Can I stage a website on Wordpress before using my real domain
November 15, 2022 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I need to rebuild my new organization's website from the ground up (on Wordpress), while simultaneously keeping the existing (Squarespace) website going. Can I keep the current site live, build out the new one at, and then swap the domain to point to Wordpress when I'm ready to launch? More importantly: would such a transfer be too complicated for someone who is not a back-end web developer to handle?

This is probably a super basic question but I couldn't figure out how to search for it. If there are there any other considerations that I'm not factoring in, please let me know. Thanks!
posted by BuddhaInABucket to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can very much do this--the one thing you'll have to do is on the WordPress side change the domain to the new domain:
posted by foxfirefey at 10:27 AM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, you can do this. Steps are:
  • Develop the new website at whatever domain
  • When you're ready to go live, in the Wordpress settings, change the domain to the live one
  • Update the DNS records with your domain name registrar (you need to figure out who this is) to point your domain to the new Wordpress site
If you have email set up on your domain, you should make sure you don't break that when updating the DNS. If you give more information about your current setup, people could provide advice on that.
posted by wesleyac at 10:31 AM on November 15, 2022

Sometimes it's more complicated than changing the site URL because the URL is embedded in various places within the Wordpress database. For a simple website, it may be as easy as changing the site URL, but I'd suggest planning for a more complex case.

For more complex cases, WP-CLI has a Search and Replace function which looks after switching URLs which are embedded in the WP database. It's relatively straightforward to use, and in your case should be a search/replace of with

It looks like you plan to host at - if so, you'll need the Business Plan to have access to WP-CLI. If you are hosting elsewhere, your hosting provider should be able to tell you how to get access.
posted by dttocs at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You may also want to consider what happens to all the old urls from your Squarespace site after you switch to the new site.
If visitors to the old pages just see a "404 - page not found" error, this may hurt your search ranking.

I'm not sure the best way to do this in Wordpress specifically, but most CMS's will have a way for you to manually setup redirects from the old page urls to the new ones.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 11:53 AM on November 15, 2022

Thanks to the way that Wordpress embeds the hostname in way more locations than is reasonable, changing the site name after a site is setup can often be a real pain.

If it is a simple site and you are the only one setting it up, the simplest thing is often a host file override. You enter in the permanent site name (e.g., with the new sites IP address into the host file. See for directions. Then from that computer, you can see and interact with the new wordpress site under the soon to be new name.

The only kicker with this method is that you are the only one who can get to the new site until you change the publicly available dns entry to point to the new site.
posted by SegFaultCoreDump at 12:03 PM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Your question has one particular detail. My answer depends on if you will be hosting the site on at the end as you indicate you will at the start, or if you intend to self-host on GoDaddy or another web host using the software itself found at

If you'll be self hosting, it makes sense (and poses fewer bugs down the line) to configure your domain name first to point to the final server and install WordPress via the domain name versus via the raw server IP address itself.

You can always develop locally for most self-hosted WordPress sites and sync once ready to go live / perform server or purchase tests. You can import/export to but not as easily / freely as you can while self-hosting.
posted by Meagan at 1:22 PM on November 15, 2022

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