Efficient and Private Blog Redesign?
July 8, 2008 2:11 PM   Subscribe

What's easiest way to work on a redesign of my blog while keeping the live version as is?

I use Wordpress, fully hosted on my own domain. I need to redesign, testing out and tweaking various themes as I go, ideally using my current content. How should I go about this? I don't want random people or search engines to find it while I'm working on it.

I have some other inactive domain names hosted by the same host. The only thing I know to do is to install Wordpress on one of them, create a new database, and import my current content. But there's got to be an easier way, right?
posted by kmel to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"The only thing I know to do is to install Wordpress on one of them, create a new database, and import my current content. But there's got to be an easier way, right?"

In my experience, no.

Your best bet is to copy your whole WP install using FTP, copy the MySQL database, edit the wp-config file in the sandbox installation so that it points at the new DB, do the redesign, then port whatever themes and things you decide upon to the live installation.

If you don't mind downtime, another option is to use a plugin like Maintenance Mode to make the blog accessible only to admins. You can then tweak it for as long as you like, without anybody else seeing.
posted by sindark at 2:22 PM on July 8, 2008

"I don't want random people or search engines to find it while I'm working on it."

Don't link to it. Tell search engines to ignore the sub-directory using robots.txt.

If you are really paranoid, use htaccess to restrict the directory. Alternatively, use Maintenance Mode or one of the login-required-to-view-blog plugins.
posted by sindark at 2:23 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: A good choice for keeping unwanted visitors out of a blog is Angsuman’s Authenticated WordPress Plugin. It is much more elegant than messing around with htaccess and htpasswd files.
posted by sindark at 2:26 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: You can also just run Wordpress on your local machine and do your edits there. If you use a Mac, running MAMP (Macintosh, Apache, Mysql and PHP) will make this very easy. I'm sure there is something similar for Windows machines, and if you are comfortable with this stuff you can install everything yourself to run Wordpress locally.

I do this at home and when the theme is done, I just move it to my remote server and make the change in Wordpress' dashboard.

You can even download your content files and MySQL database from your live account and set them up locally. It will be a "snapshot" of the content, but it will work for tweaking. I don't know of a way to use the live data and posts on another Wordpress install so that online viewers see one thing and you see another.
posted by qwip at 2:36 PM on July 8, 2008

Funny you should mention this, since I'm doing the same thing.

I just ran across bitnami, which you can use to set up a self-contained stack including Wordpress on your local machine.

I'll probably get around to trying that out. I actually host my blog in a subdirectory of my domain, and I've set up a separate subdirectory as my dev blog with some dummy entries.

There are also a number of theme-switching plugins for wordpress (just google it) specifically for the purpose of theme development, so you see your dev theme and everyone else sees your production theme. Here's one. I have not tried this myself, but it seems like a reasonable approach.
posted by adamrice at 2:44 PM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

You can also just run Wordpress on your local machine and do your edits there.

Seconding this. Get your own server running locally, dump the MySQL database from the production site and import it on the dev server. Then theme away. Once you're done, upload the new theme files.
posted by camcgee at 3:32 PM on July 8, 2008

Thirding local install.
posted by apetpsychic at 3:52 PM on July 8, 2008

Nthing developing on a local install. MAMP, if you're using a Mac, makes it all nice. 'Swhat we do at my house.
posted by mumkin at 4:34 PM on July 8, 2008

The way I would do a while back was download one of the WP theme-switching plugins. I'd switch the theme that *I* would see to the one that was being worked on, and so long as a visitor didn't switch the theme they'd see, no one was the wiser. Once I was done with the design, I'd deactivate the plugin and set the default theme to the new one.
posted by chickygrrl at 5:38 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: WordPress Theme Test Drive. You see a theme that you set, and other people see the theme that you set for them. There's no chance of someone accidentally seeing what you don't want them to that I've found outside of someone logging in as you.

Edit away while the rest of the world can't tell.

The one thing that could prove to be a problem is sidebar widgets. If you mess with those then it will get messed with on the version everyone else sees. If you need to do this, an extra install somewhere would be better. But otherwise, this is what I would recommend.
posted by theichibun at 7:28 PM on July 8, 2008

If I could only give one piece of advice for software development of any kind it would be: do all development on a local machine. Well, actually, "use source control" would probably be first, but local development would be second. It might seem like kind of a hassle at first, but it's totally worth it.
posted by systematic at 8:47 PM on July 8, 2008

I recently did a live update of my WP theme, always changing it back after a session of dicking around. Anyone visiting the site while I was working on it might get a php-error or a half-baked theme, but the post at the top encouraged people to leave their opinions, explaining what was going on.

There are a few plugins that are intended for this (testing themes only you can see) although I haven't tried any of them. If it's only CSS you're going to manipulate I'd recommend using a local stylesheet.

A while ago I was using MAMP for developing a theme locally and hit a snag. I don't recall what the problem was, but it took me three days to figure out that whatever php function I was calling didn't work locally. So MAMP is excellent overall, but keep in mind that if something doesn't work even thought you're sure it should, it might be a MAMP thing.
posted by monocultured at 2:06 AM on July 9, 2008

I had trouble using the live database for a sandbox installation at my webhost. So you can either use a sandbox database to work on your theme.

I have no experience with MAMP so it may be what you're looking for.
posted by Baud at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2008

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