At some point, almost all blog owners want to perform some edits or plug-in changes to their blog. And you don’t want to do it to your live website and risk screwing everything up for the world to see.
There are multiple ways to take care of this, but one of them is SUPER fast and I freakin’ love it (and do it all the time). So, I’ll outline them below.
Setting Up A Private Theme Preview
Now, there are theme preview plug-ins available, such as Live Theme Preview and many others which do the same thing. Essentially, they allow you (as the admin of your own blog) to view your site using a different theme than everybody else does.
In order for that solution to do you any good, however, you would need to clone your theme before making an edits. This isn’t really very difficult. Do this:
- Log into your server via FTP.
- Navigate to /wp-content/themes/
- Find the folder associated with your active theme.
- Create a clone of it. Some FTP programs offer a “duplicate” function, while others will require you to manually create a new folder and then download/re-upload all the files into your copy folder.
- From there, you can work on your copy and preview it using a plug-in such as the one above.
Now, there’s only one problem with all this…
It only takes care of your theme. Which means, any plug-ins you want to try for your new setup will affect both the live theme and the one you’re working on.
So, we have a plan B.
Setting Up A Private Test Version Of Your Blog
Now, in this case, you’re literally creating an entire copy of your blog. You can then do anything you want to it and nobody will see it.
Only problem is… the way this is typically done is pretty complicated. So, be forewarned.
- Create a sub-domain of your main domain (or a completely different domain… up to you).
- Export your MySQL database of your blog to an SQL file. You can do this using PHPMyAdmin, which most web hosts have set up for you.
- Create a NEW database with a new MySQL user for it.
- Import your SQL file from step #2 into your new blank database, again using PHPMyAdmin.
- Navigate to your “wp_options” table and click the “Browse” option in PHPMyAdmin. You’ll be looking at the actual database rows. Find the two rows with option_name of “home” and “siteurl”. You will need to edit those two rows so that the value is your new domain.
- Using your FTP program, copy every single one of your blog’s files into the new sub-domain folder.
- Open up your new wp-config.php file and replace the DB_NAME, DB_USER, DB_PASSWORD fields to be that of your new database.
- Test the copy by going to your sub-domain in your web browser.
- For safe measure, log into your admin panel for WordPress, go to Settings-> Privacy and enable the option to block your site from being seen by search engines.
Not gonna lie, this process is a b**ch. I’ve done it many times.
This isn’t even the worse part. Once you’ve made changes to your testing copy of your blog and you want to sync it back to the live version, you have to do it all manually. You don’t have to deal with databases and all that, but you do have to manually keep track of any file changes you make (to the theme, for instance) so that you’ll know to manually upload that file to the live version of your site.
Any plug-in you’ve updated, any theme edit you make… you have to ensure you manually repeat that operation on the live site.
Bring on the geekery! But, there is another way…
The 5-Second Method
Now, I’ve been in this business for 16 years now. I’m good with the techie stuff by now. I’ve built and managed sites in all kinds of different ways now.
Over the course of 16 years, I’ve watched things get easier… and simpler. And, being that we’re using WordPress, it really gives us even more of an advantage.
The beauty of WordPress is that it is predictable. While the theme and plug-ins can vary, the underlying framework is the same. Which means people can specialize in it and tweak like hell for it.
And that’s the reason why I am today a proponent of WordPress hosting as opposed to standard hosting. The company I am now hosting with is WPEngine, and what I’m going to show you in the video below is one of the several reasons why…
So, there you have it.
I know that technical hurdles is one of (if not THE) largest constraint people deal with when it comes to getting started with their blogging. And, I can understand the desire not to hire people to take care of everything for you.
But, you don’t have to hire people all the time. Sometimes, the right tools can make all the difference. And, it just so happens that hosting is the most important tool of the trade.
WordPress hosting definitely has its perks. The guys I recommend are WPEngine.
I do see that Bluehost recently came out with WordPress hosting as well, but it is only $5 cheaper than WPEngine. And it, from the outside, doesn’t appear to offer the instant staging feature. Plus, it seems more to me like a glorified VPS option, which isn’t the same thing.