When to Use a Staging Website

We’ve all been there: The “Oh no!” that follows hitting publish too soon.

As your business grows and adapts, so will your online presence. Developing a new website, or modifying your current one with feature upgrades, is important to ensure visitors have a positive experience with your brand. It can also be risky. When you make changes to your site, there’s always a chance something breaks, slows down, or doesn’t work as you imagined. And a crashed or hard-to-navigate website can send customers somewhere else. That’s why when you hire a website developer, most won’t operate without a staging website. Today we’ll learn how to avoid “Oh no” moments by understanding:

  1. What is a staging website?
  2. When to use a staging website.
  3. Who needs a staging site?

What is a staging website?

A staging website—also known as a sandbox or testing site—is a safe, private place to play before anything goes live to the public. A staging site is an exact copy of your existing website (or your brand new site) intended just for you and your team. It allows you and your developer to test new features behind the scenes without the risk of affecting your live site.

When to use a staging website

Minor image changes or tweaks to copy likely won’t require a staging site. If you make a complete website overhaul, introduce feature upgrades, or launch a brand new site, a staging site is crucial to avoid public technical problems. If you’re ready to make any of the three following major changes to your website, you should use a staging website:

Changes to multiple pages or site structure

Let’s say you want to rearrange your site’s navigation or make major content changes across multiple pages on your website. A staging site allows you to make all updates across your site “offline.” When you’re ready to roll out what’s new, all changes can go live at once. Visitors never have to experience a broken site due to changes in its code.

Feature upgrade changes and testing

Feature upgrades let your users accomplish new tasks on your site, and optimize visitor experience by presenting your message in new and compelling ways. These might include a new image slider, a product configurator, or even an entirely new content section. You’ll want to review these upgrades and test their functionality across multiple devices and browsers before they are deployed. A staging site is a secure place for you to play with features without risk—and that’s why it’s also called a sandbox.

Updates to WordPress, themes, plugins, or server software

Changes to your website’s theme, plugins, or server software mean code changes. And where there is a code change, there is an opportunity for bugs, errors, and other unforeseen problems. A staging website allows you to experience your site as your visitors will—and give you the opportunity to fix what needs fixing before they do.

Who needs a staging site?

In short, most folks would benefit from a staging site! Even small changes can involve big risks. Your website is not only the first impression, it’s your storefront—a familiar place customers go for reliable service. Technical problems can affect your business’s reputation. Some managed WordPress hosts, like Flywheel or WP Engine, include staging websites in their plans. A website partner can help you choose the options that fit your business, your website, and your changes best.

Did we say website partner? We sure did. We can help turn “Oh no!” into “Aww yeaaaa!”

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