Switching a Site to WordPress and Leaving It Live Until Ready

I know there will be a Homer Simpson moment (hitting head, as I say DOH) when one of you give me an insanely simple answer, but oh well…I need an answer, so here goes.

Have built 25 or so WordPress sites but all from scratch using modified premium templates. Now, I am redoing a BIG site that is currently built in a custom format and want to leave it live until the new WP site is done and then upload it with no downtime. What is the best way to do this??? So I use another domain name and build it and then just copy everything? or use the current name and add WP and then build it under some secret path???

Help and thank you in advance ;-D


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There are numerous ways you can setup a staging area for a site redesign. Here are three suggestions:

  • If the content will remain the same and you’re just going to change the theme, you can use a plugin that changes the theme based on the user and set yourself (and your client when appropriate) to use the new theme. Here’s a plugin to do this (Note: I’ve never used this, so can’t vouch for it).
  • Similar to the above, you can use WordPress’ built-in theme preview functionality to test out new designs. Just add something like ?preview=1&template=twentyten&stylesheet=twentyten to the end of your URL (replacing twentyten as appropriate)
  • If the content will be different, the above clearly aren’t options. Regardless, another choice would be to setup a testing subdomain, e.g. redesign.site.com and host the new site on that. If you set this up on the same server as the old site, you can launch it in a matter of moments by changing the domain in the new install’s general settings and changing your web server config to point the live domain to the new location. Otherwise, you can just move everything over when the time is right.

One option would be to set up the site on a different server. When the WordPress version of the site is ready to be turned on, you could just change the name servers. I think that would be the best way to go if ones available. This way you could import the Database, get any bugs worked out and have a seamless transition.