WordPress Playground: How To Create a WordPress Sandbox Site

WordPress Sandbox

Who here publishes a website and then leaves it alone without tweaking it afterwards?

Not us and probably not many of you!

Most WordPress site owners we know can’t help fiddling with their sites even when they are live.

Whether that’s…

  • Experimenting with plugins
  • Trying new themes
  • Designing new layout ideas

…websites can be a permanent work in progress.

But how can you do that without breaking your site?

Do you use a local installation? A staging site? How about a WordPress sandbox?

We recently switched from using local installations to a WordPress sandbox and think you will too once you finish reading this post!

Want to test new themes or ideas without breaking your site? Discover the power of WordPress sandboxes!

WordPress Sandbox – The New Way To Work With Websites

We used to have two main ways to develop and test WordPress websites.

One way was to create a local installation using WAMP, XAMPP, Laragon or something else.

The other was to create a staging site on our web host.

Now there’s a third way.

A sandbox, or WordPress playground, as it’s also known.

We like both terms so we’ll use them interchangeably 🙂

A WordPress sandbox is similar to staging.

It’s where you can experiment, try new things and generally play around without impacting your live site.

Sandbox vs Local Test Site vs Staging Site

Let’s compare the options side by side so you can see the value offered by a WordPress sandbox.

FeatureSandboxLocal Test SiteStaging Site
Development EnvironmentIsolated cloudLocal machineWeb host
Ideal ForTesting and experimentingBuilding and codingLast minute testing
Dynamic ElementsFully functionalMay not workFully functional
Performance TestingLimitedLimitedPossible
Resource UsageLowVariesModerate
Risk to Live SiteZeroZeroModerate
Ease of UseEasyModerateEasy
CostFreeFree (Except cost of tools)Varies (Depends on web host)

Sandbox vs. Local Test Site

Most developers we know like to create local test sites so they can experiment at will.

That’s great, but there are significant downsides to local installations:

  • Dynamic elements such as checkouts and payment gateways don’t always work locally
  • Local installations are primarily for building and coding, not testing
  • Some tools aren’t the easiest to use (Looking at you XAMPP!)
  • Not all code, themes and plugins perform as predictably
  • Not all functions can be fully tested on a local network
Laragon local sites

We believe local test sites are ideal for building plugins and themes and for heavier development or coding tasks.

When it comes to testing and experimenting, a WordPress sandbox is definitely the way to go.

Sandbox vs. Staging Site

Staging website

Another option for testing is to create a staging site on your web host. They are very convenient but also have downsides:

  • Staging isn’t isolated, potentially introducing vulnerabilities in the same space as your live site
  • Issues that use up resources, such as CPU processes, can impact live website performance
  • Staging sites are primarily designed for last minute testing before going live
  • Each staging site utilizes your allocated disk space

The risks associated with staging are why WordPress playgrounds are so useful.

Why Playing With a Live Website Isn’t a Good Idea

If you have been working with WordPress for a while, you know the answer to this already.

For all of you new to WordPress, here’s why you shouldn’t play around with a live website:

  • May impact visitors – The #1 reason to not experiment with a live website is because you may impact visitors. If you make changes, something goes wrong or you accidentally change something you shouldn’t, visitors may suffer.
  • Easy to make a mistake – Even the most experienced developer can make mistakes.
  • Updates can introduce bugs – Every time you add a new theme or plugin, you’re trusting the developer did their job properly and everything will work. That’s probably true most of the time, but will you stake your reputation on it?
  • Potential compatibility issues with new versions – WordPress, plugin and theme updates can introduce new issues that weren’t there before.

WordPress is a very stable platform and the majority of themes and plugins will work flawlessly. But, like any complex system, it depends on many interactions seamlessly working together.

Any change to that system can introduce instabilities, or worse.

That’s why it’s better to ensure changes work on a test site before releasing to live.

What To Look For in a Sandbox

When we were looking around for a WordPress sandbox, we had the following requirements in mind:

FeatureIncluded With ZipWP?
Free to use
Simple to set up
Full admin access
Compatible with themes and plugins
Permanent site option
Easy sharing for collaboration
Automatic theme installation
Automatic page builder installation
AI assistance
Cloud-based and accessible from anywhere

We firmly believe ZipWP delivers all these things and so much more.


Setting Up Your WordPress Sandbox with ZipWP

ZipWP is an incredibly powerful AI website builder that lets you create WordPress playgrounds in no time.

There are two parts to ZipWP:

  1. A superfast test tool called Try.New
  2. The full ZipWP experience with more control over the website

Let’s take a look at both.


If you just want to test a new theme or plugin quickly, use Try.New.

It’s the fastest, simplest way to create a WordPress playground.

Visit the URL and the ZipWP AI will automatically create a blank WordPress website with no plugins.


From there you can add any plugin or theme you like.

Easy right?

The site will last for 30 minutes but can be made permanent from within the ZipWP dashboard.


Using ZipWP is easy. It’s also free, simple to use and requires no setup.

Prefer to watch rather than read? Here’s a video showing you how to create a website with ZipWP:

Answer some simple questions and you’ll have a full, first draft website in under 2 minutes!

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Visit the ZipWP website and sign up for a free account
  2. Take a look around the dashboard to get a feel for how it works
  1. Select the blue Create New button at the top right to get started
  2. Select either Blank Website or Complete Website

A blank website is a default WordPress installation with no theme or plugins.

A complete website is a WordPress installation complete with the Astra theme and the Spectra website builder plugin.

We selected a complete website for this walkthrough.

  1. Select the purpose of your new website on the next screen. Select Continue when you’re done on each page
Select the purpose of your new website
  1. Add your business name
  2. Add a brief description of your business to help the ZipWP AI build your site
Add a brief description of your business
  1. Optional;: Get help with writing the description with the Write Using AI link underneath the text box
  2. Select some images on the next screen. You can select more than one or skip the step if you already have your own
ZipWP image selection
  1. Add your details into the next screen so ZipWP can create a working contact form
  2. Select a layout from the selection on the next screen. Scroll down to see all options
  3. Select any extra features you might want on your site on the next screen
Select any extra features
  1. Review the information in the popup window and select Start Building the Website if you’re happy. Select Back to change if you need to
Review the information
  1. Wait for ZipWP to complete building your website
Wait for ZipWP to complete building your website

Once the process is complete, you’ll be able to log into your website and begin customizing it.

Next you’ll have the option to set up a logo and colors. You’ll also see placeholder content based on the information you entered during setup.

Placeholder content based on the information you entered

Once you’re at this point, everything else is done within WordPress. Simply log in using the credentials provided by ZipWP and begin exploring!

As ZipWP installs the Astra WordPress theme, you can change anything you like on the page quickly and easily.

Why Use ZipWP?

Even though WordPress sandboxes are new, there are already some great products out there that help you build them.

So what makes ZipWP stand out from the rest?

  • It’s free – ZipWP is free to use and lets you build up to 3 sites per month. There’s a premium plan available if you need more.
  • Simple to use – Sign up for ZipWP, click Create New and build a website. The system takes care of everything else for you!
  • Blueprints – ZipWP Blueprints enable you to create a copy of your website to share with others using a URL.
  • Closest to live for reliable testing – Local installations are great but they don’t replicate a live environment in the same way as a WordPress playground.
  • Mark some sites as permanent – ZipWP is designed for temporary websites but premium users can set a site as permanent for longer term testing.
  • Easily copy to your own host – ZipWP supports backup and migration plugins like All-in-One WP Migration to make moving simple.
  • AI assistance – Use the built-in AI to help build your site, add page copy and images.
  • Uses Astra templates – ZipWP is designed to work with the Astra theme and will automatically install the theme and a template for you.

There are lots more reasons to use ZipWP for your WordPress sandbox, we’re sure you can think of others!

See Blueprints in action in this video:

Blueprints allows you to share a link which automatically generates the same website. It’s going to be a game changer for designers, developers, team and clients!

Who Should Use ZipWP?

Anyone planning to build, update, improve or launch a WordPress website should use ZipWP.

It’s free, simple to use and can build a full website in no time.

It is particularly useful for:

Web Design Agencies

If you’re an agency that wants to wireframe, test and refine before or after going live, you can benefit from using ZipWP.

It can build a full website in under 2 minutes, complete with a theme and basic plugins. It’s the closest you’ll get to live and is the most realistic testing environment.

Once the design is complete, you can migrate the entire site to the destination host quickly and easily.

The new Blueprint feature lets you share your creation with others to collaborate or gather feedback on your design.

WordPress Developers

WordPress developers can also benefit from ZipWP. If you build themes, plugins or something else, you can work in an almost live environment for the most realistic test environment.

Site Owners and Bloggers

If you’re building a following, the last thing you want to do is impact visitors. That’s why a WordPress sandbox is such a good idea.

They are free, simple to use and provide a safe space to play, experiment, learn and try new things without impacting visitors or your reputation.

eCommerce Store Owners

The perception of reliability is even more important if you run an online store. Anything that impacts conversion is bad news so a WordPress playground is vital.

Import a copy of your store into your WordPress sandbox and you can experiment as much as you like without losing a single sale!

Anyone Who Works with WordPress

As you can probably imagine, anyone that works with WordPress, in any capacity, should use ZipWP to build a WordPress sandbox.

It’s the fastest, simplest way to try new things, experiment, learn and develop your site and your skills.


WordPress and the web as a whole is always improving and coming up with new ways of doing things.

One evolution that’s working in our favor is the WordPress sandbox.

It’s easier to use than a local installation, provides a close to live experience and doesn’t have the potential risks associated with a staging site.

If you work with WordPress in any capacity, we strongly recommend trying a sandbox. If your experience is anything like ours, you’ll never go back!

Do you use a WordPress sandbox? Has it improved the way you work? Have any stories to share? Tell us in the comments below!

WordPress Sandbox FAQs

Does WordPress have a sandbox?

No, WordPress doesn’t have a sandbox. It’s an amazing content management system but it does have limits. That’s why we built ZipWP. It’s faster and easier to use than a local installation and has none of the downsides of a staging site. We think it’s the ultimate way to work with WordPress!

Can I make a test website on WordPress?

Yes, you can make a test website using WordPress. Sign up for ZipWP and either create a new site or use the Blueprint option to clone a site and share it. Either way, you’ll have a fully working WordPress website in under 2 minutes and can begin working right away.

What is the best sandbox for WordPress?

We think the best sandbox for WordPress is ZipWP. We are biased of course as it’s our own product, but we genuinely believe it’s the best. It’s free, simple to use, fast, integrates AI tools, uses the Astra theme and the Blueprint function makes it a breeze to clone an existing website.

What is a WordPress playground?

A WordPress playground is another term for sandbox. It’s a safe space where you can play, experiment, develop, refine and generally mess around with WordPress without impacting a live website or taking up space on your web host. It’s the next best thing to testing live without the potential downsides!

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may receive a small commission. Read disclosure. Rest assured that we only recommend products that we have personally used and believe will add value to our readers. Thanks for your support!

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