I'm wanting to test out a few new pages and have just a small set of beta testing users be able to access them before I allow them to go live to the rest of the site. What I've typically done is created pages with no links and just give those URLs to users to try out to give feedback. This has worked great for just text articles for proofreading. However, I'm about to install a chat plugin and there's no way to test this on a localhost install and test it effectively.
The way I do functionality improvements now is to have my beta testers ready, install the plugin live, and then test/coordinate this as quickly as possible so it can be removed if it functions poorly or allowed to stay live. This is crazy stressful to me.
I've thought of ideas like buying a garbage test domain (www.asfdsjkfsda.com), and cloning my site to it, and then allowing testing there. Effective/clever or not, it still seems like a ridiculous idea.
Is there a better way to test new functionality for a beta group? Is this really the way things are done?