Using colour schemes to easily distinguish between live and test installations of WordPress

Gareth Saunders
Tuesday 17 June 2014

When the web team took on management of the University’s WordPress multi site installation we actually inherited two instances: live and test.

Working with two almost identical installations I discovered a sense of mild anxiety whenever I had both installations open side by side: which version was I currently working with? Was I just about to do something that could potentially break the live site?

I found the answer in admin colour schemes.

New feature blindness

Having used WordPress since version 0.7.1 in 2003 there are certain aspects that I take for granted and am more or less blind to. One is timezone. It was only when the clocks went forward in the spring that I discovered that there was an option to set the timezone as London, UK which automatically updates when the clocks change. Prior to that, for I don’t know how many versions of WordPress I had been using the default value of UTC+0 and had to manually change it every time the clocks went back or forward.

Admin colour schemes

Another feature that I realised that I was blind to was admin colour schemes. When I first started using WordPress in 2003 it had only one interface colour scheme, in later versions it went up to two, but I always stuck to the default.

It was literally only a couple of weeks ago (about six months after it was introduced) that I realised that as of WordPress 3.8 the software shipped with eight colour schemes:

There are eight admin colour schemes installed by default in WordPress 3.8+
There are eight admin colour schemes installed by default in WordPress 3.8+

As soon as I realised this I updated my user profile on our test installation and changed it from ‘default’ to ‘sunrise’.

This bright red interface (below, right) gives me immediate feedback that I am currently working in the test installation.

WordPress admin interfaces side by side: black on left is live; red on right is test
WordPress live installation (left); WordPress test installation (right)

I certainly recommend that if you are working with multiple installations of WordPress (not just live v test, perhaps but different locations or clients) and you are not already making use of admin colour schemes: do look into it.

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