Benefits of a WordPress Test Site

Benefits of a WordPress Test Site on
Scenario: you pay someone good money to put up your site. Then you realize you want to make changes. You have been told by your friends: WordPress is easy! Do it yourself. So you decide to go change all kinds of details on your site. What transpires is your site is a royal mess. You go back and ask the person who did (or maybe you don’t) – the developer/designer gives you a high ticket price just to change it back.

I have seen this scenario happen with at least two sites. The business owner is determined to make changes without paying for anyone with experience in WordPress development. What he/she ends up with is a mess.

I encourage people to learn on their own. In fact, WordPress *is* easy, if you learn it in steps. Don’t do all of differential calculus on day one – start with some arithmetic and use an eraser and scrap paper. So what is a good way to achieve this?

Build a WordPress Test Site

When you are in the process of hiring someone, ask them if they know how to build a test or staging site for your WordPress website. If they can add this to the development of your site, that is a special and (if your site is the least bit complicated) necessary bonus.

If you want to build the test site yourself, there are three methods I can suggest:
1) Build the test site on your own desktop or laptop. For Windows, you can use WAMP. For Macintosh, MAMP is available. Both have a bit of a learning curve. I suggest Googling for tutorials to learn how to do a locally-based WordPress site. If you like learning new things, this is well-worth your time.

2) You can usually build a test site in a sub-directory of your live site. So if your site is at, you can build the test site at, for example. You will need to know how to use FTP, and the details may be a bit tricky (mostly, it easy to confuse your test site with your real site – proceed with caution). But the process is similar to setting up WordPress in general.

3) You can buy hosting that includes a staging environment. For example, SiteGround offers this on some of their plans.

A WordPress Test Site Can Be a Great Way to Learn

If you have ever wanted to learn more about how to tweak WordPress, such as building a child theme or writing your own plugin, a WordPress test site can be a valuable tool. I would do this first on a local test site (the one that you build on your own computer). This is a much better method than how the business owners I described at the beginning of this post went about messing up their perfectly good websites!

A WordPress Test Site Can Help with Major Changes

As you can read in the post Updating WordPress – Carefully, a WordPress test site is a good method of cautiously updating your site when a new WordPress release is available. The test site can also be used for plugin and theme updates, too. If something goes wrong on your test site, you can investigate without any of your clients knowing there is any issue at all.

When a WordPress Test Site May Not Be Needed (as much)

If you have a site that has only posts and pages (no custom content type), theme is basic (a standard default or bought theme), and plugins are only the most popular ones, don’t worry too much about a test site. Most blogs fall into this category. If you want to be extra cautious, sure, set up that WordPress test site anyway. But I don’t want everyone to think they *must* set up that test site today.

Your Turn, Please

Do you have a test site? Have you ever used it? Have you ever wishes you had one? If you could experiment with WordPress, what would you try?

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34 thoughts on “Benefits of a WordPress Test Site

  1. Yes, it’s easy if only used for posts and pages, and you leave the theme as is. Once you start using it in a more sophisticated way (examples: events of different types shown on different pages in different ways and different sizes, products that show one way on a large screen, scatter differently on a desktop, fewer and in a different way on mobile – just to give a few examples – then you start to get a little more complicated).
    Leora Wenger recently posted…Identifying a Painting with Google’s Search by ImageMy Profile

  2. Leora- I could agree with you more the importance of a test site. The only thing that is important is to make sure that it is not indexed by Google. Even though you can preview what you have done in wordpress it looks very different when published. I also think it works if you add different pluggins to make sure it doesn’t conflict with the main site.
    Arleen recently posted…An Emerging Target Market: The Pet Industry!My Profile

  3. This is a great post. I ended up having to fire my web designer earlier this year after a string of mistakes and then he refused to help me once I realized that my site wasn’t mobile friendly. So, knowing almost nothing about WordPress, I was on my own to make changes and improvements to my site. Right now I’m just sticking with popular plugins and I did a quick fix by installing a plugin to make my site mobile friendly. I will be doing a bigger update to my site in the somewhat near future and I will be finding a new web designer for that. And I will take your advice and have them make me a test site so I can safely make changes without the fear of blowing up my site.
    Erica recently posted…5 Ways To Get Past Your Weight Loss ExcuseMy Profile

  4. I do not have my own domain but a site. I moved over from which I found to be disappointing – the site crashed on a regular basis.

    If I were to create my own site, I would take my time to set it up correctly. There is nothing worse than a site that has been done half heartedly. Readers will notice.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Contentment – do you have it?My Profile

  5. Leora, one of the really important points I picked up from this was Google the tutorials. I have been wanting to learn more about WP websites and I follow Greg Narayan who provides WP tutorials and I’m taking a Udemy course on building a WP website. Maybe one of those will show me how to build the Test site – I’m not sure I need it at this point but it would be good to know. Thanks for the info.
    Lenie recently posted…Cooking Tips for Reluctant CooksMy Profile

    1. Lenie, that is so great that you are learning WordPress. To learn about how to build a test site, I recommend Googling “MAMP WordPress” or “WAMP WordPress” – that way, you can learn on your own PC. It may take a little while to get used to setting it up, but once set it up, it is well worth it.
      Leora Wenger recently posted…Updating WordPress – CarefullyMy Profile

  6. Thanks for sharing some excellent and extremely sound advice Leora!

    And I’m sure there are a ton of small business owners with WordPress websites,
    that definitely wish they had known about your advice ahead of time!

    There’s almost something irresistible about thinking you can venture into
    the techie side of WordPress in order to save a dollars here and there.

    Only to come to realize, you haven’t actually saved any money at all. Instead, you’ve just turned a minor concern into a potentially really big headache.

    Hopefully your excellent and extremely sound advice will spare some newbies the pain of making this all too common mistake!Thanks!

  7. There is no better way of making sure you don’t mess things up than using a sandbox; in this case a test server. I have used many over the years and they can save you money but more importantly time, and lots of it.
    Tim recently posted…Adventure BotswanaMy Profile

    1. Ken, I didn’t give a lot of detail on how to do the test site in this post, but in part, that’s because it depends on your needs and your own setup. Also, the software changes – I installed WAMP a few years ago, and I updated it recently. It changed a lot! I hope I can help you Google for more specific tutorials if/when you need them.
      Leora Wenger recently posted…Boring Backups: Backup WordPress or ElseMy Profile

  8. Leora I personally sub this out, creating a test site when I am updating the theme. Plus my webmaster likes it when I just do minimal updates to plug-ins. One year I thought I was doing her a favor and updated about 5 or so when logging in and seeing updates needed. It turns out there was one plug-in requiring the next update of WordPress and so, you can imagine this caused problems. I know she always does a test site for times we change the look/see of things. And your advice is spot on!
    Patricia Weber recently posted…Staying focused, brain on technology, smell the roses, introvert in graphs #Blog Round-up from #introvert inspirerMy Profile

  9. Hi Leora

    I can’t say enough abouts the benefits of the WordPress test site. I didn’t build it myself, my web guy did it as part of the launch of my new web design. It was SO nice to have it, to be able to play around and test everything was very necessary in getting my site just the way i wanted it. 🙂

  10. If I ever get around to launching an official author site or possibly a travel site, I am definitely going to tinker around with a test site before going live. Even though I’ve learned a lot over the years about WordPress, I would feel much for comfortable getting as much right as possible before unleashing a new site to the world.
    Jeri recently posted…#Editor: Freelance Editing Contract TemplateMy Profile

  11. Hello Leora,

    I agree with you that we must need to have a wordpress test site, if we want to learn because we can learn many things testing out on test site. Also, before using anything on our main site, it is good to have a test drive of that on test site to be sure that the thing is good to use.

    I have a test site for me where I test various plugins before I put on to my main sites.

    Nice post indeed.

    Advance wishes for the New Year.
    Atish Ranjan recently posted…Create Fake Facebook Chat to Fool Your Friends!My Profile

  12. Interesting . . . I was going to say that I haven’t used a test-site, but then I realize that I have . . . more than once I’ve tried something one on a spare site that I’m not using, before moving it somewhere important, so I guess I AM using test-sites !

    One comment on getting changes made with WordPress, while going back to the original creator might sometimes makes sense, it is often possible to get someone else to make changes, especially if you insisted on well-commented Code in the first place (which I highly-recommend, for this exact reason).

    When outsourcing WordPress changes, the first time I did it I went for the cheapest worker, and had to write 42 messages just to get him to do what I’d already explained in full in the original job description. Next time I paid fractionally more and got the job done right the first time!

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