For bloggers and entrepreneurs, WordPress is the favorite CMS system. In fact, over 40% of all websites on the planet are powered by WordPress, as of the first half of 2022, and the number keeps climbing in recent years. This very blog is built on WordPress, and if you are reading this, all the chances are that your own website is or will be a WordPress site.
One of the main reasons why WordPress is so popular among bloggers, entrepreneurs, and one-man-army projects is because it is easy to use, even for people who have no coding experience. There are millions of people that start up a WordPress site each year and learn how to build and maintain it along the way.
Both beginners and experienced WordPress developers have numerous reasons to use test sites, and in this article, you will find out why TasteWP is the perfect solution to get and use free WordPress sites.
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Why do you need a test site?
Let’s say for example that you are an entrepreneur who just started a blog on a freshly published WordPress website. As the content is being added, and the site and project slowly expand, you will soon find the need to add more tools and integrate more systems. Adding more features to your WordPress site very often means adding more plugins.
The average WordPress site has between 20 and 40 plugins, so adding a new one seems like a routine. However, there are a couple of major things that need to be taken into consideration:
- Which plugin from the specific category suits your need best and
- Is the plugin that you picked completely compatible with all other stuff on your website?
For picking the right plugin, you can go through the sea of top lists, look carefully for the pros and cons of each plugin, and eventually pick the one you think would fit your needs best. But just like with most of the things in life, you can’t be 100% sure until you take it out for a spin. And regarding compatibility, there is just no other way than to throw the plugin in the combination with everything else that you use on the website and see how it will go.
For both of the mentioned points, TasteWP offers a quick and simple solution.
Taking a plugin (or a theme) for a test-drive
The fastest way currently available to check out any plugin from the WordPress directory is to simply edit its URL so that “wordpress” inside it is swapped with “tastewp”.
Let’s say that you are improving the SEO of your site and you want to pick one of the two most popular WordPress plugins: Yoast SEO and Rank Math. All you need to do is edit the URL from https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/ to https://tastewp.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/ and hit Enter key (the same for Rank Math). A brand new test site will be launched with the specified plugin already installed. Moreover, you will be conveniently redirected directly to the plugin’s menu within the WP Dashboard.
To save you from the “work” of editing the URL to run the demo, the TasteWP team developed a magic bookmark, that you can add to your browser’s bookmark toolbar. When clicked, it will run the demo of the plugin from the current page you are on (in the WordPress official repo).
Read more: 7 Best WordPress Themes for Blogs
On TasteWP test sites you can also install any custom or premium plugin and test that too. All these features also apply to themes.
Theme demos can be run in the same manner as we did with plugins, with URL edits and magic bookmarks. Demos for free WP themes seem especially valuable since they are often presented all shiny and pumped up on screenshots or on front-end demos on their respective home websites. But back-end demos for them are rarely available, and once the users run it this way, they can really see what is under the hood and how much work and additional add-ons are needed for the site to look as great as the theme is advertised.
Testing plugin compatibility
If you want to check how the plugin works with the specific page builder or another plugin that you have in mind, the obvious solution is to just add up all other plugins to the demo site and run some experiments. However, often times it is more reliable to run the tests on a staging site.
A staging site is basically a clone of the main website, and you can create one on TasteWP. The Backup Migration plugin that comes already installed on each instance can help you with the creation of the staging site, as it does the website cloning in a couple of easy steps. If you are happy with the changes you made on the staging test site, you can migrate it back to the live one with this same tool.
Getting more familiar with TasteWP
Even without signing up, you can run launch some free test sites. But by signing up (which is free), you will unlock more cool features and expand the account limits.
Registered TasteWP users may have up to 6 active free test sites that last 7 days. The additional free test site can be created for each one that is expired or deleted by the user. These sites can be up to 1GB in size. For users that need test sites that have no expiry timer and have increased size (20GB), TasteWP offers premium sites, that also don’t count towards the maximum active sites limit per account. Unregistered users may have up to 2 free sites.
Controlling the active websites is done from the Site Manager section of the TasteWP Dashboard, where users can perform several actions on their test sites:
- Directly jump into the test site’s WP Dashboard via the quick log-in;
- Reset the admin password of the test site;
- Download debug.log;
- Change the PHP version of the test site;
- Upgrade the regular site into a premium site;
- Delete the test site.
Site Templates and advanced demo links
Site Templates feature allows registered TasteWP users to create a link that will launch a WP instance with pre-defined plugins and a theme. For each template, users can select up to 5 free or custom plugins and also free or a custom theme.
In the detailed explanation about demo links, TasteWP reveals that with special codes integrated into the demo link, users can also pre-define a landing page to which link user will be redirected, and also there is a short code that hides the standard intro screen that appears on each instance.
Let’s take this demo link for example https://demo.tastewp.com/elementor-bundle – it will install the most popular page builder, Elementor, and also a few of the complimentary plugins: Essential Addons for Elementor and Elementor Header & Footer Builder. Besides these plugins, the demo also installs the popular Astra theme and upon site creation, the user will be redirected directly into Astra’s options menu.
This advanced way to create demo links is the favorite feature for plugin developers, as they can share demo links with prospects, that can check out the plugins in a more enriched environment.
The ability to use custom plugins that can add custom content and pre-defined settings is just another bonus for developers that use(share) these demo links.
If you often browse through the WordPress plugin repository, you may have already come across plugins that offer a TasteWP demo within the plugin description.
Advanced Setup of a test site
Apart from a one-click quick test site launch from the TasteWP homepage, users can also use Advanced Setup which offers additional options for the new site creation, divided into several groups:
- Selection of a specific WordPress and PHP versions;
- Advanced WP config options where you can adjust WP cron, debug, cache, and other core options;
- Pre-installed promoted plugins and themes;
- Giving test site a custom name;
- Making the test site WP multisite;
- Applying the premium site option.
Comparing TasteWP with other test site solutions
Local WordPress test sites were once the most widely used solution to get a free website. Those took the time to set up, often with third-party tools that would make the process less complicated than it would if you wanted to set up the WordPress site completely manually.
There is a number of disadvantages to using a local test environment, one of which is in its name: local. In the era where development teams, clients, and others are globally interconnected and increasingly working remotely, there is little opportunity for isolated offline projects. TasteWP sites are online all the time and accessing each site is easy from any part of the globe.
Local sites also mean that you are using your own resources and that eventually, you will probably be cleaning up some trash. This also applies to webmasters who create staging sites on the main website’s server, consuming its resources. Having a test site on the third-party server saves your resources and you also don’t have to deal with cleaning up.
Testing plugins or code that come from unverified sources, the ones that you don’t really trust – is undoubtedly safer to run on safe grounds, far away from your local machine or hosting server.
Lastly, you will find it more than obvious that TasteWP operates at unmatched speed when it comes down to test site creation and access. In general, there is a lot of time saved by using this platform.
Apart from the lean design and ease of use of TasteWP, you might notice that the active language automatically adapts to the one that you selected to use in your web browser. TasteWP will also launch test sites in the same language if it is among the 20 currently supported on the platform.
To wrap up
In this article, we covered several use-cases for test sites, but each week or a month during site maintenance might give you another reason to use test sites because it is an ever-changing ever-developing environment. WordPress, PHP, plugins, themes, page builders, and other things involved – are all being constantly updated. Some of those also get left behind outdated and unsupported and then the time comes to replace those parts of the machine, which just has to keep running.
To keep the website running flawlessly and without stopping, keep all the tests and experiments on safe grounds, on TasteWP.
This is a guest post written by Mika
I am Mika, a WordPress enthusiast who has been involved in the TasteWP project since its conception. I use TasteWP daily for my business and personal needs, and I am proud to recommend this service to every other WP enthusiast.
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