How to Enable WordPress Maintenance Mode

How to Enable WordPress Maintenance Mode

There are many different reasons to build a website. You might need an outlet to air some of your thoughts on things you find important. A website can also be a major cog in your business’ marketing machinery. You can have a website as a central part of your business model like online stores do.

You can do many, many more things with a website — if people can see and use it. And that’s why it’s ironic that one of the major things you as a website owner or administrator have to know is how and when to prevent people from seeing and using your website.

You should know why, when, and how to enable WordPress maintenance mode on your website. We’ll explain it by covering these topics:

Why Is It Important to Be Able to Enable Maintenance Mode on Your WordPress Website?

Enable Maintenance Mode

When your website is in maintenance mode, it’s almost as if you’re putting it aside, and showing your website visitors a splash page instead of it. While the visitors are viewing that page, you can do pretty much whatever you want with the website far away from the visitors’ eyes.

The reason why it’s important to know how to put your website into maintenance mode is simple — you want your website to be out of bounds while you’re doing things to it. When you’re updating your website, customizing your online store theme, or doing anything else that might cause visitors to reach a poorly functioning website, it’s much better to tell them to come back in a couple of minutes when it’s all done.

If you’re plugging holes in your website’s security or dealing with a safety issue, it’s even more important to prevent people from reaching it. That’s what maintenance mode does, and it’s why WordPress has it as a built-in feature — whenever you update WordPress itself, WordPress will put your website into maintenance mode automatically.

But the problem with WordPress’ built-in maintenance mode is that you can’t pull it up whenever you need it. It only works when updating something through the WordPress core. When that isn’t the case, you can use two different methods to put your website into maintenance mode.

Enable Maintenance Mode Using a WordPress Plugin

Enable Maintenance Mode

The safest method to get maintenance mode at your command is by using a plugin. You can take your pick of plugins over on — there are many of them, they are as easy to install as any other plugin, and they often have additional functionalities or options.

To make things easier, we’ll quickly walk you through two maintenance mode plugins: the Coming Soon Page, Under Construction & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd, and Maintenance by WP Maintenance.

The Coming Soon Page, Under Construction & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd

Coming Soon Page, Under Construction & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd

After you install the plugin, you should aim straight for its Settings and set up all the important elements. SeedProd’s plugin comes in a Lite version, which is free to use, and a Pro version which requires payment. The free version will be enough to set up your maintenance mode page and turn it on.

After you navigate to the SeedProd menu in the dashboard and click the “Settings” item, you’ll have access to several tabs of options:

  • The Content tab, where you do everything from enabling the mode to adding a message to the page and SEO elements to the header.
The Content tab
  • The Design tab, where you can set the appearance and behavior of your page as well as preview the pre-made themes that are available with the Pro version.
The Design tab
  • The Subscribers tab, which is a Pro feature that helps you build an email list thanks to lots of third-party tools.
The Subscribers tab
  • The Advanced tab, the place where you can enable the full lockdown of your website by including all the URLs in those that replace the splash image.
The Advanced tab
  • The Live Preview tab, where you can see what your website will look like while under maintenance.

You’ll only need four out of these five tabs to put your website into maintenance mode. You can do most of it from the Content tab, actually. The Pro version of the plugin includes access to stock photos and themes, making it even easier to create the perfect maintenance mode page.

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Maintenance by WP Maintenance

Maintenance Plugin

The Maintenance plugin doesn’t offer much variety when it comes to basic options — you’ll find mostly the same options you can find in SeedProd’s plugin. The options are organized in sections instead of tabs. Below the big on-and-off toggle, you’ll find:

  • General settings, which include options for the page title, headline, footer, logo, background image, and plugin integrations.
Maintenance Plugin General settings
  • Ready to use themes, which is the section for the premium maintenance page themes you can buy.
Maintenance Ready to use themes
  • A Custom CSS field, where you can enter custom CSS.
Maintenance Custom CSS field
  • Page exclusions, the section where you can exclude different posts, pages, products, and templated from being blocked by the maintenance page.
Page exclusions

What makes this plugin stand out is the integration options it offers. You can, for example, integrate it with the booking plugin Amelia and have events and appointments shown on your maintenance page. You can also do the same with certain kinds of forms.

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Enable Maintenance Mode in WordPress With Custom Code

There are some places in your WordPress website you can rightfully treat as your playground and experiment with them. The theme’s functions.php file isn’t one of them, but it is a place where you can use custom code to put your website into maintenance mode.

Whatever you’re doing with it should be preceded by creating a backup of your website. It would also be a good idea to use a child theme when making any changes to your theme. Otherwise, any change would be deleted with the next theme update. With that taken care of, you can go to Appearance > Theme Editor and find the functions.php file there. Add the following code to the bottom of the file:

// Activate WordPress Maintenance Mode
function wp_maintenance_mode() {
if (!current_user_can('edit_themes') || !is_user_logged_in()) {
wp_die('<h1>Site Under Maintenance</h1><br />Please check back later.');
add_action('get_header', 'wp_maintenance_mode');
Enable Maintenance Mode in WordPress With Custom Code

You can customize the “Under Maintenance” and “Please check back later.” copy and change it into something you’d like to see on your website. The resulting page will look pretty basic — you can see it by logging out of your site or visiting it in your web browser’s private mode.

Under Maintenance

If you know how to code, however, you can customize the page to look as good as it does with a plugin.

Final Thoughts

As a useful function of WordPress, maintenance mode is one of the very basic tools website administrators have in their toolbelt to ensure a consistent quality of user experience. There’s no reason to let your website visitors access a mangled, barely functioning version of your website. Why not mesmerize them with a perfectly designed splash page that will greet and inform them while you’re doing some important work on the website? There’s more than enough plugins to help you do it if you don’t want the basic look and possible complications you get from the manual method.

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