It can seem like a really scary and daunting thing to tackle. Knowing how to change a WordPress theme is something that anyone with a WordPress site should know.
As long as you take the following steps, you should be able to change your theme without too much stress.
BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP.
This is not a request. This is an order. Before you make any changes on your website, you should back up. This is even more important when you change a wordpress theme. In fact, in my opinion, you should be backing up at least weekly. When you’re in the Website BFF Squad, I actually back up your websites daily. That’s how important it is.
Backing up makes sure that, if the worst happens, you can restore your site to it’s former glory.
This article from Cloudways gives the pros and cons of 10 WordPress back up plugins.
Read it, and get backed up TODAY.
Figure out what features you will LOSE when you change a wordpress theme
Aside from changing the general layout of your site, all WordPress themes have different features. This can include things like social media widgets, menu positions and social sharing functions.
Before you change your theme, check to see what features and extras you’ll be losing when you swap over.
The best way to do this is to install and activate a basic theme like the default WordPress 2019 theme. This will show you exactly which features and extras originate with your theme; anything that disappears will also go which ever theme you switch to. If there’s anything you want to keep, you’ll have to find a theme that provides an alternative, or replicate the feature with a plugin.
(Remember, temporarily activating a different theme shouldn’t damage your site, BUT backup anyway, just in case).
A word about ‘drag and drop’ page builders…
Visual builders, such as Elementor, Beaver Builder or Divi Visual Builder work with most themes, BUT switching themes while you’re using a page builder can throw up some unusual results. Proceed with caution.
This is especially true if you’re using the Divi theme AND the Divi Visual Builder. When both are deactivated, page content is lost entirely (save for a lot of unformatted text and short codes!). Be aware!
Choose your new theme (wisely) before you change a wordpress theme
There are THOUSANDS of themes. Some are free, many are paid for but they all have different features, pros, cons and prices.
The most important thing you can do is spend as much time as possible researching the right theme.
A good place to start is this list of the top 44 most popular WordPress themes of 2019 by Colorlib.
Try it out before you change a wordpress theme
You can try a live preview of your new theme of choice before committing to it (and even switch back to your old theme afterwards, if you’re not keen!).
There are almost always free versions of paid-for themes that you can try before you buy the premium version, and you can usually test drive the theme on a demo site.
BUT BEWARE… the demo site will not show you exactly what you get when you switch over. It will use different fonts, images and functionalities and it won’t look the same immediately when you switch.
Change a wordpress theme in a staging area or localhost environment
A cardinal rule of web design – never do major work on a live site.
It’s far safer to set up a ‘staging area’, which is a clone of your site, either via your hosting account on on your localhost, which is on your laptop itself.
This stuff can be a bit mindblowing, so I’d always recommend speaking directly to your webhost and asking them to set up a staging area.
Every webhost does this differently. Your host can tell exactly how to set it up and how to migrate it to your live environment when you’re ready.
Set aside some time
Making sure the site looks good a works properly after changing theme can take as much time as setting up your site originally. Set aside enough time so you can get it done (and not leave it hanging in your staging area for ages!).
When you decide to change your WordPress theme, preparation is key.
If you follow the advise above, it should be stress free, and maybe even fun!