Easily a top-ten mistake I see beginner WordPress users making is updating plugins, themes, and other code on the live site. Updating your code on the live site, without checking to see if it’s going to break stuff, is what developers call “Cowboy Coding,” and it’s an epidemic among beginners.
If you update it on the live site, and it breaks things, what are you going to do?
I’ll answer that: you’re going to have a broken website, and a painful day of getting things back like they were.
“But wait,” you say! “How can we update the plugin on a live site without clicking ‘update’?!?!”
Allow me to introduce you to the concept of staging sites.
A staging site gives you a duplicate site, often on a different server, for testing purposes. You create the staging site, make any changes and updates you want, ensure that those changes and updates don’t break the site, and then migrate the changes to your live site.
Up until a few weeks ago, any time I wanted to create a staging site, I did it manually. Most of the time I created the staging “server” on my local machine using a virtualization program to simulate a server here. I personally use VVV (Varying Vagrant Vagrants) and the VV extension by @bradparbs for creating staging sites. (sidenote, developers are bad at naming things. Hashtag VVVVV) I’ve also, for some more complex client needs, spun up separate DigitalOcean droplets as staging servers. Because they are paying me enough, it was worth spending the 45 minutes getting the staging server set up exactly with the same configurations as their live site.
For someone not comfortable with the command line, or without some server savvy, manually creating staging sites is not practical.
Looking to take the stress out of WordPress updates? Try @WPStagecoach and relax! Click To TweetI’m not exaggerating when I say that on a recent Monday morning I used WP Stagecoach to update 5 different client staging sites in less than 30 minutes. I had a couple of minor issues with one of them that took an extra 10 minutes to sort out, or I’d have been able to do it in 20 minutes on all 5 sites. That’s including updating plugins and themes on the staging site and pushing them back to the live site.
Full disclosure: I not only like them as a company because of their product, I like them as people. Jonathan Kay, the founder of WP Stagecoach, came and spoke at WordCamp Raleigh 2015 (where I am an organizer), and ended up staying at my house!
As an aside: if your open source software hasn’t led to strangers staying in your house, maybe it’s time to switch to WordPress.
In addition to being the type of guy you let sleep in your guest bed, Jonathan is a top-tier sysadmin and developer.
So, if you are looking for a way to level up your WordPress site, and take the anxiety out of plugin updates, theme updates, or redesigns, take a look at WP Stagecoach.
Also, you’re darn right those are affiliate links. I love making money off of awesome products, and if you use one of the links above, I get a small percentage of the sale as a commission. And you get the freedom to update your site without fear.