Ask a SuperGeek: How to redesign your WordPress website with no downtime

A question I’m often asked is: how can I work on a redesign of my website while still keeping my current website live?

If you’ve ever contemplated redesigning your website, you’ve probably wondered about this. Well, I’m happy to tell you that you don’t have to take your site down white redesigning it!

There are several ways you can set up a new theme and content on WordPress while still retaining your current website. Then when the new site is ready to go live, it should take just a matter of minutes.

Do you want to know how? Read on!

One option is to install WordPress in a local environment on your computer, then transfer it to your live website once it’s ready. But this involves a fair bit of technical know-how (if you are keen, check out how to install WordPress locally).

I prefer a different approach, which is to install the new setup in a subfolder of your existing website. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Make a full backup of your current website.
  2. Log into your web host’s cPanel.
  3. Locate the option for installing WordPress.
  4. Start to install a new instance of WordPress, and it will ask you to select a subfolder for the installation. This is where you can type a new name for the subfolder for it to be automatically created upon installation.*
  5. Go through the installation process as normal.
  6. You should now have two WordPress installations: and
  7. Log into to your current website and export all of your existing content (by going to Tools>Export). This will download a file to your computer.
  8. Log in to your new website installation, and go to Tools>Import. Choose the option to import from WordPress, and upload the file you previously downloaded to your computer.
  9. Set up your new design by installing and customising a theme, setting up plugins, and anything else you need to do to make it ready to go live.
  10. When you’re ready to go live, refer to this document for the moving process (you can ignore step 1).

*take care with the name you create, as there is an extra added bonus to this method – if you choose one of your keywords to name the subfolder with, your images and other uploads will retain that word in their URLs, as they will still be located in that folder. So it may give you extra SEO-juice!

And there you go! Your new website design should now be live. Make sure you go through it and check all links and images. There may be some things you need to update to the new URL.

How did you go? Leave a comment to let me know! If the techie stuff is a bit beyond you, and you need some assistance, please get in touch and I’ll give you a helping hand.


4 responses to “Ask a SuperGeek: How to redesign your WordPress website with no downtime”

  1. Im trying to work on a new website for an org I am in. I want to start from scratch without deleting the old one until mine is completed. I am having trouble with step 2. Could you clarify how to do that?

    1. Hi Daniel,

      For that step, you’ll need to access the cPanel, which is the control panel of your web host. Most hosting packages include access to the cPanel, or a similar control panel that allows you to install WordPress.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Many thanks for your detailed guide!
    After the procedure would will be able to public access the new design at the “normal” url (for example or will the new url with the subfolder be shown?

    1. Hi Nikos!

      Did you follow the steps here, as linked to above? If so, then visitors will see your website at the URL you set in step 4 of those instructions.

      Hope that saved the day!

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