Have you heard of WordPress staging sites? Know what they are and if you need one? If the answer is no, don’t worry. I’ll give you all the info, plus show you how to create one.
What is a WordPress staging site?
A staging site (or staging area or development site) is a copy of your site. The purpose of a staging site is to have a place where you can make edits and changes without affecting the live site. Once you’re happy with the changes in staging you can push them to production (the live site). (Look how much lingo you know now.)
Do I need a staging site?
If you’re making very small changes or quick tweaks, probably not. However, if you’re making larger scale changes like a redesign or if you want to test some new functionality (including plugins) without affecting your live site, a staging site is just what you need.
How do I create a staging site?
With your host
Many hosts offer staging sites.
- If you’re using WP Engine, you’ll see staging and development environments
- pair Networks offers a staging area with all of their Managed WordPress plans
- Flywheel offers staging sites
- SiteGround offers staging sites with their larger plans
If your host doesn’t have a staging area available to you, there are a few ways you can get around this.
Normally I use the Duplicator plugin. Here’s how.
- Make and download a full backup of the current site
- Create a new Duplicator package
- Download the files and installer
- Create a new folder via FTP on an existing domain. For example, /staging
- Upload the files and installer to the new folder
- Create a new database and user with the host
- Run the installer, telling it about the new database just created
- Visit the staging site
- Make the changes on the staging site
- When you’re finished making all the changes, create a new Duplicator package on the staging site
- Download the files and installer
- Remove the existing site (preferably during off hours)
- Upload the files and installer
- Run the installer, telling it about the original database
- Visit the main site
Just writing all those steps out seems super crazy. It’s tedious, but it works. One reason I like it is because I don’t have to fiddle with the searching and replacing of links, which can be sticky.
Using WP Staging Pro
The other day I went to perform the steps above, but because of limitations on the host, Duplicator wasn’t able to create the package.
I searched for some new options and found WP Staging.
With just a few clicks, I got a staging site up and running. I made A LOT of changes and and the time came to make those changes live (or push them to production).
The documentation was thorough, but there were a lot of steps. I was worried I would forget or mess something up a long the way. The pro version would handle all of this.
A lot of people think that because WordPress is free, then all plugins (and other development) should be free. I don’t believe this. In this case, a developer (René Hermenau) took careful time and care to create something valuable to make life easier for a lot of folks. Plus, it’s great to support developers and did I mention his name is René? It’s like destiny, right?
I decided to invest in the pro version of the plugin. I started the copy from staging to live and waited. And waited. And waited. All the while whispering please let it work. Once it completed, I thought there’s no way this worked. But it did. IT DID!
I had to reactivate the caching plugin and clear the cache, but everything looked okay. (I was also able to remove the staging site with no issues. I’ll create a new one later if needed.)
There are lots of other ways to create a copy of your website for staging purposes. I encourage you to research and try them out and find something that works for you.