Yes! Staging is a really powerful feature that allows you to preview exactly what your website will look like without actually revealing the changes to the general public. This allows you to test one page or redevelop the entire site and push it all live at once.
The process is simple and can be utilized with any content, e.g. My Pages, Blogs, News, Promo Modules, Menu Items, etc. Whenever you are editing content you can set the status to "Offline" or "Live". This is located either in the "General" tab or the "Page Settings" tab. But in the status options you can also select several other options:
- "Staging": you will only be able to view this content when you are browsing your site in "staging mode".
- "Live, but Inactivate on Staging-Sync": you will be able to view this content on the live site, but it will not appear when browsing the site in "staging mode" and when you push the staging content live this content will be inactivated.
- "Live but Delete on Staging-Sync": you will be able to view this content on the live site, but it will not appear when browsing the site in "staging mode" and when you push the staging content live this content will be deleted completely.
Anything that is "Live" status will appear on both the live site and the site when browsing in "staging mode".
PREVIEW SITE IN STAGING MODE
If you want to browse your site in Staging Mode so you can preview the new content alongside the current live content, simply click the big blue "View Your Site" button at the top of the Control Panel. This will open up your site and toggle on Staging Mode. You know you are in Staging Mode because there will be a small blue button at the top left of your site that says "exit staging mode". If you want to see the live site again, just exit staging mode and you are back to the live site.
PUSHING STAGING CONTENT LIVE
Once you have everything looking exactly how you want it, you can either set individual content status to "live" or if you are a pro client and have made a lot of changes and you want to push it live all at once, you can use our one-click publishing to perform a "Staging Sync". This option is available under Admin > Tools > Staging.
For example, if you are replacing a module on your home page and want it to still appear on the live site, but you want to test how it will look in staging mode, you can switch the current live module to "Live, but Inactive on Staging-Sync". This way, the old module turns to inactive when you decide to go live with your new module. (This keeps the two modules from fighting over which one gets to show up).
CONTENT STAGING LIMITATIONS
Staging is currently built for allowing you to stage content, menus, and promo modules, and doesn't work for all sitewide settings. Most notably all the "Design" settings located in "Content" > "Design" > "Customize Design" page will not allow you to test different values for the staging mode, e.g. text like a "slogan", "welcome text" as well as images like "logo", "promo images", "secondary page images", etc. This is generally only a problem if you are wanting to switch to a new design template, so see the "Prep Home Page Content and Modules for New Design" section for recommendations.
TESTING A NEW DESIGN
If you want to preview a new custom design, we will put your new design in a development folder and give you a special link to view your website using this new design (only you will be able to see what your website looks like with the new design).
If you have a custom design or you are using a free design, and you want to preview a new/different Free Design, you can preview that as well. Go to "Content" > "Design" > "Switch Design Skins": click the design you want to preview and click the "Preview" button. When you click "Preview" it will set the admin to temporarily act like you are assigned to the design you are previewing.
Whether previewing a Custom Design or a Free Design, this can work with the Staged content as well if you previously put your website into staging mode by clicking the "View Your Site" button (staging mode will remain active until you exit it). So this way you can see the staged content AND the new design together and get a great idea of how your website will look once you push your staged content and new design live.
PREP HOME PAGE CONTENT AND MODULES FOR NEW DESIGN
If you like a design, and want to prep the content on the home page to make sure it looks good before you go live, it's a little bit complicated because the dynamic text and images on the home page are not controlled by "Staging" mode. And every design uses different fields in different places. But if you follow these suggested steps, you can get the job done.
In your admin Content > Design > Customize Design page, you will see a way to customize the home page dynamic text, images, and modules. The text and images can't be "Staged", but you can stage your modules. So basically you will set all your current live modules to a status of "Live, but inactivate on Staging-Sync". That will make the current live modules show up on the live website, but not the staging preview. Then you can create new modules to show up in the Staging Preview by setting their status as "Staging".
Then once your website generally looks like you want it to look (minus any dynamic text/images on home page) do the following when you are ready to go live:
- Make a list of the few things that need to be changed after going live. Write the text for the dynamic text areas, and prepare the image files you need for the image areas (crop images to the right size and upload them to your library so they are ready).
- Set your website to "Coming Soon" status for a few minutes (so no one can see your website publicly while you are making final changes). Do this by disabling "Public Access" (Admin > Site Info > "Technical" tab). Note: the "Coming Soon" page can be customized in the "Site Map" > "Page Settings" list, by including a custom "header description" if you don't like the default wording). Also note: during the coming soon period, you can still preview your new website from the "View Your Site" button (even though the public cannot).
- Switch Design Skins to officially set the design you are currently previewing as your new design (Admin > Content > Design > Switch Design Skins).
- Push the staging content live (Admin > Tools > Content Staging).
- Make final changes to dynamic text and imagesnow that the design is selected (Admin > Content > Design > Customize Design).
- Enable "Public Access" again (Admin > Site Info > "Technical" tab) and your site will be live.
LIMITATIONS WHEN PREVIEWING DESIGN
Because most designs have different module areas, you will need to create new modules in staging mode, so that they look right in the new design. But most designs also have different ratios for image layouts. For the home page, you can usually make promo slideshow area a module, so that allows you to customize it for the staging mode. But if for some reason, your design uses images and text from design settings (previously mentioned under "Content Staging Limitations") you will not be able to change those for just the staging mode.
Follow the directions in the above "Prep Home Page Content and Modules for New Design" section.
RECREATE OR RESTRUCTURE YOUR WEBSITE
Occassionally clients want to signifiantly restructure their website menu and rewrite a lot of their content, in addition to using a new design, and they want to test this and then launch this all at once. The design preview and the content staging mode can work together to accomplish this. And with the push of one button, all the staged content will be made live and all the live content set to inactivate will be inactivated or deleted.
So you can create entirely new pages and new menu structure in staging mode so that nothing is the same, or you can make your staging mode show some live content and some staged content. The staging site will show what the new website will have live, so if you get confused just refer to the staging website.
CLONING YOUR SITE TO START FRESH
If your restructuring is too complex and the staging seems confusing to you, and you want to "start over" from scratch and create a new website that isn't going to affect the old website, we do have a tool to "clone" your website. This tool is not a full clone/migration tool, it is an internal tool to let us clone a master website as a starter template when new people sign up. So we do not guarantee that it copies EVERYTHING perfectly, e.g. accounts, store sales, comments, etc. But if you have a simple site, it can allow you to get a headstart on a new website. However, we generally do not recommend this. And the content staging and design preview options should be adequate for most people.