Most of us played in sandboxes when we were kids. Who knew that all these years later, they would still be the basis of our working lives?

The plastic buckets and spades may be gone, but a WordPress sandbox still gives us a chance to either stand back and admire our wonderful creation or watch it fracture, crumble and collapse into a million pieces the moment we think we’ve produced something wonderful.

A WordPress sandbox is an essential coding environment that allows you to test your code changes fully and safely before implementing them on a live site. This is a little like lifting the bucket on our sandcastle in a way that shows us if we’ve got it right yet. It’s like a dress rehearsal for a website launch. Or a sandcastle reveal.

Launching a sandbox environment for a WordPress site instantly gives developers the option of testing virtually every element on the site before they push them live. Fewer tears – more amazing citadels.

In this article, we’ll examine the benefits and functions of a WordPress sandbox and how to set one up for your own site very quickly and easily.

Get Started with InstaWP and build your WordPress Sandboxes in Seconds.

What is a WordPress Sandbox Environment?

A WordPress sandbox environment makes it easy for developers to test out various design elements, code snippets, and other changes to a site before it’s pushed live. 

There are several steps involved in creating or editing a website, ranging from writing the code to simply using a page builder like Elementor to make changes. 

However, when working on editing an existing site, it’s imperative that changes aren’t pushed live right off the bat. These are often experimental in nature, and there’s a risk that the changes might be site-breaking. 

If that happens, not only do you lose valuable traffic, but the entire team will have to suddenly scramble to fix the site. 

Instead, once development is complete, the site can be tested in a sandbox environment or a staging environment, as it’s known. In a WordPress sandbox, developers can simulate various conditions to test the site and determine if it’s performing well or not. 

These sandbox examples will give you more clarity on the subject.

Guide to Creating a WordPress Sandbox For Your Plugins, Themes, or Website

If you want to set up a WordPress sandbox environment quickly and efficiently, we’ll help you in doing so. Learn how to Set up a WordPress Sandbox to Test-drive Plugins, Themes & More in a few minutes next:

Step 1: Create an Account on InstaWP

instawp latest homepage image

InstaWP is a fantastic website spin-up tool that lets you quickly launch a staging environment. It has both a free and a paid tier, with the former giving you the freedom to create sites that are stored for up to two days. 

Step 2: Launch a WP Sandbox Environment

Once you create your account on InstaWP, the next step is to launch your staging environment. To do this, all you need is to click on Add New + from the top-right and select the configuration:

adding new staging environment in instawp

Once you enter the specifications, your site will appear on the dashboard within a few seconds:

staging site in instawp dashboard (wordpress sandbox)

Step 3: Customize The Site

InstaWP gives you access to both the database and the code editor and lets you auto-login so you can easily make changes to the site. With a single click, you can auto-login to the WordPress dashboard:

wordpress dashboard of staging site

Here, you can change themes, plugins, content, CSS, and the entire structure of the site as you wish. It’s also a great way to showcase the site to the client before you’re ready to push the changes live. 

The good thing about using a service like InstaWP is that moving the changes live is incredibly simple.

You can even clone and store site templates, making it easier to work on new projects with certain plugins or a theme you generally prefer. 

Try testing a WordPress Plugin from InstaWP’s plugin repository right away.

Why Do You Need a WordPress Sandbox?

There are several reasons why you would want to use a WordPress sandbox when developing your site: 

  • Reduce Risk 

First, it allows you to test code changes without affecting the live site. This is important because you want to make sure that your code changes are not going to break anything before making them live. 

  • Experiment Without Worries

Second, it allows you to experiment with new features and plugins, so in case something goes wrong, you don’t have to worry about it breaking your site. 

This is important, especially if a client asks you to add different functionality to the site. You’ll be tinkering with various plugins or custom styling options, so it’s important that you don’t end up breaking anything. 

  • Flexibility

Finally, it allows you to work on multiple sites at the same time and show changes to the client before you actually take them live. 

If you work as a freelancer or in an agency, using a WordPress sandbox makes things easier, as you can easily present the changes to your client and get their signoff before actually pushing things live. 

  • A Cost-Efficient Option

One of the reasons why a staging environment is a good idea is because it helps companies save a significant amount of money. For instance, if you push changes live without testing them thoroughly, there’s a risk that the code might not perform the way you want it to.

In such instances, you’ll end up sinking more hours into fixing the issue, which will end up costing more. Instead, by testing the code in a staging environment, it becomes easier to prevent such hiccups.

  • Better Performance

Lastly, the biggest advantage of using a staging environment is that it improves performance overall. Issues can be identified in their early stages and fixed from the production build. You can thoroughly test the impact of any changes you make to your site, so you know how it’s going to perform once you push it live, compared to previous metrics.

This reduces downtime overall, makes workflows more streamlined, and reduces the chances of having to make extensive revisions later on. 

Test a WordPress Theme from InstaWP’s database to understand the process better.

Testing Plugins & Themes With InstaWP

Have you ever come across a plugin and been tempted to install it but held yourself back because you’re just not sure if it’s going to be right for you? You don’t want to have to go through the process of installing it into your site and risking everything (even if it’s just a staging site). Sometimes all you want to do is have a quick tinker with a plugin before you decide to install it and integrate it with your existing WordPress site.

While using InstaWP, there are two ways to test your plugins and themes in your advanced sandbox:

1. InstaWP Launcher Plugin for Chrome

The all-new InstaWP Launcher plugin for Chrome™ is your quickest way to get started with a WordPress testing environment.

With InstaWP’s new Chrome™ plugin, you can instantly spin up a full WordPress testing site with the plugin already installed so that you can test it fully right away.

launching testing with wp launcher plugin for chrome

As well as being able to instantly test any WordPress plugin in its own testing environment in seconds, you can also test out WordPress themes with the WPLauncher.

We all know that the screenshots of a theme can be very far from what you actually see once you install that same theme and that a great many changes will be needed. But how many? How easy will these changes be to make? How much flexibility is available?

These aren’t questions you want to have to answer while messing around with your actual website. Instead, with the Chrome™ plugin, you can instantly generate a full WordPress environment with the theme already installed with just one click – direct from the theme page itself!

creating wordpress staging from preset with wplauncher

Visit the WPLauncher plugin page and save yourself hours of time, and many headaches, with just one click!

2. InstaWP Connect Plugin for WordPress

InstaWP Connect plugin lets developers spin a WordPress sandbox environment in seconds. If you want to create a staging site for your live site in InstaWP, it’s a matter of a few clicks with InstaWP Connect.

Once you install this plugin on your website and go to the plugin dashboard, you will be able to select the staging type. Your options are:

  • Quick Staging: It will create a quick WordPress Sandbox for you. This environment won’t include your site’s media folder.
  • Full Staging: Your live WordPress website will be replicated fully when you choose this option.
  • Custom Staging: You can select if you want to replicate active plugins only or active themes only, while creating the staging WP site. You can also choose to skip adding the media folder to the staging environment.

Once you’re done with selecting staging options, confirm the same by clicking Next Step. The plugin will automatically build a WordPress sandbox environment for you.

Best Practices for a WordPress Sandbox Environment

Though InstaWP has revolutionized how WordPress sandboxing is done, it is always suggested to follow testing best practices while you use sandboxes:

  • Go Premium: If you are using your free InstaWP account for your sandbox, it is bound to expire after a certain time limit. So, if a particular sandbox is important to you, it’s always suggested to take InstaWP’s premium membership. It will allow you to save your staging sites and work hassle-freely. Alternatively, you can download your sandbox site early and keep your changes.
  • Have a Plan: It is a great idea to strategize your development or design process before getting started with implementing changes. While InstaWP saves you a lot of work hours already, you can save further time by having a plan ready for execution.
  • Document all Changes: If you won’t note down your modifications, it will become problematic as your product will grow. So, always, always have your development process and updates documented.
  • Follow the Standard Process: Editing the WordPress core files is not a good idea, even during testing. Make sure you take the standard process, especially when you wish to build a great product.
  • Use a Testing Environment for Every Experiment or Major Release: It goes without saying. Doesn’t it?

Use a WordPress Sandbox to Save Time and Reduce Costs

Developers and agency owners prioritize staging before pushing changes live, as it helps them identify any major issues with the production build. It’s the last step before all of the changes go live, which underscores its importance.

With a tool like InstaWP, it’s much easier for developers to quickly launch a WordPress sandbox environment, which ultimately helps them save precious time during the development process and reduces costs.

Try InstaWP today and create a free WordPress sandbox.