Change / Preview Theme on Live Blog in Background

When I started blogging for the first time, changing themes wasn’t an issue because my blog was almost empty with respect to content and the traffic was too less to call my blog a live one. So, I used to just fiddle around whenever I had to change theme and it didn’t really matter to me if the site looks broken for a while. Recently I had to change layout of one of my blogs which has reasonable amount of traffic on it. I wanted the theme change to be a perfect transition such that not a single visitor finds it broken in anyway. The transition happened to be the perfect one, so, I thought to share those tips with you guys here. You can follow any of the following tips, whatever you may find better for yourself.

Testing Theme on Localhost Before Making it Live:

Before trying out your theme on your live blog, you can test it on your localhost which means on your PC. You will have to make your computer an host where you can simply install wordpress and try things out with test or actual data. To install wordpress on localhost, read this:

The above link is a tutorial about how to install wordpress on localhost and you can try the theme out with test data. However, it is highly recommended that you test your theme with actual data. For that, you will need to make an exact copy of your online blog on your harddisk.

To import your online WordPress blog to localhost, please read this.

After you have successfully imported your online blog to localhost, you can do all possible experiments with your local blog, which is the exact copy of the online blog, without pissing off your visitors. Once you get done with experimentation, editing theme files, header, footer, css and any additional codes like Google analytics, simply apply the edited theme to your live blog.

Testing Theme on Live Blog:

If you think, creating an exact copy offline to test things out is too much of a hassle then you can test your theme online keeping your original theme intact. Theme Testdrive, a wordpress plugin, let’s you (admin) testdrive any theme while visitors see the original or default theme, allowing you to test your theme with original data without any hassle of creating or downloading a copy.

Using Theme Testdrive

  • Simply go to “Add New” plugin from your wordpress dashboard.
  • Search “Theme testdrive”.
  • Click Install.
  • Go to theme testdrive option under “Appearance” in your WordPress dashboard.
  • Select the theme you want to testdrive and enable theme testdrive.
  • Simply view and edit your theme. If you are editing your theme through WordPress editor make sure you don’t start editing the default theme.
  • The only tricky part here would be the “widgets”. While adding or removing widgets, you will see the new sidebars there and any sidebars which were part of previous theme won’t be shown. Any changes in sidebar may result in widget loss in default theme. It is recommended you don’t play around with widgets before shifting to new theme.

My Recommendations:

  • Open your blog in two browsers. Log in, in to one and view other as a guest, so, you may view and compare both themes easily.
  • Look for headers and footers, they differ a lot in two different themes. Besides, there is a lot of customization made in these areas like navigation bars and logos in headers and analytics codes and copyrights messages in footer, so, compare headers and footers of both themes and see if something is missing.
  • Look around for any advertisement codes which were manually added to the themes.
  • We usually only check out the main page and post page of the site. Please, do check out search pages and archive pages and see if they are the way you wanted them.
  • Many of your widgets and ads are customized to fit in within the theme. You can’t edit them just right now or they will show up that way on current theme too. What I did here was, I created new ads with respect to my new theme and noted down the customizations I will have to make to the widgets and applied them at the last moment while changing the theme.

Good luck :)

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