Running a second, experimental site?

I’ve been asked to help some people manage a WordPress site, which is a messy thing, too full of information not clearly displayed, poorly designed, chaotic, and impossible to navigate. Also full of dead links and spaces where pictures should be. This is run on their own server, so they are using wordpress.org.

Although I have access to the site, I don’t want to make sweeping changes, although I’ve suggested a few. What I really want to do is to build a sort of “mock-up site” which can be used to experiment with new layouts, themes, add-ons etc, in such a way as to satisfy basic web principles, and also the Board of Management of this organisation. I should say that these people are not at all stupid, it’s just that web design and site maintenance is not an expertise that anybody has, so various volunteer are doing what they can. But the result is not good.

I myself haven’t used WordPress for several years, but I’ve offered to give these people the benefit of some fresh eyes. What’s the best way of building a second, experimental site, not available to the public, but to the website maintainers only? Can this be done in the one WordPress instance?

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