Best Practices: Development & Test Web Sites


There’s a saying in the tech field: A website is never done. This is very true for growing businesses. There are always changes and upgrades to be made. Companies that invest in custom websites learn the value of making changes and edits to continually meet and exceed client expectations.

But how do you roll out updates and test functions without negatively affecting the current website? The answer is a “Dev Site,” or development website.

Every business, no matter how big or small, that has a specially designed site needs a development site. A development site gives you and your team an environment to test new features, try out a new design, train staff and referencing code behind the scenes, out of the public view. Think of the development site as a rehearsal area, while your live site is the actual performance that your customers see.

What are the benefits of a development site?
  • Testing New Features:

    Let’s say you have an online store and you want to capitalize on the huge popularity of Pinterest. To do this, you want to add a new feature to your shop like the “pin” tool to your photos. The developer should install this tool on your development site and test it to ensure everything works properly.

    Do you know how sometimes prescription medications interact badly with each other? The same thing can happen with website features. A simple “pin” button might have a conflict with another tool on your website, which could mean it doesn’t work or your existing tools will stop working, or both! By adding it in a test environment, your team can work through any problems without your customers experiencing a shopping interruption.

  • Playing Around with Design:

    Launching a new look or trying out an idea is so important to stay current today, but very wisely, many business owners want to see the design implemented before they say go. Use your development site as a way to see how a new look will integrate into your site. Leverage your “dev site” as a way to do internal A/B testing. Try out different font sizes for headlines, test colors for your call outs and see what is resonating with you and your team before you roll it out to your customers.

  • Training Staff:

    Today more than ever businesses are assuming control over the editing of their websites. Many of us delegate this responsibility to our employees. Before you let them update the live site, be sure they are well trained on how to edit a website by having them make revisions on your development site. Your development site is a great way to have team members practice adding images, uploading new products and cross linking information. This will also you give you a way to test their work without it affecting the live environment.

  • Referencing Code:

    Sad but true: the tools and features on your live website can sometimes break, due to upgrades or browser issues or user mistakes. Obviously, you want these issues repaired as rapidly as possible.

    Your “dev site” should have the most current version of your edits. This is critical information to have when you’re searching for what caused your website to stop functioning the way it should be. Your developer can look at the live site and the “dev site” and compare code. It can make troubleshooting a live error that much faster – a very important consideration when you’re paying by-the-hour rates for website repair! It can also make training new developers easier if you have decided to take some of your programming in-house.

This is a best practice we follow, and we recommend that no matter who you work with, you should insist on the creation and use of a “dev site.”

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