Hello loves. It's Vik here, the WordPress nurse.
I know there are people out there who love WordPress – for its freedom, control, lack of limits and total all round coolness... and yet sometimes want to smash things, mumble expletives or just stick their lower lip out and sigh (depending on their disposition...) at its complexity.
The fact is, there's always something new to learn with this beautiful software, and I will never fully be able to count the times I've said “what the..... what? How could I not have known this?”
I get that it's scary enough to fiddle around with your own precious site doing crucial jobs you scarcely know the reason for... so if it's a client site it gets double serious. They do not want to see their beautiful website go down, look weird, or miss an order or a contact request.
So how can you feel fully confident fiddling about under the flaps of a complex site (even if you're not quite friends with it (yet...)) and feel secure in the knowledge that whatever happens, it will all be ok?
Here's my 3 top tips, loves – to help you feel calm and your sites feel cared for.
Always start by backing up.
I almost feel like It's patronising to tell you this... and yet I've lost count of the number of times I've been in a hurry and thought to myself “aww just this once I won't bother. It's only a little change, it'll be fine. And I always ALWAYS regret it (or at least it seems like always - I only remember the times it went wrong...)
These days, no matter how lucky I feel (or how hot a date I'm hurrying to next...) I never, ever, ever proceed with work on a site without first making a backup.
Some server companies make this really easy for you and let you take a snapshot which you can easily revert to if things go wrong. Check with your host to see if they offer that. If not, you've got options.
The quickest, easiest way to backup from inside the site (and the easiest to re-import if something does go wrong) is to use a plugin like All In One WP Migration. You can download a small file (.wpress) which can be imported back into the site if something goes wrong. It's quick and easy but I never rely on it as my only backup... what if the file gets corrupted?
If you're using a method like this, make a full backup on the server too... to backup your backup in case something goes wrong. Some hosts make a backup regularly as standard but don't just assume this - check it out with them...
Whichever method you use, download it to your computer... because you can't be too careful...
Make sure you have access to the host server.
It's true, lots of jobs can be done from inside the site itself, but I never feel comfy unless I've got access to the hosting account too. Some jobs start off looking simple but then you find you need access to the database or the files – and of course there are the times something goes wrong and you need to save yourself – quickly.
Plus, of course, you will want to make a full backup before you do anything scary – see the tip above...
Never do it live (Sound advice in so many walks of life, my loves…)
Working on a live site (i.e. - The client's actual site, while it's online) is a recipe for stress. To be fair, a lot of the things you do to WordPress will go without a hitch, and it's easy to get all blasé and not bother... but sod's law states that it will be that time you're just gonna 'quickly tweak this little thing before finally clocking off...' that something will go wrong. And then, of course, it's panic stations and cancel your dinner plans – because of course, a live site (especially someone else's) can't just sit there not working or looking weird...
Absolutely the best option is to work on a clone of the site – aka a staging site. This is an exact copy where you can play fast and loose without anyone looking over your shoulder. Some hosts offer you a built-in facility to create one easily and then replace the live site with the new one when you're done . If you're working on a busy, dynamic site that's likely to have changed while you're working on the copy (like pesky customers buying things...) you'll need to make sure the service allows you to only push the changes you've made and not the whole site. (if not, it's often easiest to just redo the work on the live one once you know it works)
If you don't have this option in your hosting account you could use WP staging plugin. You'll need to buy the pro version to actually push the changes easily back to the live site, but it makes the whole process quick and easy. (This is my new favourite thing.)
For a totally free option I suggest cloning the site with AIO WP migration plugin (Free as long as your site is smaller than 500MB) and importing it into a blank WordPress installation in a subfolder.
If you really have no way to create a staging site, at least put the site into maintenance mode – (my favourite plugin for this is Seedprod - coming soon and maintenance mode) – and, if you really want to do the best for your little site (and your stress levels) find a way to create staging next time.
Disclaimer: All metaphor aside, please be assured I would in no way encourage any kind of "fast and loose play" if this was a real hospital and I was a real nurse. You cannot backup a human being.
I'm launching my new WordPress care course In the autumn, and I'd love you to be there. Sign up to be the first one in the know