Changing your WordPress theme only takes a few moments but check a list of 18 things you must do before changing WordPress themes.
You are free to change your WordPress themes for whatever reason. Everybody chooses or settles on a WordPress theme for different reasons. For some, the cost of the theme matters. That is why some prefer cheap themes.
Others go for speed, thus the decision to settle on super-fast themes. In other instances, some themes tend to be more user-friendly. Additionally, many are easy to manage. It’s worth noting that the entire process remains safe, thus presenting no danger to your site or its content.
As you contemplate this action, you may be wondering if you will lose your data. Additionally, you may be asking yourself whether it is possible to customize the new theme to your taste. Will the new theme affect your website? Are the newly installed widgets set to remain?
Regardless of all that, there are a few things worth doing first before changing WordPress themes. Above all else, what you need to remember is that the process has to be as smooth as possible. Do it right the first time. Be as cautious as you want as long as you do everything well.
1. Study Your Current Theme
Before doing anything else, you must study the existing theme in detail. More importantly, take note of all the additions that you made while using the current theme. Place more emphasis on the additional codes. Do not forget the load time as it may tell you if the new theme is better.
You can only give your users a better experience if you know the limitations of the previous or old version. Typically, you opt to change the themes based on those limitations. For this reason, the new site should be better than the current theme by a large margin.
Related Read: 20 Most Popular Free WordPress.Org Themes (Best Of 2019)
2. Watch the Sidebars
Secondly, you should watch the sidebars too. The new theme must support widgets. WordPress-themed sites, widgets, and sidebars all need each other. Failing to watch out for this could create a situation where you are unable to change the following aspects of your website:
- Adding custom texts
Did you modify anything in the old theme’s sidebar.php file? If you did, then it would be prudent to note that any changes you make will overwrite those modifications. Therefore, remember to include those modification codes within the new WP theme’s sidebar.
3. Don’t Stop Tracking
It’s critical to use Google Analytics or any other tool that is capable of performing similar tasks on your WordPress site. However, that might not be enough. For that reason, you would need to learn to add tracking codes using plugins. Ensure the new theme supports all the tracking.
A better approach involves copying and pasting the tracking code to the new theme. Most users overlook this task while migrating to a new and different WordPress theme. The simplicity of this task makes it easier to ignore in preference to the more complex tasks.
4. RSS Feeds
The fact that you are about to change WordPress theme means you should keep your eyes on the issue of RSS feeds. Look for a theme that supports the sort of tools you need for integrating everything right from the settings panel.
Have you opted for a new RSS feed? It’s normal to make this change during the migration process too. However, exercise caution and avoid a situation where you are unable to see many of your subscribers or monitor what they are doing because of this change.
5. Create Adequate Backup
Backups are essential while migrating to new WordPress themes. Therefore, create as many backups as possible. Nothing might happen during the migration. Nevertheless, there is nothing to lose in preparing for the worst. Create a backup for the following:
- All theme files
- All plugins
- All database
Fortunately, you don’t have to apply a manual process. You have several useful options that allow you to make accurate backups. For instance, you could settle on an excellent backup tool or software to create a complete backup of the site.
6. Don’t Forget the Maintenance Mode
It might be a bad idea to migrate while visitors to your site see all that is happening. You can avoid all that by turning the maintenance mode feature on for roughly 15-20 minutes, which is the duration it takes to finish migrating.
As shown here, the transition shouldn’t take too much time. It’s not like you are designing a completely new website. You are only changing the theme. Therefore, shut your users out for a few minutes before letting them in again to enjoy using the new site.
7. Testing Everything
Do not consider the migration complete until you have checked everything to ensure that all works smoothly. What you don’t want is to make the site available for users only to realize that the user experience is terrible. Pay more focus on the following:
- Its functionality and plugins
- Commenting process
- Single post pages
- Search bar
- 404 page
- Archive page
- Contact page
- Properly formatted plugins
8. Preview the Site
Before launching the site to the world, you would be better off previewing it first. The good news is you have a ready-made tool for doing just that. The WordPress Customizer offers you a chance to check for yourself how the newly themed site looks.
This tool is preferable for the following principal reasons:
- Allows you to see how the new theme looks vis-à-vis the site’s existing content
- Will enable you to correct any issue you notice with the site’s widgets or menu
9. Activating the New Theme
The one task that you should never forget doing is activating the new theme. Before doing this, it would be good to check that all is well first. Fortunately, you can enable it easily by simply clicking the button labeled Activate and Publish.
As you do that, remember to optimize everything. Optimization always sets you up for huge benefits as your site receives more traffic. Check the images and content to confirm that everything is fully optimized for SEO.
10. Compatibility with All Browsers
Additionally, you lose nothing by testing if your new theme is compatible with all browsers. In this regard, test it on Opera, Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer, which are the primary browsers used all over the world.
Also, it is good to know which browsers a big chunk of your traffic use to access the website. Once again, the analytics tool should play a critical role in providing you with this information. Make sure that your site is accessible on the most used browsers.
11. Pay Attention to the Third Party Stuff
Furthermore, it pays to customize all third party stuff to suit your new WordPress theme. The new theme has a new and different color from the previous one. Therefore, change all the third party tools to suit the new color.
For example, let’s say that your new site is sky blue. In such a case, your users may not be able to see the Twitter widget clearly since it shares a similar color to your site. Therefore, change the widget’s properties, especially the color, to make it more easily noticeable.
12. Inform Your Users
In addition to that, it is a great idea to keep your users well informed of the changes that you are about to make. To do this, you would only have to write a blog post of the changes and post it on the site. While doing that, remember to ask your users for feedback on their experience.
Some people prefer working in silence and leaving it to users to figure out how to use the newly themed website. Well, this approach may be quite damaging to you. The blog post you write should explain what the new site entails and offer your visitors guidelines on how to use the site.
13. Smooth the Plugins
Are the plugins working correctly? If not, then you may lose a substantial amount of your regular traffic. Fortunately, you can change all that by testing the plugins to check that all is well. Start by removing everything that you no longer need.
Also, look for plugins with SEO features. Most of the plugins you encounter on WordPress sites contain these features. However, you should not assume that your theme’s plugins automatically is SEO-biased. Confirm if that’s the case before launching the website.
14. Make Gradual Changes
You could complete some of these changes on the spot. However, others would need more time. For this reason, be ready to embark on a gradual process, as long as you do everything right. Always start with small changes before transitioning to the drastic ones.
Do what you can do today first. While at it, keep asking your users for feedback. Generally, you are free to continue with more changes if the feedback is positive. As you do this, you would be offering your users a chance to be part of the process, thus enabling them to support you more.
15. Keep Testing the Load Time
How fast is the new site? You can only determine this issue if you already have information regarding the speed of the old one. That is why you should note down everything. The newly themed site should be faster than the old version.
With all websites, WordPress-themed or otherwise, the speed tends to be everything. Therefore, you can’t afford to force your users on to a site that takes forever to load. Expect the bounce rate to increase substantially if you do this.
Furthermore, your efforts towards improving load time will increase as you:
- Select a good host
- Work with a stable theme
- Use a useful caching plugin
- Use a content delivery network
- Optimize images automatically
- Upgrade the homepage
- Enhance WordPress database
- Disable hotlinking
16. Monitoring Bounce Rate
Additionally, one should keep monitoring the bounce rate carefully. The bounce rate should be low than what you were accustomed to from the old one. The new site needs more visitors staying on it long enough to take a specific action. For this to happen, be ready to:
- Included related posts widgets
- Add popular post widgets
- Post a better call-to-action for the new visitors
As you keep a close tab on the bounce rate and work more to reduce it, you would be able to build more loyal traffic. On top of that, your page views will increase substantially. When this happens, you can then expect to see the profits and conversions growing as well.
17. Listening to the Readers
Now that you have launched the newly themed WordPress site, your next task is to ensure that you listen to your readers’ feedback. Many of your users will share their opinions regarding the new site. Be ready to listen to them and respond accordingly.
Strive to make readers part of the process from the beginning. More importantly, make sure that you are ready to apply whatever changes they recommend. Otherwise, you would be wasting time asking them for the kind of feedback that you are unwilling to implement.
18. Watch the Content
For the most part, you would never have to worry about the content. That is because it will remain in place despite the new changes you just made to the WordPress site. The new theme will not interfere with most of the natural elements of your website too.
Nevertheless, some aspects of the content will change.
For example, you would notice a change in theme-specific shortcodes. The homepage will also be different from what you or any of your users were accustomed to. Likewise, the changes will also affect the widgets.
In conclusion, it is easy to safely change the WordPress theme, but only if you remember to take the measures highlighted above. The task is simple only for people who do it right. What you have to do is to choose and install your preferred theme.
Next, do not forget to preview the new theme. If all is to your liking, you are now free to activate and launch the site. Use the WordPress Customizer for this. Afterward, check to ascertain that your menus and widgets all look and function correctly.