Last month, I attended the OC WordPress Meetup hosted by Steve Zehngut of Zeek Interactive. One of the topics discussed was how to do testing of themes and/or plugins – without impacting your live site.
As often happens with discussions like this, the conversation rapidly moves to using DesktopServer. And with good reason: This is one of the things that DesktopServer is ideally suited for. We talked about how easy it is to use DesktopServer to create a temporary test install that you can install your plugin or theme into and do your testing. Once your testing is complete, you can remove the entire WordPress install to clean up with no impact at all on your live site.
This can be especially advantageous if you end up needing to test several different plugins to find the one that works best for you. Being able to easily delete the site and start fresh with the next plugin ensures that you’re testing with a clean environment. And doing this in a local test area has the advantage of not cluttering up your live site with a bunch of old plugins and options stored in your database that you will never use.
So this is all great, but what if you need to test a new plugin with your current theme and content? You can use DesktopServer’s import features to take a copy of your current web site and move it to your local machine. Now that you’ve got a snapshot of the live site locally, you can install your test plugin in this “mirrored” environment and do your testing — still with no impact on your live environment until you’re happy with the results and decide to install the plugin on the live site.
Another useful technique for testing several plugins would be to make a Blueprint from your site. Blueprints are used to create new WordPress installs with a pre-configured set of code and/or database all set up for you. They’re most often used to allow quick installs of different versions of WordPress. But you can also create a Blueprint that contains a snapshot of your live site: Once you’ve made a copy of your live site on your local machine, you can use DesktopServer to create an “archive” from that WordPress install. Copy that archive’s .zip file into the Blueprints folder in your DesktopServer install (give it a good name so you can recall what it is, and maybe even include the date in the name) and now you can create as many copies of that site, with all of it’s code, content and configurations, into temporary sites and do your testing with your plugins. And since it’s so quick and easy to create these new “clones” of your live site, it’s no trouble to delete these after you’re done testing each plugin.
We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve needed to test several competing plugins in order to find the one that works best. The important thing is to do this with as little impact to your site’s visitors as possible. Fortunately, DesktopServer comes with lots of tools and capabilities to make this testing process easier on you. And the best part is that you can do all of this with no impact at all on the live site.