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How to Create a Staging Site for WordPress

Written by Zach Wiesman on
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Don’t break your live website. Create a staging site for WordPress instead.

Mistakes happen. Sometimes plugins or themes just don’t work. You can try something out with a staging site without ruining your live site. Keep reading to learn what a staging site is, when to use one, and how to create a staging site with WordPress.

What is a WordPress Staging Site?

If you remember bubbling in your answers on standardized tests in school, then you know the importance of scratch paper. You could work out a solution on scratch paper before committing to an answer. A staging environment is like a scratch paper for your website.

A staging site is a copy of your website that you can use to test out changes without changing the live public-facing version of your site. Staging environments aren’t public, so only the people working on the site can see and use them.

When to Create a Staging Site

A staging site isn’t necessary if you just need to add a missing comma to a blog post. But a staging site can be a big help for more in-depth changes. Let’s look at some of the most common reasons people create a staging environment for their WordPress site.

Experimentation

Want to change the layout of your site or perhaps switch themes? Whatever design changes you’re thinking about, it’s better to make them on a staging site instead of your live site. Theme and design changes are a lot like shopping for clothes. The dressing room mirror often tells a different story no matter how great something looks on the rack. Think of your staging site as your website’s dressing room where you can test designs privately.

Site Development

When editing your site’s code or modifying essential functions, make the changes on a staging site first. You can then conduct quality assurance checks to ensure the changes work the way you want and don’t break anything.

Testing New Features or Plugins

If you’re adding a new feature or plugin, a staging site lets you try them out first. You can also use the staging site to fine-tune the settings and options for any new plugins and conduct quality control testing.

Major Content Changes or Redesigns

If you’re doing a complete site redesign or making significant content changes, a staging environment provides a place for you to work until the changes are ready. Instead of pulling an all-nighter trying to make all the changes at once, you can build out the new design. Then when it’s time to go live, you just publish the staging site over the live site.

Compatibility Testing

One of the best uses of a staging site for WordPress is to test out compatibility. You can use this test before upgrading to the next major release of WordPress or changing your PHP version.

For Pressable customers, we make it easy. When a new version of WordPress is coming out, we provide the option to change your staging environment to a beta version of the upcoming release. We also let you change the PHP version. You can make sure the site can handle the upgrades before switching.

Site information display box showing for compatibility testing before switching to new WordPress version

How to Create a Staging Site for WordPress

Options for creating a staging site include using your hosting provider, plug-ins, developer tools, or manually creating one.

Manually creating a staging site involves downloading a full copy of your site, so you can install it on a different WordPress instance. This manual approach is incredibly time-consuming and offers few benefits.

Plugins and advanced developer tools are easier but probably unnecessary for most websites. If you need multiple development branches and the ability to merge code from different developers, you might want to explore those release management tools.

For most websites, it will be easiest to use your host for staging sites if you have a quality managed WordPress hosting service. Here’s how easy it is to create a staging site with Pressable:

1. Log in to your Pressable dashboard and click on the site you want to use to create a staging environment.

Pressable site dashboard for creation a staging environment

2. From the site’s settings panel, click the Actions drop-down on the right side of the screen. Select the option to clone the site.

Pressable site dashboard overview mouse cursor on the Actions drop-down on the right side of the screen

3. In the pop-up window, give the staging site a name and toggle on the option to clone as a staging site. When this option is selected, the site won’t count against the site count for your Pressable plan. You can create as many staging sites as you need.

Clone pop-up window ready for staging site

Once you’ve made the changes to your site and are ready to publish them, you’ll replace the live site with the staging one. On Pressable, this works differently than a development tool where you’d push changes from a staging site into production. Check out this support article for step-by-step instructions on converting a staging site into a live site.

Easily Manage WordPress with Pressable

Pressable makes managing your WordPress website easy. You can create as many staging sites as you need from our dashboard. Checking compatibility with different PHP or WordPress core versions is a couple of clicks away. Just clone a site and use the drop-down to change the versions. If you get stuck, don’t worry. Our team of WordPress experts is on hand 24/7 to help you troubleshoot any issues. Pick your plan and get started today.

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Zach Wiesman

Zach has 12+ years of experience with WordPress, from creating and maintaining client sites, to providing support and developing documentation. A knack for problem-solving and providing solutions led Zach to pursue a job with Automattic providing customer support in 2015 working with WooCommerce support, and now Zach has recently joined our team here at Pressable. Outside of work, Zach enjoys spending time with his family, playing and watching sports, and working on projects around the house.