2 Methods to change a WordPress Theme while keeping the old one active

To change a WordPress theme and work on it while keeping the old one active for visitors, you can use a staging site or a plugin that allows you to customize themes without affecting the live site. Here’s a step-by-step guide to achieve this:

Method 1: Using a Staging Site

A staging site is a clone of your live website where you can make changes and test them before pushing them to the live site.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Create a Staging Site
    • Many web hosting providers offer easy staging site creation. Check your hosting control panel for options like “Staging” or “Clone Site”.
    • If your host doesn’t offer staging, you can use plugins like WP Staging or Duplicator.
  2. Install the New Theme on the Staging Site
    • Access the staging site’s WordPress dashboard.
    • Go to Appearance > Themes and Add New.
    • Install and activate the new theme.
  3. Customize the New Theme
    • Customize the theme as needed, adding content, plugins, and making design changes.
    • Test all functionalities to ensure everything works as expected.
  4. Push Changes to Live Site
    • Once you are satisfied with the changes, you can push the staging site to the live site. This can usually be done with one click if your host provides this feature.
    • If you used a plugin, follow the plugin’s instructions to migrate the staging site to the live site.

Method 2: Using a Theme Customization Plugin

Plugins like Theme Switcha allow you to work on a new theme while the old theme remains active for visitors.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Install Theme Switcha Plugin
    • From your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New.
    • Search for “Theme Switcha” and install it.
    • Activate the plugin.
  2. Configure Theme Switcha
    • Go to Appearance > Theme Switcha.
    • Enable Theme Switching.
    • Save changes.
  3. Preview and Customize the New Theme
    • Go to Appearance > Themes.
    • Find the new theme you want to work on and click on Live Preview.
    • Customize the theme using the WordPress Customizer.
    • Only logged-in administrators will see the new theme; visitors will still see the old theme.
  4. Switch to the New Theme When Ready
    • Once you are done customizing, you can activate the new theme from Appearance > Themes.

Tips for Seamless Transition

  • Backup Your Site: Always back up your site before making any major changes.
  • Check Compatibility: Ensure that all plugins and functionalities work with the new theme.
  • Test Responsiveness: Make sure the new theme looks good on all devices (desktop, tablet, mobile).
  • Monitor Performance: After switching themes, monitor your site’s performance to ensure there are no issues.

By using a staging site or a theme customization plugin, you can work on a new theme without disrupting the experience for your visitors.