Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Always Test Your Changes

Periodically, we see an anxious query
I just got an email from a friend
Your blog looks like crap.
What do I do now? Help! Oh yes, I think I tweaked the template a couple weeks ago.

So if you made the change to the template "a couple weeks ago", why did you wait until today, to find out from your friend that you have a problem?

Blogger Blogs are easy to work on. As easy as they are to work on, though, they still demand respect, and responsible practices are still relevant.

Any time that you make a change to the blog, or even when you post a new article, check out the change, preferably using multiple browsers. When you test, you need to see the blog as your readers may see it - so prepare to logout and login a few times, to view changes then make adjustments.

If you have a second browser or computer, this would be an excellent way to use one - to stay logged in on one browser, and make changes much easier. Or, using a sandboxed browser is an alternate way to check what your readers see - you won't be logged in, from there. Alternately, an online website display service may be useful.

If you're making changes to the template, consider setting up a blog for testing, and make your template changes there first. Blogs are free - Xanax isn't.
  1. Setup a test blog.
  2. Save the template from your production blog, to your computer.
  3. Load the template, saved in Step 2, to your test blog.
  4. Export posts from your production blog, then import them to your test blog. This gives you a real test bed.
  5. Make changes, and test them, without worrying about what your readers see. They only see the production blog. If you mess up badly, go back to Step 3.
  6. When you're happy with the test blog, save the template to your computer.
  7. Load the template from Step 6 to your production blog.
  8. Save the template copy from Step 2, as a fall back.
  9. Wasn't that easier on the nerves?


Nowadays, and if you develop a template and decorate it using a lot of custom gadgets, merely copying the template from one blog to another may not leave you with an elegantly developed blog. Right now, there is no procedure for backing up or restoring gadgets. If that's a problem, you develop the template, then transfer the comments, posts, and URL to the newly developed blog. This is a bit more work, but it will preserve your gadgets.
  1. Setup a test blog.
  2. Save the template from your production blog, to your computer.
  3. Load the template, saved in Step 2, to your test blog.
  4. Export posts from your production blog, then import them to your test blog. This gives you a real test bed.
  5. Make changes, and test them, without worrying about what your readers see. They only see the production blog. If you mess up badly, go back to Step 3.
  6. When you're happy with the test blog, transfer the existing comments, posts, and the URL to the new blog.
    • Extract the comments and posts from the existing blog, to an XML file.
    • Import the XML file to the new blog, and publish all posts not already handled in Step 4.
    • Re publish the existing blog to a new URL.
    • Publish the new blog to the publicly known URL.
    • If you have administrators / members / readers, you'll have to add them to the new blog.
  7. Save the old blog, published to the new URL, as a fall back.
  8. Wasn't that slightly easier on the nerves?


And of course, in both cases, backup the blog and the template, before and after making any major changes.

Don't wait for your friends to complain.

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9 comments:

Nurse Piggy said...

Hi Chuck,

I followed the directions EXACTLY from the '07 church case study on your blog. I tested my change and the result: Error 404! when I type my domain name into the web browser.

What am I missing? Any ideas for a 404 error fix.

Many thanks!
NursePiggy

theotherbed said...

I just woke up, so I'm a little slow this morning. K, think I got it.
1. Switch to minima now.
2. Customize.
3. Start a practice site (ok to use 3rd party template?)
4. Post and refine changes to both sites.
5. Choose which template you want to use for the rest of your life based on the aesthetic evolution of both blogs.

Is it Thursday? Just kidding.

Chuck said...

TOB,

You have the gist of it. Maybe you'll decide that you can make a Minima template shiny enough. Keep an open mind, and keep your readers happy (and you do provide help to your readers, so you have a small responsibility to them which goes beyond shiny blog customisations).

theotherbed said...

Chuck,
As per my responsibility, that is ultimately my concern. I got an email from someone this a.m. who called herself an "avid reader"who asked me to fix it bc the sidebar overlaps the posts and she can no longer read what I've posted!

Do I have to cut and paste all gadgets and posts when I make the switch to Minima? Or do I just click the change templates button and it happens automatically?

Oh gosh, I'm a little bit frightened by all this. I'm so grateful for your help.

TOB
(Do these comments or posts show up on SERPs?)

Chuck said...

TOB (notice I didn't use the C word),

One of the reasons why I persistently recommend Blogger supplied templates, and the "Pick New Template" wizard is that when you change templates using the wizard, your gadget and settings transfer automatically.

The blog template and post template are maintained separately from the gadgets. When you change the blog template, the post template and gadgets stay the same and transfer automatically as is.

theotherbed said...

The C word...I really want an emoticon right now!;)

I really appreciate the way you have links within comments within posts here. Kind of like a tutorial tree. Follow the crumbs. The Bewildered (like me) do need to be led and even shoved in the right direction.

I'm just going to go click the change template button and see what happens.

C. B. Whittemore said...

Thank you! I greatly appreciate your wisdom and methodical approach.

7th Floor 24/7 Digitial Fashion said...

I haven't made any changes, I've had the same format since Oct. 2010. Everything change on my blog on Sunday, March 6th, 2011. Sorry but, this dose not help me.

Chuck said...

Dolories,

Maybe some context here would be useful. It's always good to test your changes - but if you have not made any changes since Oct 2010, why are you here?