You’ve probably heard the old adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Clearly, the person who first uttered those words didn’t spend much time on the Internet. Everything is changing and advancing at such a breakneck pace that if you don’t keep up, you’ll very quickly and very easily get left behind.
And if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not going to be very satisfied when things go just “fine,” because you want better than just “fine.” You want to be better. You want to be great. And to do that, you have to understand that many things will be in a constant state of flux. It’s like trying to keep up with Google’s or Facebook’s algorithms or how you should tackle the latest social media craze.
But even if we take a step back from all of that, at the heart of your online business is your own website. For many of us, the blog is a central hub from which all other aspects of making money online can extend. This might include your YouTube channel, your email newsletter and your Internet marketing efforts. Because you’re in control with your blog. You should never build your business on rented land, so to speak.
Familiarity may be comfortable, but it can also get mind-numbingly boring really quickly. That’s why it’s a good idea to shake up the design of your blog every few years, freshening it up to align better with current standards, adopting features that may not have been available before, and providing a fresh look that your readers can get behind.
A big part of the challenge when creating or customizing a new theme for your blog is that you might not be completely sure what it will look like with your content. Perhaps you set up a “demo” subdomain on your website where you can test out the theme and make your adjustments, but that subdomain is not going to be populated with the actual content from your blog. It’ll show all the “Hello World” and “lipsum” type content used as placeholders.
But you don’t want to go tinkering around with your actual website using a new, untested design. It’s unfinished and not ready for the public eye yet. So, what can you do? There’s a handy (and free) plugin that is perfect for this scenario: Theme Test Drive.
The premise and purpose of this plugin is exactly what it sounds like it is. After you install and activate Theme Test Drive, you can upload the theme zip file through the WordPress dashboard interface under the setting section for the plugin. From there, you can see what your blog looks like with your new theme. Meanwhile, regular visitors to your blog will be none the wiser, still seeing your existing theme.
It’s a great solution that’s decidedly simple and straightforward in its approach. You can even use it to test out multiple themes. All you have to do is add “?theme=xxx” to the end of any URL on your blog, so long as you’re still logged in as an administrator, and it’ll show your blog with that theme. Pretty cool, right?
This way, you can be much closer to 100% certain that your new theme is ready for primetime before you flip the switch. There will always be surprises and bugs to address, of course.