Changing your WordPress theme is only a few clicks away. As themes have different features and structure, you should plan ahead, especially if you use a heavily customized theme. This is how you can prepare the transition to a new theme:
1. Check the customizations that you have made to the current theme.
Since you have been using the current theme, you have probably modified it manually, by adding e.g. widgets or by changing the CSS file. These changes will no longer be available, and some widgets must be activated again, if you change the theme.
Before changing the theme, go through your WordPress website and note all plugins, widgets and menus that have been added manually. You should also save any modifications made directly in the code, for example changes to the CSS file or the tracking code added to your pages for statistical purposes.
2. Compare the current and the new theme, then decide which plugins need to be installed with the new theme.
Now that you have a list with all customizations of the current theme, you should decide which ones have to be taken over with the new theme. To do so, simply compare the two. You might find out that the new theme already includes some of the plugins you had to install manually for the old one.
3. Check if the new theme supports widgets.
Not every WordPress theme supports widgets. If you need some of them on your website, it is easier for you to choose a widget-ready theme.
It is also possible to “widgetize” themes manually, but this requires programming skills.
4. Backup your files.
Although changing a theme should not affect your files, it is safer to backup all your website files, plugins and the database.
5. Check the loading time of the current theme and keep it as a reference value.
If performance matters to you and your audience, check the loading time of the current theme (e.g. here http://www.webpagetest.org) and keep the results as a reference.
Once you have installed the new theme on a test environment, you can check its loading time, too. You may find out that the new theme makes your site load slower, and in this case it might be better to search for another one. Alternatively, you can try to optimize the website for quicker loading.
6. Upload the new WordPress theme from a trusted source.
To make sure that the new theme is free of unwanted code, we recommend using themes from trusted sources. You can use one of the following websites as a starting point:
- WordPress Community Themes
- Elma Studio
- Min Theme
- Balloons Theme
7. Test the new theme, ideally on a test environment (for example a local web host).
Especially if you use your site for commercial purposes, we recommend testing the new theme before applying it to your live website. The easiest way is to use the Preview option available on your WordPress dashboard. Unfortunately, the preview does not always show an accurate picture of how the website will look like once the theme change has gone live. Ideally, you should use a local web host or a staging website.
This is what you should test:
- all features
- all page types
- the search function
- the compatibility with different browsers
- the loading time of the new theme
- the RSS feed subscription
8. Update the color scheme of your ads to fit the new theme.
If the new theme has a different color scheme than the old one, you may want to adapt the colors of your ads.
9. Announce the change and choose the right time to change the theme
Consider that a new look is always something that your users have to learn and get used to – so even if it does not take long to change the theme, it is good style to let your visitors know, that the website will receive a new look and might be unavailable for a short time.
WordPress offers a plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-maintenance-mode/) that adds a maintenance page to your website when activated.
10. When the new theme is online, inform your visitors about the theme change and ask them for feedback.
Encourage your visitors to test the new theme and send you feedback regarding improvements. Then use their feedback to make your website even better.
You might be also interested in: