, and that’s when you start to have problems. So, one of the biggest benefits is the risk control staging provides. Checking how the new changes will behave before they go public allows you to react swiftly without enduring any downtime.
Furthermore, staging allows you to improve your website meticulously without the need to do it fast and sloppy. Such changes need a lot of time, and although a small change in the font may look like a minimal inconvenience at first, it may change the whole outlay of the WordPress template. Thus having the chance to do all changes step by step in a secure environment guarantees the quality of the end product.
This will save you a lot of money, which you will otherwise lose due to customer withdrawal. Furthermore, a crucial error on your live website may effectively put you out of business or at least cost you dearly by hiring developers to fix the problem.
Naturally, if you can implement upgrades, new features, and better design without any downtime (or just a tiny controlled blackout time window), you are guaranteed to have improved business performance that will help you grow.
Unsurprisingly, there are some drawbacks to using a website staging environment mostly due to the lack of technical understanding of this feature.
When you create a copy of your website today, the copy is not in sync with the live version. It simply represents the content and the design of your website at the point in time when the copy was created. So naturally, if you add information to your Live Website, that information will not be present in the staging environment.
Responsibility and Organization
Staging blurs responsibility. While website staging makes the changes on your website much safer, the accountability when something goes wrong is almost nonexistent because you can always simply recreate the staging and start over. Moreover, the whole process of applying changes can be delayed, and it can even become excessive if, for example, several projects run simultaneously. A good organization is key in such cases. Otherwise, the pipeline will get clogged by tasks that need to be tested.
Of course, these downsides are relevant only if your team’s organizational skills and leadership are not at the level your website needs.
Who is Website Staging for?
There isn’t a website owner who wouldn’t benefit from a staging environment, as the whole idea of having a safe and risk-free place where you can make changes without bringing down your website is genuinely a good decision. In a sense, people with one-pager websites, portfolios or just a passion project that doesn’t generate money and has little traffic can afford to restrain from investing time and effort in a staging environment. However, if you have a website filled with data, with many visitors, keeping your website online is crucial. So if you are making money out of your website, then having a staging environment is mandatory.
Let’s wrap it up!
As you’ve read, having a staging environment on your WordPress is not just a fancy addition, but it brings many benefits by reducing the risks of your website going down due to some theme or plugin update. Of course, if you are running an online store, this would give you peace of mind that any change won’t result in a crash, loss of data, or even worse. So, should you use a staging environment on your WordPress? Definitely yes!