WordPress Test Site

When creating a new WordPress site, there are two ways I go about it:

  1. Build the site live on the client’s domain (example.com)
  2. Build the site on a test site (example.eightdeuce.com or eightdeuce.com/example)

Build the Site Live

I have done many websites this way and haven’t had any problems. Actually, it’s a little easier but it’s probably not the best idea, for a couple reasons:

  • If I’m building the site on the client’s domain, their site is basically live. I could get all the content up there and the site is pretty much finished. They could come back with small changes over a long period of time, but really, the site has been done and live and has been working well for people viewing the site.
  • I put my name at the bottom of all the sites I do, so if I’m building it live, a visitor checks the site out early on and sees a lot of unfinished areas, they might see my name and think I’m a bad web designer. It’s best to wait until it’s 100% done to launch before I put my name on it.

I’m ok with this approach if they need the site done under a very tight deadline, or they paid for everything upfront, or if I really trust the client. With that all said, I don’t have to worry about downtime when going this route. When switching WordPress URLs from a test site to the real domain name, there can be a transition period. I actually just did this today and it wasn’t an immediate transition. In most cases it’s less than an hour, sometimes instant, but it can take a few hours or maybe longer depending on the hosting company, the type of servers, the domain registrar, etc.

Sometimes I’ll build it live if I’m doing a site for a new company or someone that has never had a site before, or they just purchased a new domain name. In these cases, almost no one will be going to that website, so who cares if it’s not completed just yet? This happens a lot actually.

Build a Test Site

Although I don’t always choose this option, I think it’s the best way to go. Here’s why:

  • It keeps the non-finished website out of view from normal site visitors. If the client has a current website and I’m doing a redesign, it’s best to keep the old site up and live until the new one is ready to be launched.
  • The customer will want the new site finished soon. Let’s face it, everyone wants everything ASAP. So if I get it done on time, that’s great, set it live! BUT WAIT… what if they haven’t paid me yet? If I were building it live, their site would be live regardless. Since I built it on a test site, I can keep it just a test site until they have paid their bill. Nice way to get paid faster, especially if they don’t have a current site up.
  • When I do a test site, I create a sub-domain off of my domain (example.eightdeuce.com). This way, everyone will see my name even more. I could buy some random domain like ThisIsMyTestSiteDomainNameOK.com, and create a sub-domain or directory off of that, but I like to keep my site name in front of as many people as I can.

So with that all said, you can now see the pros and cons of both options. There isn’t a right and wrong way, but building on a test site just makes more sense most of the time. But there are always exceptions. Anyways, let me explain how I set one of these test sites up.

Setting Up a WordPress Test Site

For this example, I am using HostGator for my hosting. There are tons of other great hosting companies out there like Bluehost and Media Temple, but I love HostGator. So here we go…

  1. Login to your HostGator cPanel.
  2. Under the Domains section, click on Subdomains.
  3. Type the name you want to use for your sub-domain. Choose something relating to your client.
  4. Select the domain on your account to be the main domain (I choose eightdeuce.com).
  5. Hit Create. Now you have your test site url!
  6. Go back to the main cPanel screen and click on “Fantastico De Luxe” in the Software/Services section.
  7. Click on WordPress under Blogs on the left.
  8. Click New Installation.
  9. Select your test site url from the drop down menu
  10. Most of the time I install WordPress in the root directory, so you can leave the “Install in directory” box blank.
  11. Fill out the “Admin access data” and “Base configuration” sections.
  12. Click Install WordPress.
  13. Click Finish Installation. Now your WordPress test site is all setup!

Once those quick and painless steps are done, go to your test site url and type “/wp-admin” at the end (example.eightdeuce.com/wp-admin). Then login with your username and password that you just set. Yup, pretty simple! Soon, I will write a post about how to make your test site live, and what to do if you need to move your site to a new server. Thanks for reading and post your comments below if you have any questions or need additional info.

Photo by Sam Catanzaro