Are you scared of trying something new with your website? Your fear is quite normal because if you update your website without staging, your entire website may collapse. Remember this if you are running an eCommerce website! So staging your website is an important process before you make any changes to your website.
Maybe you add a plugin, change some codes or designs, or change a theme. So it’s better to have a staging site ready for safety as your website can crash anytime, and the staging site will help you recover the website.
You know that staging and undoing changes to the staging site can be done in simple steps. There are many ways to do this, which we will discuss in further sections.
What is a staging site?
A staging site is the creation of a copy of your website at a separate URL. This can be used to test your site or check the updates made without affecting the process on the live site.
This way of testing your website is recommended for everyone. Since small wrong changes on your live website can bring down your entire website, staging your website is always recommended. Namely, the staging site can be used to test new plugins, test the changes made, etc. without affecting the live website.
Following are the main points you should consider before staging a website.
- Disconnect all connections to the public, because the staging website acts as a mirror of the live website. Hence, the customers might get confused.
- Use a different domain name for the staging site, as this makes it easier to distinguish the staging site from the live site. It also reduces confusion when locating the staging site.
- Decide on the applications or software needed for the staging site, because sometimes you may miss some features when staging your live site.
Do I need a WooCommerce staging site?
Yes, a staging site is highly recommended for the WooCommerce website because it contains a lot of sensitive information and many orders and transaction histories.
Moreover, a staging site offers two main advantages. They are as follows.
- The changes made to the staging website are not visible to the public.
- Also, the changes made do not affect the live website.
Below, you will learn how to set up a staging site for your website before learning about the requirements for the staging process.
Prerequisites for setting up staging site
Before you start staging the website, you should check the prerequisites. If you fail to meet any of the prerequisites, it can lead to serious problems.
- Check if your URL is connected to the hosting provider via the DNS record. This is because some hosting providers want you to buy the URL for staging purposes if your live URL is not connected to the hosting provider.
- Make sure that the web hosting supports WooCommerce requirements. If it does not, you will not be able to create the staging site successfully.
- Make sure that everything is secured via the SFTP protocol. WooCommerce contains a lot of sensitive information like payments, customer details, card details, etc. Therefore, everything should be protected using the SFTP protocol to avoid data loss.
Recommended best practices for staging sites
So far, you have learned what staging is about and different ways to stage your website. But before the staging process, you should know the best practices for staging. Below are the key points you should consider before staging.
Create a full backup
A full backup involves creating a copy of your website, which should include all files, images, videos, databases, etc. The backup can be stored anywhere, such as in the cloud or on a local device, but it should be used on a live website in case of data loss.
The backup process should be initiated just prior to the staging process because if the backup is done at an earlier time, the information started after the backup will not be backed up. This may result in the loss of some required information added to the database after the backup.
Keep the database in a safe place
You should keep the core database in a safe place, such as a trusted cloud or on your local system. It should not be confused with your old database and the current database, as this could destroy your entire website.
So, everything should be stored in a safe place with proper identification of the files. The best way is to use the date of the backup as identification. Using the date, other employees can identify the latest backup in the database.
Avoid public access to the storage location
The staging site should not be identifiable through a search engine. It should be protected as it is for testing purposes only. So, the staging website should be under your control only and should not be indexed and tracked. Also, the staging website should be protected by a strong password.
The cache is useful when you use a certain website for a long period of time, but it interferes when you load your updated website and the changes made to your website will not be displayed. Therefore, clearing the cache is an essential part of updating or staging your website.
What changes are possible with a staging site?
I recommend staging a website only for major changes and not for minor changes like updating product prices, etc. because it is not worth creating a staging site. A staging site is recommended for the following reasons:
- Adding or removing a plugin on the live site. The small changes to the plugin can affect the overall functionality of the WooCommerce site.
- Adding new important functionalities compared to the existing functionalities. So, staging is the right choice to test the changes to WooCommerce functionalities.
- If you have decided to completely redesign your website. So, redesigning a live site is not the right choice as it might confuse your visitors. Therefore, staging is the only way to keep your existing processes and change your staging site.
- Even when you change your payment gateways. Neglecting this can cause financial problems to you.
Creating a staging site for a WooCommerce website
There are many ways to stage your WooCommerce website, but the method should be simple and effective. Therefore, I recommend two ways for staging a WooCommerce website.
- Create a staging site with your hosting provider BlueHost.
- Create a test site with the WordPress plugins.
Create a staging site at Bluehost
The hosting provider Bluehost is one of the most well-known hosting providers for major WooCommerce websites. So I would like to create a new staging site with Bluehost.
Bluehost offers a one-click staging site solution that is included in all packages. With a few simple steps you can create a staging site.
Log in to your WordPress admin page, go to “Bluehost” and select the “Staging” option on the left side of your Bluehost dashboard.
A new wizard will be generated, and click the “Create Staging Site” button on the screen.
Once you click on it, Bluehost will start preparing the staging website. Once the process is complete, BlueHost displays the success message along with the URL and directory of the staging website.
You can use the staging site to make changes to your website. After you have made the changes, you must deploy them to your live site. Follow the steps below to deploy the changes to your live site using BlueHost.
Deploying changes from staging to live site on Bluehost
Now select the “Staging” option on the Bluehost dashboard, it takes you to the deployment page.
You have three different options to push your changes to the live site. You can select any option from the list and choose “Yes, Deploy” to start the deployment process.
That’s it for creating a staging site and the deployment process. It’s true! you only need two steps to meet all your requirements. So, I recommend you to choose Bluehost hosting provider if you already have an account, otherwise you can choose another hosting provider.
Advantages of using single-click staging
Using single-click staging has many advantages that I would like to tell you about. They are as follows
- The entire process of staging is done over a secure connection. You can see the secured connection via the URL “https://”.
- The one-click process is added to your hosting package by default and does not incur any additional costs. Some hosting providers may charge for the staging process, but default hosting providers may offer the staging service for free.
- You will get a separate URL for the staging process, which means you do not have to worry about purchasing separate URLs for staging purposes. In a manual process, you have to search for separate URLs manually, which can be stressful.
- The search engine will not find this staging website and it helps to avoid unwanted confusion among the visitors and the search engine.
Create a staging site using the WordPress plugin
Using the WordPress plugin is my choice because you do not have to switch between screens. Here I recommend the plugin called “WP Staging“. Just search for the plugin from the “Add New” plugin dashboard. Once you activate the plugin, it’s ready for the staging process.
Step 1: The “WP Staging” plugin will first ask you for the license key for the Pro version. If you do not have it, you can use the free version.
Step 2: The first screen has two tabs “Staging” and “Backup & Migration“, from which you will select the “Staging” tab that we need to perform. The staging process consists of three steps: Overview, Scanning and Cloning.
The overview screen insists that you create a new staging site. If you already have staging sites, they will be listed on the overview screen.
Step 3: The next step for staging is scanning. In this process, you need to specify the name of the staging site. Also, you can select the database or files to be included in the staging process.
After you have selected all the files and database tables to be cloned. Click the “Start Cloning” button.
Step 4: Now the cloning process will be started. All the details about the files that will be cloned will be displayed.
Step 5: Finally, it shows the completion status of the cloning along with the URL created for the staging site.
Step 6: You can make any changes in the staging site using the button “Actions”.
Step 7: So, if you need to visit your staging site then you can visit using the URL generated after cloning. But, you need login details to access the staging site.
Step 8: You can access your staging after the successful login.
So, that’s all about the staging process using the WordPress plugin.
I hope this article was a good solution to staging a website. Just staging and making changes to the staging site alone is not the right choice. Before deploying the staging site to the live site, you should test it well in two ways: in the frontend and in the WordPress dashboard. In the front end, you need to test whether the site is displayed as expected or not. Check if all the links and interactive elements are working and if all the functionality of the shopping cart and checkout pages are working as per your requirements.
If you are thinking of a WordPress dashboard, the staging site should support editing posts, pages, etc. Check if the dashboard loads the pages correctly and finally check if the plugin and theme pages work correctly.
Overall, staging is an important process for a WooComerce website when you want to make changes. So, staging helps avoid downtime of your website and ensures consistency of your WooCommerce store.
We WPBlogX are ready to help you in setting up staging websites as well as provide WP support and maintenance required for your website.