Let’s talk websites… they’re important for any business today including photographers. Regardless of your area of expertise, potential clients are finding (and judging) you based on your website. Many photographers, including myself, are using WordPress-based websites and for good reason. WordPress is flexible such that it can meet almost any photographer’s need. It’s widely-used so that if you need to find out how to do something (or run into a problem), the answer is probably already easily found on the web. But one challenge that some have with WordPress (especially when using a super-cheap web host) 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 Staging WordPress 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?
I’ve written previously about using WP Engine for managed WordPress web hosting for Splat Photo. One feature I didn’t mention solves this problem: WP Engine allows you to easily create and update a second (staging) WordPress site. 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.
After being a happy WP Engine customer for a few months, I became an affiliate. You can support Splat Photo by checking out WP Engine using this link.