What is website staging? …and 4 reasons why do you need it

Website Staging is when you have a copy of your live website copied onto another location, usually a protected part of your web hosting. Essentially it gives you a safe place to test website changes before implementing them on your live website.

Ideal for business-critical WordPress websites, website staging gives you the freedom to make both big and small changes without affecting your core website. If your website is generating sales or leads, then clearly there’s a benefit to avoiding any negative impact on these functions.


How It Works

Despite Website Staging being a technical feature of web hosting (usually WordPress web hosting), it’s surprisingly simple in how it works. It’s usually a built-in feature of WordPress-based web hosting (platforms such as Kinsta, WP Engine, Flywheel, SiteGround all have it).

However, not all web hosting platforms have it.

It works by copying your files, database, and images onto a separate part of your web hosting server. Essentially everything to do with that website. You then get a temporary URL to access your website, where you can log in and make changes.


4 Reasons You Need Website Staging


1) You minimise downtime with your core website

If you’re driving paid ads (e.g. Facebook Ads, Google Adwords) to your website, you’re in the middle of a marketing campaign, or your website simply generates a lot of leads/sales, you’ll want to avoid the risk of ‘breaking’ your website.

Having a safe staging area to test changes saves you the headache and stress of affecting your lead generation and sales.

Trying to fix your website in a rush isn’t fun, and is very stressful. Speaking from experience!


2) Testing big changes to WordPress plugin updates

What's a significant version change?

In software terms, this is when there’s a change in the first version number. e.g. V6.1 to V7.0 would represent a significant software release. A change from V6.2 to V6.3 would be considered a minor release.

When WordPress plugins undergo significant version releases, there are often breaking-changes in those releases. This means that the new version has changed something significant and you might need to fix a part of your website as a result.

By testing plugin updates on a staging copy of your website, you can see if anything has changed. If something has changed, you’re not in any rush for your developer to sort out fixes for you.


3) Testing new WordPress plugins

If you want to test out new WordPress plugins on your website, but you’re unsure if they’re going to work, then test them on a staging website.

For example, plugins such as landing page builders (Elementor, Divi), or e-commerce tools (Woocommerce, Easy Digitial Downloads) can make large changes to how your website works.

New plugins can often mean there are conflicts and problems. This is why testing on a safe area such as a staging platform is going to help you (and save you headaches).


4) Making big design changes

When making big design changes (such as restructuring your homepage or key service pages), you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and headaches by testing out your new ideas on a copy of your website.

From experience with creating websites for clients, when a client begins writing content for their website, the design invariably needs tweaking to accommodate their copy. The content is usually different in length than expected, so the design needs some adjustments to ensure that the copy is easy to read.

You’ll give yourself more time and freedom to get things right by making those changes on a staging copy of your website.


What hosts do we recommend?

WP Engine
From £20 a month (annual plan)

An advanced platform for WordPress with staging as standard, daily and on-demand backups, and excellent support who'll look after you. Ideal for business-critical websites that need the peace of mind that they have top-quality hosting. Suited for non-technical business owners.

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From £4.99 (on 12 month special offer)

An excellent hosting company with superb caching, staging & security tools and helpful technical support if something goes wrong. Best suited when you have more than 1 website and/or if you're more of a technical business owner.

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Closing thoughts

Testing out big (or small) changes on a copy of your website using a staging website is both a big timesaver and stress reducer. If you’ve encountered problems with making changes to your website, I highly recommend moving your hosting to a platform that provides staging capability.