Joomla

Don’t make major changes on a live site.

11971212111925605370ernes_stop.svg.medThe past few weeks, my ‘Mijnkmosite’ team was under a lot of pressure to finish a Joomla project.  A pain-in-the-ass customer kept demanding radical changes, while our deadline had passed a month ago. 

The customer didn’t mind.  After all, it was his fault, and he had already acknowledged this over the phone and e-mail.  Still he wanted these changes to be made. 

But this tip isn’t about deadlines or customers.  What happened, was that some of our guys skipped the “development and testing” phase, which always happens in a carbon copy of the site, located on our ‘Webdev01’ server.  They started to implement and test changes directly on the live site. 

IT worked out in this case, but you shouldn’t follow their lead.  It’s my opinion that you should NEVER implement major changes on a live site.  The same applies to minor changes, if you don’t know what the impact will be.  Boy, was I surprised when installing a simple thumbnail generator plug-in ruined the layout of my entire gaming site / blog!

I’ll try to sum up some of the things you should never do with a live site:

  1. Changing templates; be it by installing a new one or making changes to the template code.  Unless your template uses identical module positions to the old one, you’ll mess up your site. 
  2. Installing and publishing modules of which you can’t predict the behaviour
  3. Number 2 also applies to plug-ins. 
  4. Making changes to any of the html or php files.
  5. Translate your site with Joomfish.  My point is:  you’ll probably fail to translate it all at once, and it’ll confuse your visitors. 
  6. Temper with Joomla! core files.
  7. Publish modules / plug-ins that aren’t correctly configured yet.

I’m assuming that the list goes on, but this is all I can think of for now. 

I suggest you do the exact opposite:  Make as many changes as possible in your test environment, then “upload” them by replacing the old database / files.  Be smart, and set up a test environment where you keep ‘carbon copies’ of websites.  A Virtual machine or Server with Linux, Apache, Mysql and PHP is easy to set up.  Or you can always download and install Wamp, Mamp,…

This way, you’ll have a 99% certainty that your changes will work out as planned.  And should anything go wrong, there’ll be only one witness – you.

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