If you are a complete beginner, the answer is No. It is probably just too complicated to deal with this complexity too. But if you have moved past that stage, the answer is Yes.
You want as little down time as possible on your site, and the best way to do that is to leave it alone. But you want to develop your site at the same time.
You do this by working on your local site and send the changes to the live site only when you are finished with your changes, have tested them and are confident that it won’t break anything.
This is the way the entire software industry works. We develop software on our local machine, then test it on a local test installation. And when we get a green light, we push the changes to production.
There are several benefits to this.
- We can experiment as much as we want. We can catch bad design before we ship it and expose it to the customers. Many times, we won’t know if it is a good or bad design before we have tried it out.
- Changing working software to add new functionality takes time. And the software will be in a non-working state during development. This could be compared to when a road gets new asphalt. The road is closed when the work is done, nobody can drive on it during that time.
- Something happens to the production environment. Maybe we are hacked, or perhaps the server broke down. But that doesn’t matter that much, we have all the source code on our local machine.
- We can increase our technical knowledge of the system by digging into the deeper technical parts of the installation without being afraid of hurting the customers if we do something that breaks the system. We make ourselves more able to fix things, instead of having to wait for others to do it for us.
Most of us only drive a car and pay good money for someone else to do the service. But if we instead learn to change the tires, the oil and spark plugs, we can get things done whenever we need it instead of depending on the experts.
WordPress is software. There aren’t actually that much difference from any other software company. Working on a new page structure, changing the layout, or adding a new plugin, it’s all part of the development process. The difference is just that WordPress hides the code from us.
Now, there is a backside to this too.
- We have to become a bit more technical because we have to install the software ourselves. This might be a big hurdle, depending on how technically capable we already are. We will have to learn what PHP, a database and a web server is, and so on.
- Continuing on the topic from the first point. The server software is our responsibility, not anybody else’s. We maintain and update it. There’s nobody else that does that for us. If we don’t do that, we will eventually find us in a situation where the web hotel is so far ahead in versions that what we have on our computer is no longer compatible. What I mean is, it is not optional to do it.
- It adds complexity. We have to maintain two environments instead of only one. We really don’t want the two sites to have different versions of our site, except the part that we are working on.
There are pros and cons with everything. That’s life. What we have to do is to weigh them against each other and make a decision. Is it worth it?
Me? I have a local installation. But then again, I am a developer, and I just can’t see myself working any other way. For me the cons I listed above are just a day at work.
Now, how about you? I hope I have given you enough for you to make a decision.