I don't always test my code, but when I do I do it in productionThis meme has been circulating around the internet. You can find the same picture with any number of phrases superimposed for whatever occasion suits you. He is, after all, the most interesting man in the world.

You could swap out the words on this one for something about coding under the influence. In production.

It’s amazing how often you run into situations where the only options for making changes to a site are to do it “live” with the whole world watching, or to put up a “Site Maintenance” screen while you experiment because the only available place to test is on an otherwise live server. (That’s what “in production” means.)

These situations are nearly always because someone has tried to cut corners on hosting resources. It’s a result of the widespread idea that it’s easy to make a fast buck on the internet without putting in any investment, either of money or time.

There are plenty of services that let you “do it yourself without knowing any code”. They’re cheap. Some of them come with lots of nice features and lots of templates to choose from. But they’re all, essentially, canned.

The other night we were watching the Food Network, Restaurant Impossible. It’s the same thing. I can’t remember the number of times Chef Robert Ervine (or, if you like Fox’s version, Kitchen Nightmares, Chef Gordon Ramsey) goes into a failing restaurant to find they’re serving canned vegetables, canned seafood, canned everything. Nine times out of ten, the resident chef at the failing restaurant is tremendously frustrated, on the verge of quitting, because she would like to do something more creative with fresh ingredients. But the owner refuses, insisting canned is better, cheaper, faster.

Sure, you can get a canned site from Amazon or Ebay or BigCommerce. They’ll work. They have lots of features. But realize that you’re putting your online business in someone else’s can. There’s only so much you can customize. When you want to change, redesign or customize something, you’ll have to do it “in production” with your customers watching. And when you outgrow the can, you’ll probably pay more to get out of the can than you would have if you’d started off with something “fresh” to begin with.