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Do you do a lot of experimenting on your blog? I do.

In the beginning, I changed themes, added and removed plugins, reconfigured my sidebars, experimented with ad placement, tried my hand at HTML (I knew nothing about it), and proceeded to crash my blogs a time or two.

Fortunately with all of the experimenting, I never lost anything .

Today’s Lesson

Several months ago I decided I might want to start a third blog. Yes, call me crazy. I can’t even keep up with the two I have.

I picked another domain name and added another WordPress blog to my BlueHost web hosting account.

With BlueHost offering the free addition of domains, the cost was only $10.00. (price of the domain name)

Needless to say, the third blog hasn’t materialized, but that site has become extremely useful.

It is my “test” site.

Whenever I want to try out a new plugin, widget, or theme, I load it onto my test site and “play” .

The worse that can happen is I crash that site. But, if I did, it would be an easy fix.

In an recent e-mail, Natural Woman of Thinking Out Loud mentioned that she uses one too.

So, if one is good, and two is better, would that make three, the best?

Today’s Assignemnt

Have you ever thought of setting up a test site?

Would you feel more comfortable if you could experiment with a plugin, widget, theme, or HTML somewhere other than your blog?

If you answered yes, what’s stopping you?

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Look Who's Talking
  1. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – I used to change themes frequently because my experimenting went wrong. And once, I almost lost the entire content of my blog.

    So, I think a test site is a wonderful idea. Do you put actual posts on it, or just mess about with the theme?

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Is The Information Business Worthless?

  2. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Actually I’m thinking of changing my theme for OM and moved (copied) all the posts over to the test site…but then I deleted them all because I didn’t like how they looked.

    I’m just having fun experimenting.

    Next I want to play around with some CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and make my own header.

  3. I try to test HTML and CSS changes by copying files from my blog to my computer, and testing them there. But some things can only be tested on a blog.

    I don’t have a test blog, but I usually make any changes to my blog late at night so they might go unnoticed if they backfire. Of course, that doesn’t work perfectly with the different time zones. Late at night my time is not so late Barbara time and early morning Catherine time.

    BTW, what are people doing in response to the new AdSense rule that we have to have a privacy policy on our blog?

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..The Difference Between The Dream World And The Real World

  4. Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

    When I was thinking about making changes to my blog I created a test one on Blogger. After I gave up on making changes I deleted it. I am not a good self-teacher. I don’t do research very well and hate reading how to do things. I prefer a class environment to get me the basics or tutorials. Just sitting down and pulling stuff up on the internet has never been easy for me. I even had someone send me some links to help me get started and I have yet to look at them. I would love to take some classes at the local jr. college, but some of them are pretty expensive and I don’t have time. I’m hoping maybe to do it next year. Also, instead of putting a lot of time and effort into changing Blogger, I’m considering looking into to whole domain idea. Again, figuring out how to is holding me back. In my defense, though, this type of research takes time, and that is not always easy to come by right now.

    Ok, enough excuses, sometimes I’m just plain lazy! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Debbie Yost’s last blog post..A Mother’s Tribute

  5. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    Have you ever thought of setting up a test site? Yipper. It’s a mess too, but that’s what it’s there for. I try everything out there first and then if everything goes okay, I feel okay with trying it on my main blog.

    Would you feel more comfortable if you could experiment with a plugin, widget, theme, or HTML somewhere other than your blog? Absolutely, I’m with blue host too and if I have the tools to do so, then I will.

    If you answered yes, whatโ€™s stopping you? already done. I’m testing out WP 2.5 on it as well. I feel comfortable doing a manual upgrade if I had to. I used the oneclick upgrade with Fantastico, but for some reason it didn’t take, so I bit the bullet and did a manual upgrade.

    I so love these test questions! thanks barbara.

    Natural’s last blog post..How to Create A Favicon

  6. NezNo Gravatar says:

    There is a plugin called Theme Test Drive — it allows you to try out a theme for you only — everyone else sees the normal theme. It’s not perfect, but works well enough so you can see what a theme will look like as you make any customization.

    I do have two blogs already — my other is my professional blog.

    And luckily for me, I do have a web design background, so I tend to know what I’m doing when I “experiment”.

    Nez’s last blog post..Dealing with Pressure Situations

  7. JodithNo Gravatar says:

    I actually do have a testing site. I use it mostly for when I’m doing a redesign, so I don’t have the site out there until I have everything in place the way I want it. I don’t play a great deal with my live sites.

    I have mine set up on a subdomain. I’ve been very happy with my web hosting, but your’s is the second host I’ve seen allowing you unlimited domains. It would be nice to combine all of my domains under one account instead of paying seperately for each one (I currently have 3 plus one subdomain). Even though the monthly fee is slightly higher, I’d be much better off with a host that provides for all of my domains with that fee.

    Have you had good service with BlueHost? What about tech support?

    Jodith’s last blog post..Creating Recurring Tasks in Microsoft Outlook

  8. J2RNo Gravatar says:

    It’s prob a lot more work, but much, much cheaper to setup a test site at home.

    Me? I’m just lazy and test in my production site. I just copy the html in case I mess up.

    J2R’s last blog post..The new bubble – we caused this by being impatient

  9. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Hunter,

    I know what you mean about the time change. Before I used a test site, I would check my stats to see when I had the least amount of traffic and make major changes then.

    Re: Google and a privacy policy. I wasn’t aware it is now a requirement, but it is for Commission Junction and/or LinkShare, so I put one in place before I signed up for them (it’s in my header). I got one from Priority Digital.com. (it was free)

    Hi Debbie,

    You are correct. Making changes to our blogs does take time, and forces us to learn more. If we’re not proficient in computer language, etc., we are left to our own resources.

    If you are looking into changing over to WordPress, and using a webhost, you could first get a free WP blog and use that as a test site to learn WordPress.

    Hi Natural,

    Aren’t those test sites fun?

    So, what do you think of WP 2.5? I haven’t had the time to look into that too far, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a big improvement.

    You aced this one too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hi Nez,

    This is the first time I’ve heard of the Theme Test Drive plugin. It sounds fascinating. I may have to “test it”.

    Do you find having two blogs can get overwhelming at times? I know I do.

    Hi Jodith,

    You must stay busy with three sites, plus your test site.

    BlueHost has been good for me. I only had one instance (when I crashed my blog-one of the times), that I ended up with a customer service rep who talked WAY above my head. Finally I just said OK and then called back and got a patient young man who walked me through my problem step by step.

    There have been a few instances when they were “down” for a short period of time, but it wasn’t something I couldn’t live with.

    I don’t know if they are the best, but for me, I am now familiar with their control panel (cp), and don’t give any thought to changing.

    Hi J2R,

    You hit on a very important aspect of making changes…saving the html prior to making changes.

    A few times I didn’t do my saves, so if I messed up, I then re-uploaded the php file I messed up on.

  10. Hmm, I actually thought about this – more frequently as of late.. wanting to start a 3rd site (geez).. something different. Don’t know yet

    I use bluehost for my other blog – they’re easier to use to me in terms of plugins and stuff
    I had to take inmyheels off there bc my site would crash with stumbled posts that would pick up steam
    It crashed quite often – it drove me crazy

    however I still havent figured out how to add plugins with my new host (media temple)

    I used to mess around with the CSS alot lol when my site was smaller..

    Sometimes I used to mess with my other blog to see how something would look.. but now not only do people actually read it – the 2 different hosts thing is an issue

    *shrugs* hands on is how I learned though so I’m def. not against the concept

    JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You’s last blog post..Who Are You Really: The Definition and Redifinition of You

  11. Wow Barbara, I’m impressed. As a long-time web developer, I fully endorse the use of a separate testing/staging environment for your web apps.

    I’m going to setup one for a theme change over the weekend.

    sterling | bizlift’s last blog post..Update – New Champ, Paris-Nice and Full Feed

  12. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi JEMi

    Care to share what your second site is? In My Heels is an amazing blog, so I’m guessing if you have another one, it must be just as awesome.

    I must say, I like having everything with one host. Having two must add time to blog maintenance issues.

    Hi Sterling,

    It’s good to know I’m on the right “path” by using a test site.

    Now you’re changing your theme too? You saw that comment I left on Hunter’s blog about starting a new “section” and naming it “NTFMFB – New Themes From My Favorite Bloggers”…and Hunter wondered if I could find one every week…I rest my case. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Ian DennyNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara,

    The testing question has more than one application. I think it’s a great idea to test technical changes, but what about blogging concepts?

    I have a blogger one (actually two), and it’s a test of applying a blog to local – and I mean neighbourhood that you could walk to – activity.

    It’s live, but dormant only because it needs people to meet in real-life first. When they do, it will go live. And perhaps outgrow blogger.

    Apart from that, I have an amateur and professional side. Professionaly, I wouldn’t do anything dangerous without my blog coach.

    Personally, I’ll just experiment because blogging is arguably one of the most powerful mediums we all have at our disposal – for recreational, personal or business purposes.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..You Are The Best – So Why Don’t New Clients Beat Down Your Door?

  14. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Ian

    Your blog that’s dormant, waiting for people, sounds intriguing. You’ll have to keep up posted on it’s progress.

  15. John HoffNo Gravatar says:

    @ Debbie – I hope Barbara doesn’t mind a small piece of advertisement from me but I own a web development company and host websites. If you like, I’d be happy to install WordPress for you with all the plugins you need or the ones I use at no cost. Just pick the theme you want and I’ll install it (we offer multiple domains, too). After that if you need help I’m sure any of us would help you and I’m always available through our forum or my blog’s contact me page. You’d just need to pay for the web hosting.

    @ Barbara – I LOVE the pic of the toy workers. I used to play with those when I was younger and forgot about them.

    Great idea about using a second “test” site. I’ve done this for a long time. I own a local real estate investing website that doesn’t get as much use these days but I have set up a blog with no links to it so i can test whatever I need to there before I do something major to my eVentureBiz blog.

    I’ve never crashed my site severely before but my computer has frozen a few times which had caused me to lose hours of work. I’ve learned from those lessons and always keep a backup copy updated regularly whenever I work on websites.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..Budgeting 101: A Smart Plan That Keeps You Safe & Allows For Wealth Building

  16. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi John,

    I don’t mind at all. In fact your offer is an extremely kind gesture to a fellow blogger. I like to see that.

    Thanks for the great reminder about saving our work. I don’t think that can be stressed enough.

  17. Hi Barbara,

    We Swaffords must be thinking alike. I just got graphics for the website that will be associated with my blog, and decided to load everything into a test site first. Suddenly a lot of the “launch only when perfect” pressure is off, and I can play with it before really going live. After reading your post, I think I’ll set up a test blog site as well.

    Thanks a bunch, Kaye Swafford

    Kaye Swafford’s last blog post..T-Shirt Therapy Does the Trick

  18. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hello fellow Swafford blogger ๐Ÿ™‚

    It’s great to see you here.

    Having a test blog site is so wonderful. It lets you play with anything you’re not certain about, and see how it looks before planting it on your live blog.

    BTW: I love what you do for animals in life and on your blog. We’re animal lovers too. If you have a chance, you’ll have to read a previous post I did titled: New-blogger-begins-to-feel-like-an-abandoned-dog, where I share how we rescued “Lucky”.

  19. @Barbara – I’m delaying theme change until it’s compatible with new WP 2.5. But will probably upgrade to 2.5 tomorrow. Still hoping to make it on your NTFMFB list in a week or two. ๐Ÿ™‚

    sterling | bizlift’s last blog post..Update – New Champ, Paris-Nice and Full Feed

  20. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Sterling,

    That’s funny.

    Ironically earlier today I was making the rounds to some other blogs I visit, and I found two more that had changed their themes. I had to chuckle to myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Ian DennyNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara,

    My non-technical test-site is experimenting with getting people in a localised community together both in real-life and on a blog.

    Because it’s local and your audience is very unlikely to be from my neighbourhood, I’ll publish the URL.

    It’s cheap and cheerful. It’s got the content up there, but the real activity is not happening on the blog – yet!

    Its happening in the real world with me meeting new people who meet the criteria. I also hope that they take some level of control, because generating business in an ethical way can be achieved through partnership and aggregating each other’s reach.

    It’s http://www.merseymoves.co.uk

    And the idea is a loose consortium of like-minded, ethical businesses, who are involved majorly, or in a minor way with helping small businesses re-locate.

    It would be good to get some feedback, because I only have about 6 people on board locally – AND NO! It isn’t a sales pitch. You can’t join, and there’s no fee anyway if you decided to emigrate! But if appropriate, feel free to copy the idea in your area.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..You Are The Best – So Why Don’t New Clients Beat Down Your Door?

  22. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Ian,

    Thank you for sharing the link. I’ll check it out and see if it gives me any ideas, or tips for you.

  23. GazzaliNo Gravatar says:

    Hi babara

    I am an avid template switcher and I am not satisfied with any. I will like to design my own template but I do not have the time to pick up the know how. But in any case, I still like what I have. By the way what is your objective of this blog as I understand you are a multi-blogger

    Gazzaliยดs last blog post..Earth Hour