How to Hide Your WordPress Site from Visitors While You Are Developing It

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It's frustrating for visitors to arrive at a website or web page that's under construction. First impressions are critical, so an unfinished or broken site is a massive turn-off. This guide shows how to hide your WordPress site from visitors while you're developing it.

Why Hide Your WordPress Website?

There are various reasons why you may choose to hide your WordPress website from visitors.

  • Need time to test site functionality after swapping themes
  • Testing new custom features
  • Diagnose and fix technical errors
  • Building a brand-new blog or website

There are different ways to do this, and the one you use is down to needs and preference. For example, if you only expect to do some quick maintenance, then a simple message will do.

Site Under Maintenance

We'll Be Back Shortly

But what if you expect your WordPress website or blog to be down for quite a while? Well, you can choose to display an Under-Construction notice and hide the site from view.

This guide offers 7 ways to hide your site from public access.

  1. Hide site with a Coming Soon Page/Maintenance Mode plugin
  2. Block access to all IPs aside from yours
  3. Turn off search engine visibility to make the site private
  4. Develop your WordPress site offline
  5. Hide individual posts and or pages
  6. Password protect the entire site
  7. Hide site without a plugin (advanced users)

#1 Hide Your Site Using a WordPress Plugin

Plugins offer the quickest, easiest, and most versatile ways to hide your site from public view. For example, they let you put your entire project behind a single landing page.

That could be ‘Coming Soon' if you're building a new WordPress blog or website. Or, use the ‘Site Under Construction' page if your project is undergoing maintenance.

One of the best plugins—at the time of writing—is by SeedProd. It's aptly called Coming Soon Page, Maintenance Mode & Landing Pages.

Click the More Details link to learn more.

SeedProd has thousands of 5-star ratings and over 1 million active installations.

Install then Activate the free version of SeedProd.

Read my simple plugins guide here before continuing if you're new to WP plugins.

Once activated, go to SeedProd => Pages from your Dashboard side menu.

From the SeedProd / Pages screen, click on Set up a Maintenance Mode Page.

The next screen gives you two choices. You can choose from a pre-made template (easiest) or create a custom page from scratch.

Hover your mouse over any template thumbnail and click the check icon to select it.

For this example, let's go for the Simple Maintenance Mode Page.

The simplest option is to accept everything as it is. However, you have lots of customisation tools if you want to personalise your template. For example, add a custom logo, social share buttons, a maintenance countdown timer, etc. You get the idea.

You can drag-n-drop new elements onto the template or click the existing ones to modify them. And there's a Preview button in the top toolbar that lets you view any changes before saving. It's super simple to use, so spend a little time exploring all your options.

Click the green Save button when you're happy with your temporary maintenance page.

Lastly, click the X (top right) to close the design window and return to the page's screen.

You're now ready to put your site into maintenance mode and display the new page.

Click the Maintenance Mode toggle button to make the new page ACTIVE.

Anyone who's not logged in will now see your new maintenance page. Admins and other authorised users can log in and out and view the site as usual.

The PRO version of SeedProd gives you a few advanced access options.

The pro options let you cherry-pick who you want to bypass the maintenance mode. That could include people from specific IP addresses. There's also an option to give a secret bypass URL to select users. Or, you can allow specific user roles.

To explore all the access options, go to the SeedProd / Pages screen.

Click the Maintenance Mode Edit Page button (see previous image).

Now click Page Settings in the top toolbar.

You don't have access to these options in the free version, but you can still view them. Consider upgrading to the premium plugin if advanced Access Control is something you'd like.

SeedProd is not the only plugin, so feel free to check out the alternatives.

Type under construction or coming soon into the new plugins search box in WP Dashboard.

Four other worthy plugin options to consider are:

  1. Elementor Website Builder Coming soon and maintenance mode
  2. Minimal Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode by WebFactory Ltd.
  3. Under Construction, also by WebFactory Ltd.
  4. Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode by wpdevart

Each plugin includes easy-to-follow instructions that guarantee to hide your site in minutes.

#2 Block Access to All IPs Aside from Yours

Another way to hide your WP blog or website from visitors is to block all IPs aside from yours. This approach ensures no one other than the specified IP address has access.

It sounds complicated, but it's not, thanks to the Restricted Site Access plugin. Let's take a look.

Log in to your WP Admin area.

Go to Plugins => Add New from the WordPress Dashboard side menu.

Search for Restricted Site Access plugin.

Install then Activate the Restricted Site Access plugin by Jake Goldman, 10up, Oomph.

Read my quick how-to plugins guide here before continuing if you're new to WordPress.

Go to Settings => Reading from your Dashboard side menu.

You're now at the Reading Settings screen.

Scroll down the Site Visibility section.

Click the radio button next to: Restrict site access to visitors who are logged in or allowed by IP address. The section below presents you with four options.

Handle Restricted Visitors

  1. Send them to the WordPress login screen
  2. Redirect them to a specified web address
  3. Show them a simple message
  4. Show them a page

Selecting options 2–4 expand the form so you can add specific URLs or type a message. The Unrestricted IP addresses below these options is where you add your own IP (see below).

Click the Add My Current IP Address button to auto-add your IP.

You can also add more IP addresses here if you want to allow site access to others.

Here's how your simple Site Visibility section looks.

Remember to hit the Save Changes button when you're done.

#3 Turn off Search Engine Visibility

WordPress has its own built-in feature that lets you turn off search engine visibility. The major search engines should oblige, but it's only a request and thus the weakest option. Also, pages previously indexed will still show up in the search engine results pages or SERPS.

Thus, this option is better suited to brand new sites that don't have any indexed pages. 

You can read more on activating this feature and how it works here

#4 Develop Your WordPress Site Offline

Another way to keep your website away from public eyes is to develop it on a local computer. You can build, view changes, update, and test your offline site in a web browser as usual. The difference is that there's no internet access until you move it to a hosting account.

This approach is not difficult, but you do need to set it up correctly. So, I've put together a series of articles that guide you through the process of local installs.

If you want a more in-depth tutorial on installing and using XAMPP, please see my course here.

#5 Hide Individual Posts and or Pages

Sometimes, you might only want to hide specific posts or pages from public view. For example, when you have popular interactive posts or pages that need significant updates.

This method is better than annoying visitors with broken content while undergoing maintenance. Hiding posts and pages while updating and testing also keeps web crawlers out.

You have two options for this.

One is to make the post or page private. Private status only gives access to site admins and editors. Or, you can password protect individual posts and pages for selected authorised users until your updates are complete.

In either case, it only takes 2 clicks to make the post or page public again when you're done.

Read, How to Make Individual WordPress Posts Private.

#6 Password Protect Your WordPress Blog or Website

Hiding your WordPress blog or website behind a login screen is a quick and easy method. This approach is ideal if several people are working behind the scenes.

All you do is share the temporary login details with those who need them. That could be a developer, designer, testers, and anyone else involved in the updates.

You have two ways to password protect your entire site.

  1. cPanel's Password Protected Directories
  2. A WordPress password protection plugin

Password protect your site using cPanel

Not every WordPress user wants a plugin for everything, and nor do you have to. Your Webhosting cPanel account has a dedicated Password Protected Directories tool.

To protect the entire site, you add password protection to your root directory (folder). In most cases, the name of this directory will be public_html.

There's a step-by-step tutorial for cPanel's password protection tool here.

Password protect your site using a plugin

If you do want to use a plugin, there are several to choose from. Most are straightforward and come with additional tools and options to secure your site.

One of the most popular—and simplest—is the Password Protected plugin by Ben Huson. Plus, its settings screen lets you choose who can access the site without needing to log in.

Go here for my guide on setting up password protection with this plugin.

#7 Hide Your Site without a Plugin (Advanced Users)

Advanced users can quickly put their WordPress website into maintenance mode without a plugin. You need to know how to transfer files using FTP and are comfortable modifying site files.

This method needs a Site Under Construction/Maintenance or Back Soon page. Make sure you have this page ready, as you need to point to it in the code snippets.

You can modify one of two files to hide your site without using a plugin:

  1. functions .php
  2. .htaccess

I have a guide to walk you through both processes. Each one includes some code that you modify and copy to the relevant file.

See How to Put Your WordPress Site in Maintenance Mode for instructions.

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