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Staging Use Cases

When should you be working on a Staging environment, as opposed to your live website?

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Adding a new plugin that affects the front end of your website

Adding a new plugin to your website can change the way things work on the front of your website. This means it can break functionality or mess up your website’s design.

As such, adding a new plugin to your website should always be done first through a Staging environment and then migrated to your live environment once it’s been tested.

For example, if you want to add a custom menu to your website that requires a plugin like Mega Menu, to do this you will have to replace your live existing menu and configure the Mega Menu in front of all your live website visitors.

This process could take days, during which your website is in a permanent state of maintenance, possibly even a broken state where your navigation doesn’t work properly.

Building a popup

Popups are a useful way of generating leads, increasing basket value or getting your users to take an action.

Building a popup requires front end testing, you need to actually see the popup appear on your website then tweak and refine it until complete.

This is something that could be disruptive for live visitors and customers and end up costing you leads and sales.

Altering the functionality of an plugin

Say for example that you want to alter what your PDF invoices display to your customers by removing the product variant from the invoice.

This would require PHP code to edit the functionality of your PDF invoice plugin.

PHP code should always be tested on a Staging environment, as small errors can potentially render your entire site useless, or present themselves in unexpected ways.

Altering dynamic page templates

Dynamic content in WordPress is handed by page templates, which are built in PHP. For example, your WooCommerce Single Product Template.

WooCommerce compatible themes and certain page builders provide you with a level of customisation over this template, but beyond this, you will require PHP to make your customisations.

Editing your Single Product PHP template will require testing that could potentially break your store and often requires debugging, so this should be done a Staging environment and only pushed live once it has been properly tested and test payments have been processed.

Setting up live chat

Live chat is a useful way of providing customer support, or generating leads from your website.

Setting up live chat requires adding a new plugin that affects the front end and configuring it. Live chat boxes generally display in a set position on the bottom or side of the screen.

This can sometimes conflict with your Theme styles or block important parts of your website from being viewed. It can also provide a negative experience for visitors on mobile devices.

Caching and page speed optimisation

A slow website can be bad for business. Page speed affects bounce rate, which is how many people leave your website after visiting just one page. If your site is very slow, your bounce rate could be high and you could lose visitors at different stages of your website journey also.

Caching, which is a form of speed optimisation, can seriously break your site if not done correctly. Things like combining and minifying CSS and Javascript files can render your website a jumbled mess or just a blank white screen.

When experimenting with caching and speed optimisation, always use a Staging environment and test your changes. Once satisfied, remove password protect temporarily to run your Staging site through page speed tests, before re-enabling it and pushing your optimised site live.

Website refresh

If you are refreshing your website with a new design, this should certainly be done on a Staging copy so that you don’t have to break your live site and so that it can be pushed live easily without a manual migration which could result in lost data.

Refreshing a website on WordPress will require a new Theme which contains new styles and customisations. Global styles will need to be created, edited or applied and all your styles gained from your old theme will cease to work.

The start of the process your website will lose most of its styling and look very basic, throughout pieces of style will be added, changed and tweak, all very unprofessional and not appropriate to be carried out on the live site.

Plugin updates

Updating plugins can easily break parts of your website. The impact can vary greatly from small visual errors, like content breaking out of boxes, to large errors making functionality unavailable.

If you have a WooCommerce website, updating WooCommerce and core plugins that affect its functionality should be done with caution.

There are a lot of moving pieces with WooCommerce, including third party payment providers. These updates should be done on Staging and only pushed to live once test payments have been processed successfully. 

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