Ever want to work on your website, testing different themes, etc. without affecting what visitors see?
There are several ways to set up a test website so you can make changes to your website without your visitors seeing them.
First of all, if you just want to test new themes, try the Theme Customizer.
1. Use Theme Customizer
You can test new themes in your WordPress website, without changing anything on the frontend where visitors see your website. To test new themes, go to Appearance > Customize in your WordPress Dashboard.
Click Change beside Active theme, and click WordPress.org Themes to see an array of themes available from the WP repo.
Click Install & Activate beside any theme. This will load the theme in the backend so you can preview it, but it will not activated it on the frontend.
Do NOT click the blue Activate & Publish button at the top, as that WILL activate the theme on the frontend for all your visitors to see.
You’ll see “Previewing theme…” over to the left. Now below that, you can make changes in “Site Identity, Colors, etc.” to the preview, so you can better see how this theme will look.
You can change themes by clicking Change again, or click the big X at top left to get out of preview. Nothing you do will change the frontend, unless you click the blue button at the top, Activate & Publish.
If you are looking to do more robust changes before visitors can see your changes, you may wish to set up a test website.
2. Set up a test site.
To set up a test site on your domain, try adding it
- in a folder or directory (YourBusiness.com/test-site), or
- on a subdomain (test.YourBusiness.com).
Check in your cPanel account or with your hosting company whether or not you can set up WordPress in a folder or subdomain.
2a. Set up a test site in a folder.
In cPanel, add your test site using Softaculous. Here are some handy instructions for installing WordPress using Softaculous. Be sure to add
or something similar into the field In Directory. Do not make a folder with that name on your file server.
2b. Set up a test site on a subdomain.
If you would rather use a subdomain, such as test.YourBusiness.com, then you would first have to set up a subdomain. Search for “subdomain” in cPanel, and add one there. Then go to Softaculous and install WordPress on it. Be sure to select the subdomain in the field Choose domain, and have nothing in the fields In Directory.
2c. Set up a test site on another url.
Another option is to set up your test site on another url or domain name, such as YourBusinessTest.com. After you purchase the domain name and hosting, install WordPress using Softaculous (like above). Then copy your current site over to your test site.
There are several ways to copy a site:
- Export/import manually in cPanel (database via phpMyAdmin and wp_content via File Manager, see here, here, and here).
- Use a plugin (search for “Duplicate Website” in your WordPress dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Search plugins…).
3. Have your hosting company do it for you.
Want expert help? To get your test site setup contact your hosting company and ask them with option is the best for you.
Or, if you’d like me to help you, contact me and let me know if you’d prefer your test site in a directory, subdomain, or another url.
I can help you:
- choose and purchase the domain
- install WordPress
- copy current site over to your test site
- move your test site changes over to your live site.
Let me know what you’re looking to do and your budget, and I’ll let you know what I can do.
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