It is often easiest to stage a new site design on a live server than do it 100% offline. If you do not have a local WordPress install, we suggest you do that first to test any CSS or template modifications. Once you are ready to add real content and stage customizations from within WordPress, it is best to do it online.

This article also addresses how to correctly use maintenance modes on your live site.

The Solution

Assessing Your Site

Most site owners tend to over-assess the importance of changes not being noticed or witnessed by the world and complicate the process of redesigning or setting up a new theme by trying to migrate databases, use maintenance plugins or clone installs and so on. In most cases, these steps are not necessary and make it difficult for us to assist you.

First things first, take a look at your site statistics, visitor habits and content to determine, realistically, how much of an impact taking your site down for awhile will have. Some factors that might make your site uptime important are:

  1. Do you sell anything or offer a service that requires customer access to your site?
  2. Do you have hundreds or thousands of unique visitors per day(high traffic ?)
  3. Does your site cater to an audience that would not understand or be tolerant of a change?

If this is the case with you, your best option is to stage your site in a sub-directory of your domain using a copy of the live database. The only drawback of this method is that once you are ready to “flip the switch” you will need to ensure both the Site URL and WordPress URL in your clone settings are changed correctly. You may also notice some Permalink issues during testing due to your subdirectory setup that will resolve themselves once the site is moved.

If the following are true, your site can probably stand to be changed without a lot of impact to anyone.

  • Your site is a personal blog or portfolio
  • This is a brand new site or a new domain
  • Your site is low-traffic

In this scenario, you can setup or stage your site in a “pure” environment without it impacting anyone. If you are worried about test content making it into an RSS feed somewhere, tick the Discourage Search Engines setting on under the Settings – Reading page.

If you feel you absolutely must password-protect or use a maintenance plugin to hide your setup activity from the public eye, check out the Obox Launchpad, which you can download free under Plugins Add New.

When working with Obox Support and you have a locked down environment, please create an Obox account ahead of time so we can login and see what is going on to specifically diagnose your site’s individual problem.