A staging website is basically a copy of your website that runs somewhere other than the website’s final location. We use staging websites mainly to build your website, to test risky changes to your website, and when we migrate websites from other hosts.
Staging Websites on boundless.works #
When you get a hosting plan, one of the very first things we do is set up a staging website for you on a subdomain of boundless.works, such as example.boundless.works.
We will collaborate with you on your staging website until it’s ready to go live. You can actually invite anybody you want to help with the staging website, including your designers and developers, your copywriters, your team members, and whoever else helps you get your website over the finishing line. We don’t limit you but you should avoid inviting your audience (visitors, leads, customers) to your staging website. This isn’t a “beta” website. It’s a much earlier phase in which the website is probably still raw, payment processors probably don’t work yet, the design is probably unfinished, and features, pages, and other content are probably still missing or incomplete.
Note that many designers and developers prefer to work on their own local development environments rather than directly on the web. That’s very normal and is essential for their productivity. If it’s important for you to see ongoing progress, you can ask them to upload their changes to your staging website regularly or on some schedule that makes sense for both of you.
We will add basic authentication (sometimes called basic auth or http auth) to your staging website. This prevents Google and other search engines from indexing your incomplete website and gives you a “safe” environment away from prying eyes to work in until the website is ready. The first time you browse to your staging website on any device, you’ll be presented with a username and password popup. We’ll provide you with that information as soon as we finish setting up your staging website and you can share it with the colleagues you invite to help you with the website. This is not the username and password of your user on the website. It’s like an extra protective gate before anybody reaches your door.
Staging Websites on Your Live Website #
After your website goes live, you or we might occasionally want to test changes that could be risky. One way to test them is to spin up a small staging website.
Instead of creating a staging website on boundless.works, we sometimes make use of the staging capabilities of the backup plugin we install on your website. They work a bit faster and can merge changes back to the main website.
Your staging website, in cases like this, will be located in a directory under your main website. If your website is at example.com, for example, the staging website could be at example.com/mystaging01. Only users with adequate permissions will be able to access it but it won’t use basic auth.
These staging websites are intended for short term use, usually for up to a few hours and rarely longer than a few days. Keeping them up for too long may create discrepancies between your staging website and your main website and could cause data loss and other unexpected side effects when pushing the changes back to the main website.
A Note on Terminology #
If you have experience with software development, you might be wondering why we don’t have more phases, such as dev, test, staging, production, and so forth.
Although there is technically a distinction between these different stages in various software development lifecycles, we’ve found that there’s little practical difference for our purposes, that it confuses customers more than it benefits them, and that hosting is fundamentally different from programming.
The dev, test, and staging phases are all in staging on our platform. We usually just call the production phase live or main, as in “the live website”.