Test it all. The Best WordPress Education.

2 years ago Plugins, WordPress1

Always test new changes, that you are making to your WordPress website, ANYWHERE ELSE. You never make changes to your live website, until you have gone through test after test. Why? It’s a good way to learn more about WordPress.

I could teach you the proper way to write code and it still wouldn’t matter. I could list off a number of reasons on why it’s better to test before you publish. It still wouldn’t matter. All you need to know is that it’s better to test your changes ANYWHERE ELSE, away from your live site. Instead of giving you a list, I’m going to tell you a story.

My Test Story

I used to work for a contractor that built websites for the National Weather Service. We dealt with a ton of data on a massive scale. We’re talking about millions of transactions a day between their site and other websites that tell you what the weather is going to be like in  your city. Now imagine that someone made a mistake and changed all of the information from degrees in Fahrenheit to degrees in celsius. You could imagine the roar people would make.

Hi. I’m that guy and this is my test story that went horribly wrong. I’m really good at math. You have to be when you’re dealing with exact numbers and predicting the weather. I’m not the best when it comes to typing. You can see an example of this in one of my previous blog posts.

One day, we were asked to convert all of the maps on the nation weather service website from Google Maps to Esri Maps. The reason was due to saving the company $250,000 for every one million hits per quarter, or every 3 months. We made the changes and everything was perfect. We performed test after test and then tested some more. Everyone in the company signed off on the changes and we pushed the changes to the live site. Then we started to test the live site to make sure everything was working properly.

It turns out that while I was making my changes, I added a decimal point to the wrong part of several equations and I caused all of the values on the website to increase by 100. So instead of the temperature being 84 degrees, it read on the actual site as 184 degrees. The entire county, for about one hour, turned into the worse version of Death Valley that you could imagine. I was the reason that every meteorologist in the country received thousands of emails. All because I made a simple typo.

We would always test our sites on a development server. Somewhere far away from the actual site. It’s just a good practice to get in the habit of doing. But you see, I was trusted and therefore, no one bothered to check the readings on the page. Because, I was trusted not to make those mistakes.

Trust is a very hard thing to gain back once you make a huge mistake like this one. It’s that reason alone that makes testing ANYWHERE ELSE, away from your live site, very important.

What does this have to do with WordPress?

Well, it turns out that making changes to your WordPress site are just as important. Let’s say that you find a new theme and you want to use it. That’s well within your given rights because you own the website. The problem is that every theme is coded differently. All of the code in my themes are prefixed with _theme_name or a form of an abbreviation.

This is something that is specific to the theme. So when you change any theme, you’re going to lose all of the options that you saved. The theme name may change from “Awesome theme” to “Really awesome theme.” That means that my code prefix would change from _theme_awesome to _theme_really_awesome. A simple change like that can take down a site faster than you could imagine.

That’s why it’s really important to test all of your changes ANYWHERE ELSE, away from your live site. That way, if things break, you’re not up a creek without a paddle.

Russell Aaron