If you’re here just to find out what a staging site is, the short answer is:
A staging site is a publicly inaccessible replica of a live site that’s used as a testing environment for website updates. Any updates made to a staging site do not effect a live site.
Yeah – pretty straightforward.
But what’s more important is understanding why a staging site is needed…
Updates should be fully tested
As much as we’d like to think otherwise, website updates don’t always go to plan. So, full testing should be done on a staging site before implementing on a live site. This is true of all updates, from security updates to new functionality updates – even to some content uploads!
Ultimately, any type of update can affect the workings of a site, sometimes in unpredictable ways. But what’s most important is preventing the customers’ user experience from suffering these affects. We do this by ensuring updates are fully tested on staging before pushing live.
Third party extensions/plugins aren’t always straight forward
Similar to website updates, extension and plugin updates can throw a digital spanner in the works. While you can research and plan for the installation or update, you can never be completely sure what and how elements of your site are going to be affected by it.
Installing/updating plugins have the potential to essentially ‘break’ a site due to conflicts between code, incompatibility issues or undetected bugs. These issues (particularly regarding ecommerce sites) could be catastrophic to a user’s experience and security if they occur on a live site – so it’s crucial these problems are picked up on staging before pushing live.
New website features are generally agreed amongst a group of people – from developers to website managers. So, instead of going back and forth with ideas and amends on a live site that users can see, a staging site should be used to develop a concept.
This isn’t only true of new functionalities but even design revisions, such as a page layout amends. Exposing a user to a ‘work in progress’ of any kind provides a poor user experience. It can also portray an unprofessional image of the brand. Therefore, any new type of website feature should be developed and signed off on a staging site before pushing live when the work is complete!
Content management systems need some getting used to
WordPress, Magento and our own Clear CMS are all designed to be intuitive and user friendly. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a learning curve to managing all your content, product portfolios, assets and resources. We’ve all uploaded something to the wrong place!
How can you make sure you’re placing content in the right areas of a CMS without affecting your website’s users? Why, with a staging site of course! Because anything done on a staging site isn’t seen by website users, they’re a great environment for familiarising yourself with the CMS. They’re also a great way of onboarding new team members.
As with most things, staging sites do carry a slight ‘downside’. Website updates take a little longer to do due to the more extensive testing they allow for. Also, it takes time to push the updates from staging onto the live site. Another minor downside is that content updates can’t really be pushed from staging to live – they’re great for testing a new image, but you’ll still have to upload the image on the live site yourself.
But in our opinion, these downsides are a small price to pay to ensure your users are getting the best user experience and security when visiting a site!
Want to know more? Get in touch :)