How to Work on WordPress Without Going Live?

You can work on your WordPress site without going live by changing your privacy settings, using plugins, or working offline on a device.

Published Categorized as WordPress
How to Work on WordPress Without Going Live?

Tired of making changes to your WordPress site only to notice embarrassing mistakes immediately after? Want to keep your site secret until it’s ready to release into the world?

Worry no more.

There are plenty of ways to work on your WordPress site without exposing it half-finished, whether you’re working on edits, revamping the design, troubleshooting, or building it from scratch.

Some are more technical than others, but in the end, it largely comes down to your needs and what works for you.

In this post, we will show you several ways you can work your WordPress site behind the scenes so you can perfect every detail before sharing.

How to Hide a WordPress Site From the Public?

Anna Fitzgerald of HubSpot explains what many WordPress users call ‘maintenance mode.’ This is not a mode readily available on WordPress (‘Coming Soon’ is perhaps the closest).

Fitzgerald says you can manually add a bit of code to the end of the Theme in the PHP file in WordPress. Here’s what Fitzgerald recommends you add:

function wp_maintenance_mode() {
if (!current_user_can('edit_themes') || !is_user_logged_in()) {
    wp_die('<h1>Under Maintenance</h1><br />Website under planned maintenance. Please check back later.');

add_action('get_header', 'wp_maintenance_mode');

This will cover the entire page and display the message “Website under planned maintenance. Please check back later.”

You can of course edit this to display your own message.

Or you can install a plugin like the WP Maintenance Mode which can do it for you. Other similar plugins include Maintenance.

How to Take a WordPress Site Offline Without a Plugin?

If you’re building your website on, the best way to reduce your WordPress site’s visibility without a plugin is to change the privacy settings.

Note that this only works for websites. You won’t have this as an option if you’re using the self-hosted version of WordPress, so you’ll have to edit code or use a plugin.

How this works:

You can change them to either ‘Coming Soon,’ ‘Private’ or tick the ‘Discourage search from indexing this site’ box under ‘Public.’

'Coming Soon,' 'Public,' and 'Private' privacy settings.

Setting your site to ‘Private’ is perhaps the best way to keep prying eyes away from your work in progress and you can revert it to Public later on.

Your site will only be visible to you and the people you invite. There will be a login screen and they will need to enter a username and password to access the content.

If you plan to work on your site with other people, this might be the ideal approach for you. Or you could also use this method to get early feedback from people you trust.

It is worth noting that there are hackers out there who try to hijack these login pages, so having a plugin to shield them might also be a good idea.

‘Coming Soon’ will hide your site behind a coming soon sign. This is perhaps the best option if you haven’t published your site yet.

The final option, to discourage search engines from indexing your site is a sub-option of Public.

So, your site will still be online and people with the URL will be able to access it, but it won’t appear in search results.

The main issue to consider with this approach is that when you later turn off this option, it will take a while for the site to start ranking again.

This could be detrimental to reaching new visitors faster and is a reason why many would recommend using a password-protecting method instead.

Aside from the Private option that allows you to create a password, you can also look into  ‘.htaccess’ to create a password-protected login.

However you decide to hide your WordPress site—with or without plugins—it is highly recommended that you make a backup of your site and store it on your computer.

To do this, head to the Theme Editor under Appearance, copy the code and save it in a notepad file (or wherever is most convenient for you to store code).

This file could be a lifesaver if anything goes wrong, particularly for those who have created highly customized themes.

But another important reason is that you may find your newly updated site doesn’t work too well with some of the plugins you’re using, and you might need to revert it back.

Can I Work on a WordPress Theme Without Activating It?

Yes, you can. The easiest way to test a new theme without activating it is to use the preview option under Appearance but customizing the theme and testing it out will require plugins.

WPBeginner recommends the Theme Switcha plugin, which “allows you to preview your new theme without activating it.”

Once enabled, you can then switch between the themes you have already installed, and you can preview them in another tab.

But before doing this, you’ll likely want maintenance mode on as well, just in case.

How Do I Edit a WordPress Website Without Publishing It?

Perhaps the best way to edit a WordPress website offline is by working on it using only your computer.

This way no one is going to accidentally stumble upon it half-finished and you can keep the older version up at the same time, reducing downtime and the need for maintenance mode.

Local WP by WP Engine is an easy way to create a local WP installation on your computer. You can then work on your computer disconnected from the web, not on a browser.

Do note that if you’re only making small changes to your site, this might be a bit overkill, though, it will give you a lot of peace of mind when editing and a lot more control.

When you’re finished working on your site, you’ll need to re-upload your changes to activate it.

Jetpack has a great guide on how to move a site from a computer to a live server.

Another option is WP Staging, a plugin that you can use to clone your site and create a staging environment for testing new changes.

Once you’re happy with your site, you can swap it for the live version.

Again, using a plugin to create a staging environment is another great way you can keep your current site up and running (keeping you in business) until the new design is ready.

Key Points

You have a wide variety of choices for working on your WordPress site without publishing it. What you decide should come down to your goals and how tech-savvy you are.

  • There are a lot of plugins to help you with maintenance, staging, and switching themes (check the Plugins section on the navigation in WordPress).
  • If you prefer, you could make your site private, discourage search engines from listing it, or put up a coming soon sign.
  • It’s also possible to work on your WordPress site offline on your computer, though, this may be too technical for some.
  • Make a backup for your site just in case your new design doesn’t work, and you need to revert to the original.

By Craig Britton

Jack of all trades on writing-related topics with extensive experience in copywriting.

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