You can choose from tens of thousands of free and paid WordPress themes: the possibilities seem infinite. Themes have been getting more and more sophisticated over the years, with many features and settings that let you customize your site. This is wonderful, but it does create a problem: switching themes takes time. You can’t just enable a new theme and walk away: you need to customize the theme options to make it work for your site. This can be a time-consuming process (not to mention the amount of time it takes to choose a theme in the first place!). So what do you do to make sure your site visitors don’t see a weird work-in-progress when they visit your site during a theme transition?A lot of people put their site in maintenance mode. There are a lot of great maintenance mode plugins out there: while you’re setting up your new theme, you can turn on maintenance mode, which lets logged-in visitors see the full site, while non-logged-in visitors just see a message saying “this site is down for maintenance.”
However, maintenance mode isn’t an ideal solution, especially if you need a lot of time to customize your new theme or even develop a theme yourself.
This is where a staging site comes in handy. You can create a staging copy of your website (also known as a development environment or a sandbox). This is an exact copy of your website, but it does not live at your website’s main URL. That means that visitors can continue to go to your website, and they’ll never know that you’re in the middle of major construction work.
Using a staging site means that you can take your time to get your theme set up just how you want it. You don’t have to worry about your site visitors seeing anything broken on your site. If you have e-commerce on your site, you won’t lose any sales because of downtime. When you have everything set up exactly how you want it on your staging site, you can copy your changes to your live site.
Maintenance mode can be handy, but it’s much better to use a staging site to ensure that your site doesn’t have any downtime while you are switching themes.