Developers are required to run a variety of tests to ensure quality control before a new feature is released. Pushing new features on a live WordPress website without proper testing is generally not a wise idea, as you can’t predict how they’ll affect the whole site.
There’s always a risk of things breaking behind the scenes, causing you to take down the whole site to figure out what went wrong. To prevent this from happening, development teams often use a staging environment to test new updates and features before they’re made public.
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What is a WordPress Staging Environment?
A staging environment is a sandbox testing environment that allows developers to simulate conditions as close to a production environment as possible. In conventional deployment models, the staging environment is often the last step before WordPress websites are launched or software (such as plugins) is released.
Using a staging environment allows companies to test everything before it’s deployed. This helps developers identify bugs or issues that may have fallen through the cracks.
Agencies primarily use WordPress staging environments as a final presentation for clients, showing them their site and conducting final tests before seeking approval. Once approved, they then prepare to take the website live.
Think of it as a rehearsal on an actual stage, with just your client in the audience.
When Should You Use a WordPress Staging Environment?
In an ideal world it would be wonderful to imagine that if each component does its job well on its own, they’ll perform just as well when put together.
Unfortunately, that’s not how things usually pan out. The conditions in which you test different features also play a role. Some may play well with other tools, plugins, or features, while others may cause the site to break.
It’s virtually impossible to anticipate or account for different variables. Testing each part individually in a discrete test environment is one thing, but it’s an entirely different thing when you put them together and start testing them under variable conditions.
Using a staging environment is vital before you release any new feature. It lets you test the website in an environment that is as close to real as possible, helping you identify any issues that you may have missed during earlier testing.
Staging environments can help you identify issues that may arise in production, but might not appear in a dev environment.
Staging vs. Production Environments
While staging environments are generally designed to replicate the conditions of production environments as closely as possible, there are some fundamental differences that you should know about.
Here are some of the main tests conducted in staging.
Build Verification Testing
Build verification testing includes a series of tests that are run to check whether all of the components of the new build work properly, without going too deep into further tests.
Also known as smoke testing, this is just designed to ensure that the core functionality of the website or software wasn’t affected due to the new build.
Stress testing or chaos testing involves deliberately including failures to determine the application’s core resiliency. It’s about identifying things that can go awry, and then analyzing how the app responds.
This gives developers the opportunity to mitigate such risks in advance. By anticipating different types of failures and defining redundancies
User Acceptance Testing
User acceptance testing typically occurs just before the move to the production environment. The aim is for developers to test and ensure that the website is capable of real-world tasks, as a user would expect it to.
While user acceptance testing is mostly carried out by developers or engineers, larger organizations often work with members of the target audience, allowing them to test the site and give their feedback.
Performance testing is also vitally important in WordPress staging environments. Testing the underlying code in a staging environment before it’s deployed in production helps developers evaluate the stability, scalability, and responsiveness of a website under variable loads.
For instance, performance testing can be used to:
- Determine whether the website meets performance requirements
- Evaluate stability during traffic spikes
- Test the reliability of the infrastructure
- Test various systems and identify one that performs better
WordPress Staging environments can be set up to mimic the conditions of different workloads, making it easy for developers to test how the site may respond in real-world scenarios.
Visual Regression Testing
Changes to the underlying components of a system can affect the overall user experience. Visual regression testing is often carried out in staging environments to ensure that a system change doesn’t negatively affect the layout of the site.
Why Should You Use a WordPress Staging Environment?
As mentioned above, a staging environment is like a dress rehearsal on a real stage. It’s as close to the real thing as possible before you open the doors for your audience and get ready for the performance.
It lets you fine-tune different things and ensure that everything’s working smoothly before the big launch. Here are just a few practical reasons why WordPress staging environments are so important:
Staging environments are quite beneficial from a fiscal standpoint. It’s always more expensive to fix errors post-launch than during testing.
A staging environment helps you save money, as you won’t have to take down the site or worry about lost revenue while you fix errors.
Enhanced User Experience
By ironing out all bugs and issues pre-launch, you’ll ensure a better overall user experience. A staging environment helps you identify errors that may have been missed during standard test environments, ensuring a more streamlined and improved user experience.
Catch Missed Errors
Staging environments can help dev teams catch errors that may have been missed during earlier testing phases. That’s primarily because most software tests are designed to catch known bugs and issues.
Tests in a staging environment are usually random, which may bring new issues to light that the team didn’t know about.
Improve Production Quality and Efficiency
Using a WordPress staging environment reduces the number of bugs and issues, thus improving the quality of output. It also impacts efficiency, as the team doesn’t have to put out a series of updates to fix issues that may have been identified post-launch.
Use InstaWP to Improve Your WordPress Development Workflow
Launching a new WordPress site requires you to go through a laundry list of checks. From setting up databases and adding demo content, to configuring plugins and optimizing the theme – there’s just so much that needs attention.
InstaWP lets you instantly spin up new sites, and lets you create a portable WordPress staging environment that you can use for testing.
You’ll have full control over your site, and you can easily deploy it on a hosting platform if you want. It has an in-built code editor, a database editor, and offers WP-CLI support for FTP and SSH.
With InstaWP, development teams can launch WordPress sandbox environments with an array of themes and plugins, making it easier to test various scenarios before moving to the production stage.