If you’ve worked with a web development company before, you’ve likely experienced working with a “local” or “staging” environment first.
What is a Staging Website?
A local or staging website is basically your website setup in an environment that is not live to the public internet. It’s typically where developers work when they’re making bigger changes, and you, the client, can access and interact with the website as if it were live. Others may find this website, too, but only if given the link to do so.
Setting up a local or staging environment for your WordPress site is an essential step in the development process to ensure a bug-free website. Whether you’re creating a brand-new website or making changes to an existing website, using a local or staging environment can help you speed up the development process.
Why Setup a Staging Environment for your Website
Some people may think that this will take more time than just making changes to your live site. Initially, it may be a bit time consuming, but you will thank me in the end.
Developing locally or on a staging site gives you the freedom to experiment without the repercussions. If you have a lot of traffic to your site, you may not want to experiment with changes on your live site. You may make a wrong change that can snowball and possibly take your site down. Developing locally gives you the freedom to make mistakes and errors till you finally get it right.
Plugins & Staging Environments
When choosing plugins, it is also wise to test them out on a local or staging environment if you have not used the plugin before. Some plugins do not work with certain hosting partners, so it is important to check any documentation before you implement them live. Using a local environment also allows you to properly learn how to use the plugin and see how the plugin reacts with your site and other plugins.
Local Development & Security
Developing locally is also much more secure. Since all your files are on your computer, you will not have to worry about security at this point. This is not as true with a staging environment since staging environments still run on a server.
ADA Website Compliance
You can also work on ADA compliance and cross browser testing while working in a local and staging environment. ADA compliance has become a must to adhere to while developing a website. Websites should be accessible to all and ensuring your website is compliant before you push it live is important.
Responsive Website Development
Since visitors to your site may use different operating systems or mobile devices, you should ensure that your website is fully functional across all browsers and screen sizes. While your site may work fine in Google Chrome, it may not function 100% in Safari or Edge. You also want to make sure your site is responsive and works on mobile devices.
When Not to Use a Staging Environment
It’s generally best practice to use a staging environment on a live website when you are making large changes to a template. One of the downsides of using a staging environment to make minor edits is that you will need to duplicate the live site, make the changes on staging, and then push those changes to the live site.
If someone is actively managing the live website during this time, pushing the changes from staging over to live will erase all those changes and they will need to be done again. Your web developer can guide you further on best practices for using staging environments and best practices around that.