Plugins and Themes that don’t play nice: Let them out in your “Play Area”!

Since this is the second time today I had to trouble shoot an plugin/theme issue the only solution to which was simply removing the offending item(s), I’m becoming a little more untrusting towards plugins and themes! And with good reason!

I have spent more than three hours trying to fix problems with plugins and themes today, and they were driving me crazy! At first, I thought it was my own incompetence at using these tools in the first place! Everyone knows the phrase RTFM right! Well, of course I never do! But then when I went to check the documentation for the offending plugins/themes, it was very sketchy, 99% of which I either knew already or didn’t need to know! So, I stopped blaming myself and started removing them! Then the sun came out again! And the land was filled with rejoicing! Things worked again! So, to prevent hours of unnecessary frustration, and the ill effects of poorly written themes and plugins, I’m proposing the “Play Area”.

This, however, is only for blog authors who have their own full hosting/ftp/mysql, etc., it will save you a lot of extra heartache when you discover the theme of your dream or the plugin of your fantasy just don’t work, conflict with the theme, crash your blog, or corrupt your database! It’s only your ‘play area’ that fails, and you can always reinstall there! I call it a kind of insurance policy!

Here’s what you do:

  1. create a special subdomain such as (or a folder, perhaps?)
  2. make a copy of your database and download it.
  3. get and upload the latest version of WordPress in your NEW subdomain in #1.
  4. create a new Database in MYSQL, and upload your existing data to your new MYSQL database.
  5. edit the wp-config.php in the NEW area so that the data there matches your new installation OR follow the installation process when setting up WordPress.
  6. (optional) you can also password the entire subdomain using .htaccess and .htpasswd, so that it is only available to you!

It’s also a good idea if your website makeover is bigtime, and you still need to check the original from time to time.

Please note: it can be tricky to get this to work properly, if you just copy all the files from one area to the new subdomain. That can work well, too. I did it several times, but it took me ages to get the installations working properly, as I had to hack the database on one occasion, and login repeatedly to get to the write place to configure the settings!

However, when you set yourself up with a play area, an identical installation of your blog but in a separate area of your website (perhaps with its own password, so only you get to visit it) and a separate database. You call it whatever you like! Every time you want to install a new theme, add code, add a new plugin, or play with stuff, experiment there, so that your main blog is still available. If it goes down, no big deal, you didn’t lose anything, and your main blog still works fine! It’ll save you a LOT of trouble. Trust me!

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