Regardless of your area of expertise, potential clients are finding (and judging) you based on your website. Since you’re here I’m guessing you’re either using WordPress or considering it for your photography website. One challenge that some have with WordPress is how to make changes to the site without fear of breaking the site.
It’s easy to update content (blog posts, photos, static pages) on a WordPress site without fear of breaking something… but when you’re talking about updating the theme or plugins, there’s always a bit of uncertainty wondering if a change will cause something to look horrible or (even worse) result in a catastrophic error.
Use a WordPress Staging Website to Test Changes
Smart web developers don’t try out new changes on a website that’s currently live to the world… they set up a test environment. They might have a separate WordPress install on their server or even on their development machine. Odds are that if you’re not a web developer, you don’t have this option available. If you’re the average photographer, the only WordPress site you have is your live, public website.
So how do you test changes without potentially crashing your site?
The answer is a staging site – a special copy of your WordPress website designed for testing.
Both companies in our recommended best WordPress web hosts offer staging sites. WP Engine includes it with every account; SiteGround offers it as part of their “Go Geek” plan. If you’re not on one of these hosts, check to see if your current web host supports a staging site (and if they don’t, this might be a reason to switch).
I’ve used WP Engine’s staging feature extensively for both my photography business website as well as another project. With a couple clicks, it creates a clone of your existing website. This staging site then contains all of your plugins, theme, blog posts, and pages. You can make changes to the staging site and view all the results on an actual website using your actual data.
If things work well, you can make those same changes on your main website and you’ll know that it’ll work. If you accidentally break your website, there’s no real harm since you can troubleshoot and fix the problem using the test site that’s only being seen by you.
Once you’re done making changes on your staging site, it’s just a couple of clicks to have those changes applied to your main public website that’s visible to the world.
How much more comfortable would you be making changes on your website if you could do it first in a testing situation?