Support » Fixing WordPress » What is the best way to switch themes for a live site?

  • I have a site up now using one theme. There’s a few days worth of content on it and a few people visiting it.

    I’d like to use a different theme. I know how to switch from one theme to another — not very complicated even for a beginner like me.

    However, there will be quite a bit of modification required with the new theme, not to mention a learning curve — the new theme has more features than the existing one.

    I’m assuming that if I activate the new theme, it will be immediately visible on my site. That would not be good, because it’ll be a mess. Is there any way to work on the new theme while leaving the old theme up and functioning and then when the new theme is ready, just switch? I don’t really see how this can be done because I’d need all the content from the old theme. Is this possible?

    Or, to do this, would I have to put up some kind of landing page that says that there’s design maintenance going on and we’ll be back up soon? Which is kind of a drag for the existing visitors.

    I’d appreciate hearing what the best strategy is for making this kind of switch.


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  • Since WP 3.4. something there is a life preview for new themes. This means you can preview a new theme while your current theme remains active. I haven’t tried this yet but it might help you.

    What I normally do is test on another server. If you don’t have one you could also try a local install (using your own system as a virtual server) but that might be a bit complex.

    Honestly, sites need maintenance. Visitors understand this and will be back if they like your content so the maintenance landing page sounds a good option to get your site ready for a better version.

    The idea of another server might work just fine. My host is Bluehost and my site is actually what they call an add on site. I think that I could put another add on site on that server, then install WP on the new add on site and make a copy of my site, move it to the add on site, do all my fixing up and then move the “fixed up site” back to where the original one was.

    I’m not sure that this will work, but it makes sense to me. If it does, it would be just the thing. If not, as you say, the maintenance page option would work, too.

    Thanks for the ideas, Peter, I appreciate them.

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