Apologies for the general question, but I spent some time looking for an answer and couldn't find anything.

I often find myself in a situation where I need to make tweaks to a live site based on a client's feedback after going live, so I'm wondering the best way to quickly make changes on the live site without disruption.

Presumably it's possible to duplicate the live theme, rename it in style.css so that it's considered a 'new' theme yet still uses the same database etc. and then work on that? The question is, how would I view that new theme and then switch to it once all updates are done?

One day, I'll need to get my head around GIT as from what I've heard that would solve this kind of problem in a very safe way.

3 Answers 3


As far as my understanding you want to make changes in the theme without affecting the main theme so For this purpose the best practice would be creating child theme. So you can edit this child theme and your main theme will be safe. So, you can update the theme safely.

Refer to WordpressCodex on creating child theme.

Hope this solves the problem.

  • thanks for responding. I'm actually looking to work on a copy of the main theme while the main theme is live, so a child theme isn't what I'm looking for unfortunately. Think of it like this: Theme A v1 is live, I duplicate the theme folder and rename the theme to Theme A v2. While v1 is live to the public, I want to work on v2 (so I need to be able to see my changes while I work) and when it's ready, I'll publish v2. Make sense?
    – Osu
    Oct 27, 2013 at 8:59
  • Oh i got it now. So you want to edit the copy of your main theme while your main theme is live. Well you can install the plugin wordpress.org/plugins/theme-test-drive and you can activate the editing theme just for admin(yourself) and edit it while the visitors will see the live theme(main theme) and when you are finished editing you can activate the edited one. Hope this worked. Oct 27, 2013 at 9:22
  • I am glad to know that it worked for you. Oct 29, 2013 at 11:32
  1. Download Theme files via FTP
  2. Export site content via Tools -> Export
  3. Set up a development environment
  4. Upload Theme files (and any needed Plugins) to the development environment
  5. Import site content via Tools -> Import
  6. Make changes on the development site
  7. Upload updated Theme files from development site to live site
  8. Profit (probably)
  • thanks for getting back to me. I normally work off a local dev set up until deployment to a live server, however, my question was about how I could run my theme as a clone side-by-side the live theme and then edit that until I'm ready to publish it - is that possible?
    – Osu
    Oct 26, 2013 at 16:48

You can try Theme test drive. Here's the plugin description:

Theme Test Drive WordPress plugin allows you to safely test drive any theme on your blog as administrator, while visitors still use the default one.

It happens completely transparent and they will not even notice you run a different theme for yourself.

Best part is you can even set the testing theme options (if it has them) in the Admin panel while you are testing the theme.

You can also preview any theme by adding "?theme=xxx" to your blog URL. For example http://www.myblog.com/?theme=Default

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