We’ve written about our monthly maintenance process before, explaining why we need to update WordPress and giving you some ideas of the post update checks that you need to carry out to maintain the health of your website.
But here are some answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions by new users of the WordPress platform.
And of course do get in touch with the Pragmatic team if there’s still anything you’re unsure of after reading them.
What is the difference between the staging site and the live site?
Your website was initially built on what is called a staging site, a draft version of your site not visible to search engines, which enables different layouts and functions to be tested before a site is published to the web.
Now that your site is live, there are two versions of it, both a live site and the original staging site.
It’s very important that from now on, you should be using the live site to make any changes and add content to your website.
Sometimes people forget to switch (both sites look exactly the same – it’s easily done), so change your bookmarks and shortcuts at the very beginning while you think of it!
The staging site remains in the background as a means of testing out any further changes to the live files, that is the files which describe the layout and functionality of your site. We’ll also use the staging site to test upload the latest version of WordPress every month.
Why do I need to check my site every month and how will I know when to do it?
WordPress is a complex ecosystem that is continually being updated and improved with all sorts of changes, so once a month we implement these latest updates to your website. There’s more information on our blog about why WordPress updates are necessary.
Every now and then, (though hardly ever) one of these updates can upset something on your site. Not all plugins and themes are updated every month so sometimes a new improved release of a plugin or theme can clash with an older version and cause a minor styling bug or very rarely something more serious. This is why we use the staging site to test these updates first.
We then ask you to check that everything is running smoothly on the staging site before we press the button which sends these updates to your live site. For guidance on what you need to be checking, don’t forget to see our list of Post-Update checks.
Although we will notice and immediately rectify any major upsets, it is you and your team who are best placed to spot if anything on your own website is amiss, so it’s imperative that you get into the habit of carrying out this monthly check.
We communicate this monthly update to you via 2 emails, so make sure that you look out for these emails in the third week of each month and take the required action. Any glitches or tweaks that need to be sorted out are easier to deal with the earlier they are spotted.
The first email is to let you know to test your staging site. It looks like this:
This email will tell you that in 3 working days’ time these updates will be applied to your live site. You need to check your staging site within these 3 days and see if you spot anything unexpected in the way your site looks and works. This might include anything other than content.
Get in touch with us immediately if you see something wrong. If it’s a little 5 minute job for us to sort out, we’ll action this immediately. If it’s going to be more complex, we might have to talk to you first to plan this in and agree to the cost. We’ll send you the second email 3 days later to confirm when the updates have been applied to your live site.
We sometimes send you emails about other changes too, for example if we experience unexpected downtime or if an unforeseen security issue means you need to take action.
So NEVER unsubscribe from these emails. If you do, you will be missing out on vital information on the health of your website.
Which changes should I make in the staging site and which in the live site?
If you would like to try out some formatting changes on your website, the staging site can come in useful to experiment with what’s known as file systems without accidentally harming your live site. File systems include plugins, add-ons – eg adding social share buttons, changes to the layout, changes to the ecommerce checkout process, changes in theme, managing forms and the search function. So if you are changing your own file systems you should do this in the staging site first then transfer it once you’re happy that it’s working.
Content changes can be made directly in the live site, this includes stuff like adding blog posts, changing product descriptions, adding photos, filling in alt tags, meta data, etc, adding pages, adding widgets, changes to navigation and menus.