When we were getting ready to launch our new blog design, I wanted to be able to easily get feedback as well.  The best way to do that is to have it live.  The problem is, who wants to have a half-finished blog design on their main site?!  Not me, that’s for sure.

The solution: sandbox my new blog design.  The problem: there isn’t much info out there on HOW to do that!  So I set out to figure it out on my own, and now I want to share my findings with YOU.

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How to Sandbox Your Blog Design

How to Sandbox Your Awesome New Blog Design!

I first heard about sandboxing when I was studying Information Systems in college.  We would sandbox an aspect of a coding project in a separate file before implementing it in the main project.  If something broke, we had only broken the copy, not the full project!  Well, okay, we still managed to break our entire final project (two semesters’ worth of work) three days before it was due.  But that’s another story.

Sandboxing your blog is a great way to get feedback and play around with it without subjecting visitors to a work in progress.  After all, who wants to see a site with filler images, broken links, and all that good stuff?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

So how do you go about sandboxing your blog design?  Let’s walk through it.

Step 1: Log into your website host

Yes, you need a host.  If you don’t have a host, there are workarounds, but I’m not going to get into that right now.  If you’re a serious blogger, you should really have hosting and a domain name anyways, right?  Right.

We use HostGator*.  You can get a discount on hosting through them – just enter SpareTheRoom in the coupon code field to get 25% off!  We love coupons, so we figured we’d share. (Because who doesn’t love coupons?)  Anyways, since we use HostGator, we’re going to walk you through setting up a sandbox through them.  It should be pretty similar for most hosts, and if you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or email us!

Step 2: Find your hosting management

In HostGator, this is simply a tab that says Hosting:

How to Sandbox Your Awesome New Blog Design: HostGator Menu

Once you click that, you’ll get this uber-boring menu:

How to Sandbox Your Awesome New Blog Design: Hosting Menu

Most of that menu isn’t really relevant to sandboxing your blog design.  Just click on the Domains tab.  This will take you to where you can click on the Subdomains page:

Sandbox Your Blog Design: Subdomains

Step 3: Create the actual subdomain

This takes you to the cPanel page to add a subdomain.  Just fill out subdomain field and the document root field will fill itself in. (Nice, right?!  Gotta love things that do the work for you!)

How to Sandbox Your Blog Design: Create a Subdomain

I just used testing as the subdomain, since it’s easy for us to remember.  It’s also easy for people that we ask to give us feedback to remember.  You can name your sandbox subdomain whatever you want, though!

Step 4: Install WordPress for your new blog design domain

Once you’ve created a subdomain to test your new blog design on, you still need to install your blog base on it.  Most hosts make it pretty easy.  HostGator*, for example, has a lovely little QuickInstall feature.  To get this started, go back to the Hosting tab.  Click Software & Services, then the QuickInstall button.  On the page that this takes you to, WordPress will be one of the first options in the menu.  Just click that, then the Free option (because who wants to pay for something so simple??).  The form (below) is pretty simple: just fill it out with your info and you’re off!  You’ll get an email with your log-in info.  For some reason, they don’t let you make your own password initially, but you can change that later.

How to Sandbox Your Blog Design: QuickInstall WordPress

Step 5: Play with your new blog design and HAVE FUN!

From there, just log into your WordPress admin (the link will be in that email) and start playing around with your new blog design!  Since we are using Divi* for TSRP, I manually installed it, then created a blank of each page that we needed, so I could play with the menu layout.  Once that was working, I just started laying out each page, starting with the Home page.  Don’t forget to have fun with it!

P.S. One of the best parts: You can re-use this subdomain every time you want to play with a new blog design.  Here, have a round of less work for everyone, on the house!

Have you ever sandboxed a new blog design?  Are you going to try now?  Tell us in the comments!  Also let us know if you have trouble or need to figure out how to do it on a different host.

Co-Founder and Strategic Manager at The Spare Room Project

Having grown up near Seattle, Jenn is Washingtonian to the core, and believes that trees that lose their leaves are unnatural and snow is evil. Right now, though, she calls the-middle-of-nowhere Ohio home, having stayed after college. With a vastly varied background in creativity – from hosting a radio show to jewelry design to filmmaking – becoming the Strategic Manager and Wearer-of-Many-Hats for TSRP was meant to be!

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