How to Change Your WordPress Theme in 2021

How to Change Your WordPress Theme in 2021

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There are certain preparations and finishing touches you have to perform when you change your theme on WordPress. Learn how to safely switch themes through this quick tutorial.


Changing your theme on WordPress is a somewhat quick and easy process. You can change your WordPress theme with just a few clicks, especially if it’s a new website. However, if you’re changing the theme for a finished website, there are some steps you have to take to make sure it doesn’t break.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Follow these steps to make sure you don’t run into any issues while trying to update your website!

Preparing to Change Your WordPress Theme

Backing Up Your Website

Before you choose a new theme, create a backup of your website. Do this if you’re only trying to change the theme for a finished website. This will help you revert your website back to the old design in the event that you don’t like how it ends up, or if you run into any problems.

Use a Staging Site

If your web host allows you to create a staging site, use it!If you’re using a staging site, what you could do is perform the changes there so that:

  • If something goes wrong, your live website isn’t affected.
  • If something gets broken, you’re free to fix it without worrying about the visitors of your live website.
  • You can delete your staging site and create a new one to try another theme if things don’t work out.

Keeping your customizations safe

Additionally, take note of any theme-specific elements in your website that you’d like to add to your website when you change themes.

This is usually additional CSS you’ve added to your current theme. You can check this by going to the Additional CSS section of the Customizer (from your dashboard, Appearance > Customizer). 

Additional CSS - How to Change Your WordPress Theme in 2021

Any CSS styling you add there is specific to the theme that’s currently activated. When you change themes, any CSS code that’s there will be gone. So it’s important that you keep those stored somewhere so you can revise it to fit your new theme, and add it again once you’ve switched themes.

Compatibility

You have to make sure that the theme you want to use is compatible with a number of things. Check if the theme you want to switch to is compatible with the latest version of WordPress, or the one that you’re using. You can do this by going to the Updates page of WordPress Admin (hover over Dashboard on the left panel, and click Updates)

Checking the WordPress version - How to Change Your WordPress Theme in 2021

Next, check whether the theme is compatible with the plugins that are installed or in use on your website. This is important especially if you’re using a pagebuilder. Incompatibility with the plugins you’re using is what usually causes breaks. Theme developers usually enumerate what is compatible with a theme or not. If it’s not stated, you can use a plugin like Plugin Detective to check whether compatibility across your plugins and themes.

Gutenberg-Ready

If you’re using Gutenberg to build your pages, make sure that your new theme is Gutenberg-ready. Themes usually list this in their description whether they’re Gutenberg-ready. If your new theme doesn’t say it and it’s an old theme, then there’s a good chance it isn’t Gutenberg-ready.

Be warned, if you’re using Gutenberg and you move to a non-Gutenberg ready theme, you will lose some editor features, such as the ability to turn blocks into wide or full width.

Theme Maintenance

Lastly, before installing and activating a new theme, it’s worth checking whether it’s regularly maintained. Check the theme’s release schedule–whether they release updates and fixes to the theme often. If not, then it may not be a good idea to switch to that theme. It’s not ideal to use a theme that’s not regularly maintained because it might not be compatible with new WordPress releases.

How to Change Your WordPress Theme

Uploading a Premium Theme

Premium themes are usually downloaded outside the WordPress theme directory and you can install and activate it by uploading it to your WordPress.

1. Go to the Themes page of your Admin (Appearance > Themes)

2. Click the Add New button at the top of the page

3. When you get to the Add Themes page, click the Upload Theme button on the top of the page.

4. Click on the file picker (Choose File) 

5. Select your downloaded theme (in zip file).

6. Click the Install Now button to upload the theme into your WordPress.

7. You should be directed to a loading page and wait until your theme has been installed successfully. Once it’s done, click the Activate link to switch to this new theme.

8. When you get to the Themes page, the new theme should be displayed first and it should state that it’s active. 

And you’re all set!

Installing from the WordPress Theme Directory

Installing a theme from the WordPress theme directory is relatively similar except that you won’t need to upload a theme from an external source.

4. The first three steps are the same as uploading a theme then instead of clicking Upload Theme, you can browse through the themes and select the theme you want. You can also look up your preferred theme by typing its name in the search bar.

5. Click Install on your selected theme.

6. Once it’s installed, click Activate to switch to this theme.

7. When you get to the Themes page, it should be the first to be displayed in the list of installed themes, and it should state that it’s active.

8. Customize your theme however you want in the theme customizer. You can access this by clicking the Customize button on your selected theme in the Themes page or by hovering over Appearance on the left panel and clicking Customize.

Check The Frontend of Your Site

Now that you’ve installed and activated your theme, it’s time to do some checks around your website to make sure that it’s working perfectly. Here’s a checklist of pages or sections you should inspect:

  • Front page
  • Blog page
  • Single blog article page
  • Plugins (social sharing plugins, forms, analytics plugins, pop-ups, etc)
  • Menus

If you’d like to re-implement some styling that was added to your old theme or if you would like to adjust some elements on your website by using CSS, now is the time to do so. Just look for the Additional CSS section in the theme customizer.

Lastly, if you change your mind or if you run into any issues with the new theme, this is where the backup of your website comes in handy. You can easily revert your website to the old version by using the backup you stored before switching themes.

Final Words

Switching themes isn’t hard but you should take some steps to make sure that it’s compatible with your WordPress website. Here’s a quick recap of the preparation you have to do before you change your theme:

  • Backup your website
  • Keep any theme-specific elements safe
  • Checking the theme’s compatibility with your website
  • Taking note of the theme’s maintenance

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