It’s a pretty good assumption that all webmasters, not just WordPress users, enjoy trying new things with their sites — some of which backfire tremendously, occasionally crippling or even destroying a website — which is not the way to make a buck in this biz.
WordPress users, however, by virtue of the near infinite number of plugins, themes, add-ons and other enhancements available for this popular publishing platform, tend to try more “upgrades” than do other website owners — simply because it’s so damn easy.
Dev servers mimic the configuration of your production server.
It’s also pretty easy for visitors to receive a blank page or other abnormality in return.
Solving this costly, embarrassing and time-consuming problem is simple, however, and only requires the use of a development (or “dev”) server — a tool which makes live code testing easy and safe.
Dev servers mimic the configuration of your production server — think of it as a spare or backup web hosting account, which may be exactly how you want to do it — having your hosting provider duplicate your live setup, but using a different domain or some other option; for example: “test.domain.com” or www.testdomain.com.
Now when you want to try something new, try it on this duplicate “test” copy of your site first and if everything works ok, add it to your live site, knowing that it will be fine.
Depending on your current hosting account options, a second account may not even be necessary; but if your problems rise to the box-frying level, having that dev server on a physically separate machine (or different host) will prove most worthwhile.
WordPress users have it easy, with the Dashboard option to export posts and pages, etc. as an editable XML file which is then imported into a separate WordPress installation for hassle-free website duplication.
An added benefit is that if you keep a current version of the website on the dev server, it will be easier to switchover to it than to restore a backup in case of a hacking attack.