A staging site is commonly used in website design to give designers a place to use new website features without any harmful effects. The staging site itself is a clone of the main website, but any new features and programming are only added to this clone environment. To place the site online, the designer has to use a server, known as a staging server. Aside from seeing the new website in action, this staging area also keeps any poor or incorrect coding from destroying the main website and interfering with regular users. While most of the testing is done by the designer, some website owners allow other users to test and see the new website while still in production.
The staging site is a virtual clone of the main website, but one with any new features and programming placed into it. If the designer wants, the staging website can have an entirely different design, but this is uncommon, because more intensive features are normally tested in this environment. For example, if the website allows users to add articles or comments, this environment would allow the designer to ensure the functions are working perfectly.
To use a staging site, it has to be loaded onto a staging server. This can be a server separate from the server hosting the main website, or it may just be a separate section of the same server. In both cases, the staging and main websites are kept apart, so one cannot interfere with the other. This also keeps the designer from accidentally confusing the two.
The separation between the main site and staging site is important, because the staging site can corrupt the main site if the coding is done incorrectly. If the designer is testing a new feature and the coding is done incorrectly, it could shut down the whole website or disable primary features. If this is done in a testing environment, then the designer can calmly work on fixing the issue; if this is done on the main website, then the designer has to rush to ensure that visitors are not affected by the problem.
Normally, the only people to test a staging site are the designer and any administrative team working on the website. Some websites, especially popular ones, may allow users to test the staging website. This allows the staging site to experience real use and designers to get feedback from users about the new design or features.