Editing Your Site Like James Bond

Bond, James Bond

I love watching James Bond movies. One of the things I love about Bond movies is watching Bond figure out solutions to a problem on the fly. He always has a way out and is a step ahead of the bad guys. Somehow though, he never needs to practice an escape.

Take for example, Bond’s escape in Quantum of Solace where he flies a battered plane up into the air, only to jump out, dive into a huge hole and deploy his parachute just in time for a safe landing – all while saving the girl of course. He didn’t practice that, Bond got it right the first time he tried.

How’s This Relate to WordPress?

As much as I love watching Bond movies, it’s still just that – a movie. I’m not James Bond, neither are you – or if you are, ignore the rest of this post! Unfortunately it’s easy to get that Bond mentality when working on a website. You login to WordPress, see something on your site that could use changed – maybe a link color – so you decide to just go for it and jump into the WordPress theme editor and make a few quick code changes. It’ll all work out, you think to yourself. That’s fine, until you accidentally change the wrong line, or saving the file doesn’t work quite right, or you hit delete instead of save – the list goes on. At best this might result in some odd code displaying on your site, but it could also take down your entire site or expose sensitive information like passwords or user information.

Disabling The WordPress Editor

Nearly everyone is guilty of making mistakes like this, though what I’ve found is that a lot of people don’t understand the potential effects that editing a file on a live site can have. I think there’s a misconception that just because WordPress includes a certain feature, it’s ok to use it. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. WordPress is very powerful software with a lot of tools – those tools need to be used properly to keep your site working well. That’s why we disable the WordPress theme editor on nearly every site we build. It’s not that we don’t like the feature, we just don’t feel that it should be exposed to end users without a proper explanation of the ramifications that changes on a live site can have.

How Should I Make Changes?

Ideally if you’re going to make changes on your site, you should have a development site setup where you make changes, test them, and then upload them to your live site. Granted this can sometimes be very time consuming for small changes, so you can use a quick workaround if you’re in a pinch.

First, you’ll want to FTP into your site. Then navigate to the file you want to change and download it to your computer. Once you’ve downloaded the file, make a copy of the file and add “-original” to the file name. This way you’ll have a backup of the original file. Next make the changes you want to make on your local copy of the file, then upload it to your live site. At this point you’ll want to quickly test your site to make sure everything works. If so, you’re all set. If not, you can either make further changes or just restore the “-original” file.

So remember, you can watch Bond movies, dress like Bond, or even drive the same car – just don’t edit your website like James Bond.

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