Would you undergo painful surgery without anaesthesia? Of course not. And that’s why your business website should have the equivalent of a painkiller: a staging capability. I’ll explain.
Why do we avail ourselves of painkillers? For most people, the answer is simple: To avoid the pain that is really happening. But I’ve got a better reason: So the doctor can do her job, and do it well.
The Dentist and the Painkiller
Once, I told my dentist that I used to have a work colleague who, when he needed a cavity filled, refused the use of Novocain. The dentist winced.
The reason? She said she once had a patient with a cavity who didn’t want the painkiller. The result of his Novocain-free procedure was that he kept flinching while the dentist did her work, making it difficult for her to accomplish her job. Never again would she agree to that scenario. The painkiller helps her, and it helps the patient.
When your site needs surgery, you not only want to avoid pain, but you also want your web developer to accomplish the task you’re paying for.
The same is true of your website: When your site inevitably needs some surgery, you not only want to avoid pain, but you also want your web developer to accomplish the task you’re paying for. The painkiller you need when your site requires surgery is called a staging site.
What Is a Staging Site?
A staging site is simply a copy of your current live website. While a staging site is technically “live” on the web, it is hidden from public view and is housed on a temporary domain – something like staging11.yourdomain.com. You and your web developer are the only ones who will ever see it.
The beauty of the staging site is that you can test all sorts of new features and web designs on the website copy. Once you’re pleased with the results, the entire staging site then replaces your current site in one fell swoop. Voila – your site has exited surgery and is now live for all your customers and clients to use.
A challenge for most small businesses is that they have web hosting accounts that do not offer staging. That’s one of the frustrations of these web hosting companies that offer dirt-cheap hosting solutions: you get what you (don’t) pay for. Get a hosting plan with staging capability, and it’ll put a smile on your – and your web designer’s – face.
Situations That Require Staging
Most people and businesses start with simple websites. This is normal and understandable.
However, as businesses’ use of the web grows in sophistication and people want more out of their website, the need for more features grows. What are some of the scenarios which would normally call for a staging site?
A Design Upgrade
Every person and business needs a design refresh from time to time. We refresh our wardrobe, we buy a new car. If you are going through a rebrand of your brand identity, testing colors and styles while the site is live will be a strange experience for your site’s visitors.
Do you want to add social media buttons to your site? Are you considering adding a blog, and want to launch the blog with a lot of content at once? Are you ready to expand your email marketing by adding email signup forms to your site?
As your website grows in sophistication with new features, it’s best to test and build these features on a staging copy. When the features have been tested, then it’s time to launch the staging site into prime time.
A vast number of websites are built using WordPress, a free and open-source content management system (CMS). This CMS allows people to easily update a website’s content and publish blog posts, for example.
However, every additional feature that is added to such a site is simply an additional bit of code. And as code is added, code can conflict or become out of date with the base software.
As new features are naturally added to a site, there are often unforeseen complications, and those complications should be tested on a staging site, not on the live site. Bugs and conflicts can happen with all kinds of features, such as ecommerce functionality (your site’s store), metadata (the information that Google or Facebook or LinkedIn uses to display your website’s pages to their users), image sliders, multi-author bylines, or outdated theme files (your site’s design template).
Web hosting packages with daily backups and staging capabilities are not expensive – you can find hosting packages by searching for “WordPress managed hosting.”And believe me – they are worth it. Just ask my dentist.