September 20, 2007

How to set up a test blog (and why you may want to use one)

A test blog can be very useful for testing template changes and other hacks before implementing the changes into your own. I always use test blogs when designing new templates, testing scripts and other such experiments. In this post I'll explain how you can set up your own test blog, and the reasons you will find it useful to use one.

What is a test blog?

For me, a test blog is a temporary blog I use for experimenting with template design, javascripts and to copy widgets from one blog to another. Since these blogs are usually temporary (or used only for experimental reasons) I set them up differently from my main blogs, so that they do not attract visitors or interfere with the preferences of other bloggers.

How do I set up a test blog?

Luckily, Blogger allows us to set up any number of blogs in our free account. You will probably want to set up your test blog differently to your regular blogs, so follow the steps below to learn how to do this:

  1. Go to your Blogger Dashboard and look for the "Create new blog" link near the top of the page. Click this link and you will be taken to the blog set-up page.
  2. Cjoose a name for your blog (eg: My Test Blog).
  3. Next you will need to choose your blog address ( I try to use addresses which are unlikely to be used by other Bloggers, and which also do not attract attention from search engines. This is also to ensure I don't interfere with the preferences of new bloggers (we all know the awkwardness of finding a suitable address for our blogs!).
  4. After you have chosen your preferences, enter the verification code and choose a simple template to begin with. You will be able to change this template shortly!
  5. The nest screen invites you to make your first post. This is actually quite important as having a few posts in your test blog will be of great benefit in seeing how your experiments will work when you try them out. For posts in my test blogs, I tend to use "Lorem Ipsum" dummy text, which is nonsensical Latin designed to fill in blank spaces for designers. Lorem Ipsum text is evenly spaced, and does not attract much visual attention. You can easily generate a paragraph or two of dummy text using the Lorem Ipsum generator in the tools section of this site.
  6. (Optional) You may also like to put a few "dummy" comments in your template if you plan on making changes to way comments appear in your blog.
  7. Once you have a couple of posts (and perhaps comments) present in your test blog, you should change a few of the settings:
      Go to Settings>Basic and look for "Add your blog to our listings". Choose "No" (unless you want your experiments to be seen by anyone who cares to look!).
    • Next go to Settings>Publishing and look for "send pings" near the bottom of the page. Set this to "No" too.
    • Finally, go to Settings>Permissions and choose who you would like to view this test blog. If you choose "Anybody" then anyone who stumbles upon your test blog will be able to see your experimental work. You may prefer to set this to "Only people i choose" instead which will make this blog private.
    You may also like to hide your test blog from your profile page. If this is the case, then go to your dashboard again, click on Edit Profile and look for the link which says "Choose which blogs to display". You will then see a list of your blogs and can check only the ones you wish to display from your profile page.
  8. Now you can use your test blog for whatever experiments you choose! You can upload your existing template to test new modifications, try out your scripts, or even try creating a new template all of your own!

Why you may want to use a test blog

If you are making major changes to your template, you probably won't want your readers to feel disrupted by seeing things alter as they are reading through your pages! Using a test blog enables you to make modifications without interference to your main blog, then when all is complete you can upload your modified template in one go, which will minimize any disruptions and also ensure you don't make mistakes on your main blog.

You can hack your template (for example, to use peekaboo posts, inline comments or other useful modifications) without worry that your template will break. If you make a mistake on your test blog, you can simply delete it and create another.

Another really good reason to set up a test blog is when you want to change your template and copy over the widgets from your existing blog. I will shortly be creating a full tutorial on this subject which will take you through the whole process step by step.

When you have finished using your test blog, you can easily delete it by going to Settings>Basic and choosing the "Delete this blog" option which is right at the bottom of the page. Once you do this, the blog will be deleted forever and cannot be recovered, so be sure to have backed up anything you need from this blog before you do so. Also the blog url will be released and available for others to use instead.

I hope you have found this post useful. In the near future I will also be creating tutorials about template design, for which you may well fins it useful to have a test blog at your disposal!

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below.

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