How to make a theme demo site
One thing I get asked occasionally, which is really easy to do, is how do you make a theme demo site? Maybe you’re getting into the premium theme business (jump in, just do something different 😛 ), maybe you have a bunch of pro / developer packages and just want a white label site for your clients to choose themes from.
How do you set this up?
Easy-peasy – just install multisite.
Sure, there’s a few little extras, but that’s the bulk of the work. You can choose to change your main site into a network, or you can install multisite off in a subfolder or subdomain so it’s separate from your main site, and pick the subfolder install for ease of use and so it looks like just pages off the main install. Your visitors will not really notice a difference, especially if the main site in the network has a theme that matches your original single site. With it separate, you can also let some clients in the whole install without letting them in to your main (separated) site. Access to sub sites can be controlled on a per user basis (this is built in to multisite remember).
So now you have multisite set up – let’s say on a subdomain. Just install all the themes you want to demo. I usually do it in bulk using FTP, then I go network enable all the themes.
Now, create your sub sites. I give each site the name of the theme – that makes it easy to remember and almost painfully obvious. WordPress.com even does the same thing for its theme demos. (click the “See it in action” button on any theme there.)
Visit the admin area of each site, activate the required theme, import the demo content, drag some widgets around, do some menus – whatever you like. The good part is here you can have generic text for all or use special demo text on each site, listing the theme’s features.
For navigating between the sub sites, you can use Diamond multisite widgets and use the blog listing widget on every site to go back and forth between them. Or use custom links on your custom menu and type in each blog link.
But hey – that also sounds like work. You could set up one demo site and assuming you want to use most of the same content, use a plugin like the Replicator to make a copy of that template site every time you create a new site. Our Network Home pages ebook also has a section on how to include a site listing that updates itself.
Another use-case for this same setup is if you are developing several themes at once. Why use separate installs? Slap up multisite somewhere, close off registration – even lock it down via privacy plugins and work away in happiness. The admin bar makes it super easy to switch between sub sites.
So – who is going to try this first?