What do you do when you see a new version of WordPress is available, or a very important plugin update is released?
I would hope that at the very least you make a backup of your blog in its current state. What you should really do, however, is test every update and upgrade to ensure complete compatibility across all of your plugins. To do otherwise would be to let down your readers.
Problems with compatibility are one of the main issues with upgrades, which is why you should employ some sort of WordPress test environment. This might also be used for trying out new themes with your existing data and plugins without disrupting your readers’ experience of the blog.
Several tools exist that can help with setting up a test site in WordPress.
Previously on RichWP…
This isn’t the first time we’ve broached the topic of finding a way to develop your WordPress site, something you might do to try out a new theme, theme tweaks or to test plugins before rolling the changes out to the live site that your readers visit.
In the past we’ve spend an entire article looking at how to setup Bitnami so that you might run WordPress from your local PC, while we’ve also covered using Microsoft Web Platform Installer, a manually setup virtual machine (Bitnami also has a VM option), using a WAMP or XAMPP package (software that turns Windows or Mac OS X into a server suitable for running WordPress, with full PHP and MySQL support) or simply relying on a Maintenance mode plugin.
There are, however, many other methods that you can use, such as building instant staging environments, running a standalone version of WordPress from USB and even employing dedicated server software.
If you’re not using Bitnami or WAMP/XAMPP then your best alternative for a desktop server environment for running WordPress development is DesktopServer, from serverpress.com.
Available for Mac OS X and Windows, this application can be used on standalone, multisite (MU) and BuddyPress sites, with up to 12 WordPress development sites running at once!
This software is free for the basic package, although there is also a feature-packed premium version available for $49.95.
As WordPress development power user tools go, Instant WordPress is perhaps the best. Available free from www.instantwp.com, this is a standalone development environment that is also portable – meaning that you can put it on a USB stick and take it with you!
Containing Apache, PHP and MySQL, Instant WordPress is also populated with dummy data so you don’t need to worry about importing your own content. Multiple instances can be run at the same time, and it is less demanding on your hardware than Bitnami.
Be sure to check it out!
By making an instant copy of your site, DeployMint (intended for WordPress MU) enables the fast creation of temporary versions of your site as subdomains that can be used for testing on. Once you’re happy with the results, DeployMint then rolls your changes out to the main site, as well as backing it up so that any unforeseen issues can be rolled back.
Although it remains a useful tool, Deploymint is no longer supported by the developer. Find out more at code.google.com/p/deploymint.
Which Will You Choose?
How you plan your development of your WordPress site and theme, how you roll out upgrades to the software and plugins is, of course, entirely up to you. But with such a good selection of tools available for testing, both locally on your computer and on your live server, the question has to be asked: which do you use?
More importantly, if you haven’t yet made a choice, the alternative question can only be: which one will you choose?
Let us know in the comments!