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How to use the Visual Comparison Tool

October 29, 2019

Updating plugins can sometimes cause unexpected changes to the look and feel of your WordPress site. 

The Visual Comparison Tool for Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce Hosting is designed to test plugin updates on a staged version of your website.  If the updates can be safely applied without exceeding a certain threshold of visual change, the updates will be applied to your production website, either automatically or manually as you designate.  If the change is deemed to be disruptive, the tool will indicate "failed" and the plugin will not be allowed to be updated via automation.

How does it work?  

To accomplish this, the Visual Comparison Tool will automatically create a copy or stage your production website, where it will update the plugins, and give you the ability to see what changes the plugin update made to your site before it goes into production or you can automate the process fully. If your plugin does not pass the visual comparison difference that plugin will not be updated on the production site.

While you can manually create a staging site, run the updates, then apply successful updates to your production site, this feature saves you all the time and work of doing the comparison yourself.

View the Visual Comparison Tool

  1. To view the Visual Comparison Tool, log into your Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce Hosting control panel and click the Plan Dashboard button for the site you want to see. 
  2. Click the Visual Comparison link from the menu on the left-hand side of the page. 
  3. If you don't have a site running yet or you have no plugin updates to be done, you will see a message telling you that you have no visual comparisons yet. 

Updates Complete Automatically

  1. You will see a side-by-side comparison of your staging and live site showing no visual changes.
  2. A message will show below the comparison notifying you that the updates were done automatically on your live site. 

Partial Updates Completed

  1. You will see a side-by-side comparison of the visual changes to your site as it updated in the staging site.
  2. A notification will show below the comparisons that did not get updated.
  3. No Updates are Completed

  4. If all plugins on your site cause visual changes, no updates will be completed on your live site.
  5. A notification will show below each plugin notifying that there were changes and no update was made. 

Control URL Paths the Visual Comparison Tool

It is possible to control which URL paths are being included and excluded in the visual comparison tool directly in the Nexcess dashboard from wp-admin of your site. It is recommended to have up to ten URLs to be set on the priority pages. Verify that the priority pages that you have selected are valid and load on your live site.

Nexcess > Dashboard > Priority Pages

If you go to the priority pages tab in the Nexcess Dashboard you will see a number of default paths for URLs that have been added by default. You can delete any of the existing ones that have been added or updated to include different URL paths. 

It is also possible to add new URL paths using the Add URL button and then remember to click on the Save Changes button.

Disable the Visual Comparison Tool

The Visual Comparison Tool is automatically enabled in your Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce Hosting portal. If you want to disable it for any reason, it's as easy as clicking a button.

  1. In the Management section of your site portal, you will see the Plugin Upgrades button to enable or disable them. 
  2. Click the slider button Plugin Updates On and change it to Plugin Updates Disabled
  3. A pop-up will appear to confirm that plugin upgrades have been disabled. Once you disable the service, it will not automatically update plugins until you turn it back on. 

We don’t process or offer WordPress plugin auto-updates for sites larger than 10GB. Visual Compare will run every 48 hours. Visual compare does not replace manually updating plugins from wp-admin or using a WP-CLI command.

Useful Links

https://help.nexcess.net/74095-wordpress/how-to-enable-auto-updates-for-plugins-and-themes

https://help.nexcess.net/74095-wordpress/wordpress-automatic-updates

https://help.nexcess.net/74095-wordpress/wordpress-plugin-update

For 24-hour assistance any day of the year, contact our support team by email or through your Client Portal.

Jason Dobry