You want to change your current WordPress theme, but you’re afraid you’ll lose your data? This article will show you how to change your theme the right way.
Why would you change your theme, first?
Multiple reasons for this: you might consider the current theme outdated, as you’ve used it for several years in a row, and it’s not up to par with modern design, features you need to enrich your website or blog, and compliant with current user experience guidelines.
That’s why, time has come that you need to change your WordPress theme.
Let’s see how to properly change the WordPress theme:
Pre-checks (before actually changing the theme)
You need to check the loading speed of your website before installation of the new theme. You can do this using a tool such as Pingdom, to verify that the new theme won’t impede upon the loading speed of your website pages. You can choose to pre-check the speed both of your homepage and of your inner pages.
What you need to determine is that the new theme should be faster than your previous one.
Don’t lose custom HTML and custom CSS. You need to save the custom code you’ve introduced into your website pages, as you might need it later, for your new theme.
Don’t lose tracking code, such as Google Analytics tracking code. It might be useful to take the data from the current theme used for your website to the new theme you’ll install and activate. It is to be found in the header of the website, so here’s where to look for:
In the WordPress Admin dashboard, go to Appearance -> Theme Editor -> Theme Files -> Theme Header (header.php)
It’s best practice that you include the Google Analytics tracking code here, so you’ll need to search the code you’ve included for your website in the header.php file.
Make full backup of your website or blog. You need to stock your website data, before switching to a new theme and experimenting website pages display in a new format.
For a complete guide to backups, you can refer to this article. You can use one of the plugins listed in that post, to make a backup for your website before proceeding to the actual installation and activation of your new theme. UpdraftPlus will do a good job at creating the backup of your website, and keeping it safe from unwanted modifications that might appear after switching to a new theme.
During the installation of the new theme
Keep your website in maintenance mode while you make the transfer from one theme to a new one.
To do so, you can add a plugin that’s specially designed for this purpose, that is to display Maintenance Mode for a website that’s undergoing some changes.
The plugin is “Coming soon page, under construction & maintenance mode by SeedProd”.
Once you install and activate the plugin, you have the option to enable maintenance mode, like shown in the screenshot below:
Click Save All Changes, to keep the changes while the transfer is being done.
Here’s the message users will receive during the transfer:
Review the steps needed for installing your newly selected WordPress theme.
You need to:
- Upload the theme in .zip file format
- Install the theme
- Activate the theme
Test the theme before you install and activate it for the live site.
To do so, test with the live preview of your newly selected theme.
Once you’ve installed the theme, and before you activate it, you can press the button for Live Preview (the Live Preview button will appear when you hover with your mouse over the new theme):
The Live Preview will send you to the Customizer, where you can test the new theme:
Also, it’s recommended that you test the compatibility of your plugins with the new theme. Check if all plugins work as planned, and if there’s any of them that breaks your website.
Change the theme for the live site.
OK, you already have the theme installed, now it’s time to activate it. Clicking on Activate will make the switch from the older theme to the newly selected one.
Things to do after changing the theme
Test your website functionality.
Once you activated the new theme, you need to check if the website is running properly. You’ll have to test the installed plugins, whether the pages and posts display correctly, the comments section, the contact form, the images display.
Test the website in different browsers.
To make sure your website displays well in most of the browsers, you have to perform some verifications of how the website appears in Chrome, Mozilla, Safari, etc.
Turn off maintenance mode.
Once the changes have been done, and the previous tests, as well, you need to turn off maintenance mode. You can do so in the WordPress Admin dashboard, within the section dedicated to the SeedProd plugin:
Test loading time for the site after you switched to the new theme.
Loading speed is very important for your website, both in terms of usability and in terms of SEO. Thus, don’t forget to make a loading time test and see how your website performs.
That’s it. You’ve successfully changed the theme for your WordPress website. It’s easy, only it needs your attention, to make the transition smooth.