Wondering how to quickly and easily launch WordPress staging sites to test, collect user feedback, and try out new features before deploying them to your production website?
Then this article is for you because I’m going to show you step-by-step how you can use InstaWP; a tool that enables you to launch a WordPress staging site instantly and hustle free, share it with your clients/users to test it out and get feedback before it goes public.
I’ll also take you through every step of creating templates, creating teams, migrating sites and a lot more.
The first part of this article will be for Designers and the second part for Developers.
Note: the digits in brackets e.g. (00:02) indicate the minutes of that exact explanation in the video so you can easily jump to that section and follow along.
Video: Create Instant WordPress Staging Sites
What You’ll Need
For this article, you’re going to need InstaWP. All you need to do is go sign up. A free account is a good way to start.
Note: InstaWP is not a web hosting space/company, you may only use it to test your website product or features using their standalone infrastructure, and when you’re done collecting user/team feedback then you can make edits and further release (push) changes to your production server.
What are InstaWP Features
First, let me briefly take you through a few features that set InstaWP apart:
- Instant sites; InstaWP is true to its name, you actually get instant sites, ready to use in just minutes!
- With every install, you get a free domain name and you do not need to make any DNS changes. Furthermore, you can also assign custom domain names and point them to your WordPress applications.
- You don’t need to invest in a special server, InstaWP acts as your server itself.
- Free SSL for every install.
- A publically available test/staging site. You can share a link with anyone and they’ll be able to access the site.
- With InstaWP you get to choose which versions of WordPress and PHP you prefer to use.
- InstaWP also gives you access to other helpful tools like a database editor, code editor, error logs, etc.
With these features and so much more, I’m sure this is something you would want to get your hands onto.
InstaWP for Designers
Creating new WordPress staging sites with InstaWP
Upon signing up and logging into your InstaWP, you’re taken to the InstaWP dashboard, click the Add New option.
In the window that pops up, choose a WordPress version, in this case, I’ll set it at 6.02
For the PHP version, select 8.1.
On the Choose configuration option, you can set up what kind of theme you want to use and what plugins you want to be preinstalled.
Once you select your configuration and launch your website, that theme and plugins will be automatically installed.
Here, just leave the configuration on Default.
Under Site Name, enter a name of your choice, or you can automatically Generate a name.
Down to the following options, you can choose a Temporary Site which expires in 15 days or a Reserved Site which will be permanent.
Select the Temporary Site option, then Create Site.
At this point, your site will be launched in just a few seconds.
After the launch, you’ll see you have your new WordPress website with your domain and login credentials, click the Auto login option to access or new WordPress installation.
You’ll be redirected to a new tab with your WordPress dashboard.
Your site is ready with the default WordPress twenty-twenty-two theme, and the default plugins installed, you’ll find these under Plugins > Installed Plugins (06:13)
Under Users, you’ll find a new administrator created and you can edit the user to your preference.
Back to the InstaWP dashboard, in case you make changes to the backend of your website and you want your users, clients or team to check them out, you just have to copy the link and share it with them.
Let’s test it out by copying the link, when you paste this link into a new tab/window, you’ll see your live website. And your users can view it and give you feedback about it.
Back to the InstaWP dashboard;
Under Disk Usage, you can see the amount of space your newly launched website is taking up, and you can track the amount of tie left for your website instance to expire.
Under the Add Tag option, you can add your website’s tag and press Enter.
You also have other options like the
- Auto-login which enables you to go straight to the backend of your site without having to copy and paste the link.
- Reserve which makes your website permanent, meaning it will not be auto-deleted after 15 days.
- Save Template; you can save your site as a template and reuse it or share it with others
- On the 3 vertical dots (፧), you have even more options to share your site, migrate your site, etc.
Migrate staging site
When you go to the Migrate option, InstaWP is integrated with Blog Vault and you’ll see they are integrated with a bunch of hosting providers (09:03)
Select your hosting provider from the list and have your site moved to the live server, or you can have it moved to your CPanel or FTP.
Back to the InstaWP dashboard;
Under Tools, go to the Database Editor option (DB Editor), here you can see the tables in your database and you have other options where you can view the links and the users on your website (09:40).
On the View logs option, you can see the error logs and access logs running on your site.
InstaWP code editor
If you’re a developer, this option is mainly for you. You need access to a code editor that will enable you to access the wp files, content files, index.php and others that you might need to edit.
Under Tools > Code editor, go for example to WP Content > Themes, select your current theme (Twenty Twenty-two) > functions.php, here you have access to the file and you can edit it to your preference (10:45)
Let’s check out more features back in the InstaWP dashboard;
You have more options like Delete which enables you to delete your staging site instance if you don’t need it anymore.
Under Advanced Options;
You have the Clone option for you to make a copy of your site if you want, you have access to FTP and SSH, and you also have the Map a domain option.
Map a domain on InstaWP
On this option, you can add a custom domain of your choice and point it to your testing site.
Clone a website
When you go to the Clone Site option, you can give it a name or generate a name for it, and with this, you’ll have another copy of the same staging site. And if you don’t want them anymore you can just select them and delete them.
Note: For every install or clone of your staging website, InstaWP will send you an email letting you know what’s happening on your website.
Create a configuration with InstaWP
Whether you’re a designer or a developer, this configurations section will interest you.
Under this option, you can make custom configurations so that when you’re creating a website any other time you can just base on those configurations.
To set up a configuration, go to the Configurations option and Add New, give it a name and click Add (12:35)
In the next window, Select WordPress version 5.9 and PHP version 8.0.
You can make further custom configurations under the PHP tab, like the maximum upload and the post sizes.
In the same way, go to the WordPress tab, under Pre-install plugins select elementor.
To find out the slug for your theme, go to wordpress.org > plugins, when you search for elementor, you’ll see the slug for the Elementor Page Builder when you click on it (13:28).
Copy the slug and add it under Pre-install plugins.
Back to wordpress.org, search for the Premium Addons for Elementor plugin, copy its slug and add it under Pre-install plugins as well (13:48).
Under the Pre-install theme, add the slug for “Kadence”.
Alternatively, you can add a URL for a plugin or theme in the next section.
Additionally, you can also enable the Auto-update core and Multi-site installation options.
When you’re done setting up, click the Save button and your configuration will be ready.
Go back to Sites > Add New, under Choose Configuration select Kadence, Elementor and Premium Addons (14:51)
Give your site a name, make it a permanent site (Reserved site) then click the Create Site button.
After your site is launched you’ll see your site details; domain and credentials, and you’ll notice it’s a reserved site (15:21)
Click the Auto login option, and you’ll be redirected to your website’s dashboard.
Go to Appearance > Themes, and you’ll find the Kadence theme is activated (15:45)
Under Plugins, you’ll find Elementor and Premium Addons installed.
And now you can make edits and test out your WordPress website as a designer or developer, as well as share it with your clients or teams and get feedback on it.
InstaWP for Developers
InstaWP apps (Chrome & Slack)
When you go to your InstaWP username and click on it, there’s an option called Apps.
Under Apps, you’ll find a Google Chrome extension that you can add to your browser to get access to InstaWP, and Slack which will enable you to share your WordPress with others so you’ll be able to communicate and have real-time feedback.
Create API tokens on InstaWP
Under the API Tokens option, InstaWP gives you the ability to create API tokens to have third-party accounts authenticate with your application.
For example, go to Permissions and check the site create, site update, and site read options, under Name add “startertp” and click the Create button (17:06), then you’ll be given an API token that you can use.
You also have the option to Manage API Tokens, where you can edit your permissions to your preference.
InstaWP integrations (Mailchimp)
Moving on to the Integrations option, you can incorporate with other third-party services, for example, select Mailchimp under Select an application to install, add your Public key and your Mailchimp ID then Save (17:33)
With this, you will be able to integrate with Mailchimp and use it to communicate with your users.
Deploy sites to Git repository
Our next feature is Deployments, this one gives developers the ability to push changes to your GitHub account from your InstaWP and they’ll be reflected there.
All you have to do for this is to add your Git private or public repository, add your SSH link, your repository’s branch, destination folder and your commands, and when you’re done click the Add button to push your files to Git (18:19)
If you don’t want your users to bother with creating their own installations on InstaWP, you can create public or shared templates and share the template link with your team for example, and they can just install them on their end using this link.
To create a shared template go to Templates > Shared > Add template, select an existing site and click Next (19:10)
Add a name and description for your template, turn on the Instant Template option then click Save your changes.
When you go back to the Templates section you can just select Create a new site from that particular template and just give it a name of your choice (19:27)
This new site will adopt the initial configurations that you made before, for example, the Kadence theme, Elementor and Premium Addons.
And when you share this link with anyone, they’ll be able to use this very template to create their own site.
Back on your InstaWP dashboard, there’s a Statistics option (📶) where you can check out the disk usage, the sites you have running, the templates, etc.
InstaWP pricing plans
If you’re considering using InstaWP for your team or business, there are available plans that you can choose from. You have the free, personal, pro and agency plans.
In the Free Plan;
You can only run 5 websites and you have space of 500mbs. Your sites will expire in 48 hours, and you can restore a deleted website 3 times per month.
Check out the advanced options for more features.
In the Personal Plan;
You can run 10 sites, you have 5GB space, you can reserve sites (make them permanent), and you have a 7-day expiry, as well as 10 restores per month.
In the Pro Plan;
You can run up to 25 sites, 10GB space, 7day expiry, you can reserve sites and you can make 20 restores a month.
Remember, you cant use InstaWP as a hosting site, only for deployment, testing and staging sites. That’s why they limit the number of sites you can run.
Lastly in the Agency Plan;
You have a provision to run 50 sites, you can reserve sites, you have 25GB space, 15-day expiry and 50 restores per month. You can also create a team and assign team members. And of course, more options under Advanced.
Create a team in InstaWP
Back on your InstaWP dashboard, when you go to your username there’s an option called Create Team (24:24), when you click on it you can add a team member, their contact, and you can assign them admin privileges if you want.
Note that you can have up to 5 team members in your InstaWP account. And all the team members you add will receive an invite and when they accept it they’ll be part of your InstaWP account.
You also have the ability to delete either the whole team or even just a particular team member by cancelling their invitation or membership.
That’s how you can use InstaWP to set up and launch your WordPress staging sites instantly, test and deploy your web projects as well as share with your clients and team to test/collect feedback before going into production.
Hopefully, this tutorial was helpful to you. If you have any questions about InstaWP let me know, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to my channel and newsletter for more tutorials.