How to Redesign a New Website without Affecting the Old Site Until the New One is Completely Finished (Using Dreamweaver)

Deferring the Publication of the New Site

How to Redesign a New Website without Affecting the Old Site Until the New One is Completely Finished (Using Dreamweaver)

by Christopher Heng,

On occasion, I have visitors ask me if it is possible to completely design a new website using Dreamweaver, without touching their existing functional site, and only publish (upload) the new site when everything in the new site is completed. This tutorial shows you how it is done.

The Context of the Question

The reason for this question is that both my main Dreamweaver CS4 tutorial and the earlier Dreamweaver CS3 tutorial guide the newcomer to publish their site at a very early stage. While this is acceptable (and in fact desirable) for a brand new website, it is not practical for people who already have a functional website. The latter usually want their existing website to continue to work, while designing the new one, and only upload everything when the redesign is complete.

IMPORTANT: If you do not have an existing site, this tutorial is NOT for you. Please follow the procedure given in the main Dreamweaver Tutorials instead (choosing, of course, the appropriate tutorial for your version of Dreamweaver from that list). In fact, if you are completely new, you should really start by going through the How to Make / Create a Website: The Beginner's A-Z Guide first, to avoid confusion.

The main tutorial series is designed for the newcomer in mind. The order in which things are set is the result of many years of teaching webmasters-to-be, and is designed not just to help you get your website up and running as soon as possible, but also to teach new things in a context that helps the learning process and provide the foundation for stuff that is taught in the later chapters. It is also designed with the unstated objective of building your confidence and competence as a webmaster, and exposing you to things that you will need to understand to better appreciate (and more efficiently deal with) what you will do later.

What I'm trying to say is that it's best to only use the shortcut in this article if you really have an existing website that needs to continue functioning while you develop a new design. Otherwise, you'll be doing yourself a disservice.

How to Design a New Website from Start to Finish Without Publishing

It's possible to actually design your website and complete all the pages before even publishing a single page when using Dreamweaver.

The following sections tell you what to skip (or more accurately, to defer to later) in the main Dreamweaver CS4 and CS3 tutorials. Note that you will still need to use the Dreamweaver CS4 or CS3 tutorials as a guide.

How to Test Your Website Offline (Limited Testing)

While you are designing your website, it is good from time to time to make sure that it looks the way you want it to look in a web browser. Dreamweaver is a web editor, not a browser, so just because your site looks good in it does not necessarily mean that it will appear the same way in a real browser.

Since you are deferring the publication of your website till the end, you won't be able to do any of the testing described in the main tutorials. However, it is still possible to do limited testing by pointing your web browser to the copy of your website saved on your computer.

To do that, open your web browser, and type into the address bar the full path to the file you want to check. For example, if your Dreamweaver website files are saved in "c:\Users\chris\Desktop\mysite", and you want to check your "index.html" page, type "c:\Users\chris\Desktop\mysite\index.html" (without the quotes) into your browser's address bar.

Note that some things will not behave the same way offline. For example, Internet Explorer may issue a warning about scripts on your web page when you test it offline. If you referred to an image or some other resource on your website using an absolute URL instead of a relative one (absolute and relative URLs are explained in chapter 5 of the Dreamweaver tutorial), the image or resource may not show (since you have not uploaded that image/resource to your site yet).

In addition, it will not be possible to test the feedback form at all. The latter can only be tested when it is on a real web host, since the program used to process the form needs to run on a web server. As such, if you have modified the supplied form, you won't know whether your modifications have broken anything until you've actually published your site and tested it.

A word of caution: offline testing cannot replace "live" testing. Just because your site looks fine when tested in this way does not mean that it will look correct when published. There are some problems that you will not be able to detect when you test offline, even visual ones like images and files that are wrongly linked but still appearing correct on your own computer. You must test your site thoroughly when you finally publish the site.

Another Reason Why This Procedure is Not Recommended

Let me reiterate that I don't recommend that you take this approach of deferring certain steps till later. For the newcomer, it may introduce too many problems that compound to create a situation they don't know how to fix. Under normal circumstances, if you make a mistake in the chapter and don't know how to solve it, all you need to do is to redo the chapter. However, if you follow this guide and skip the crucial uploading and testing steps in each chapter, you won't know about your mistakes until you have finished the entire tutorial. And then what are you going to do? Redo everything?

If you don't actually have a working website to worry about, and your only reason for not wanting to publish your website from the very start is vanity, let me say that doing the above can hamper your progress and cause you to face unnecessary headaches. Remember that I have no ulterior motive for wanting you to follow either the main (systematic) tutorial, or the skip-about one I wrote here. I gain nothing by your use of either set of instructions, not even the abstract satisfaction of having someone learn from my articles. After all, I wrote both sets.

I'm saying this because I know how newcomers think. They are worried about an unpolished website being published. But as I said elsewhere, if you are only just starting out, your site will have no visitors except you and any hapless victim you forcibly drag to your computer to show off to. So you really don't have to worry that someone will see your work in progress. Besides, everyone starts somewhere. There is no shame in being a beginner.

Copyright © 2010-2014 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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