How To Safely Change WordPress Themes – Ultimate Guide 2023
Learn how to change WordPress themes correctly and safely without breaking your site.
This step by step ultimate guide is crafted perfectly for beginners. You will learn how to install and change WordPress themes the right way without losing content or breaking your site.
A brief overview can be found directly below the table of contents.
How To Change WordPress Themes?
- Login to your WordPress dashboard.
- Create a full backup of your existing website.
- Activate the maintenance mode if you are not on staging website.
- Go to the Appearance > Themes from the left sidebar.
- Locate the “Add New” button at the top of the page.
- Upload your theme or select one from the WordPress repository.
- Install the theme by clicking on the “Install” button.
- Activate the theme by clicking on the “Activate” button.
- Test if everything is working well.
What To Do Before Changing Your WordPress Theme?
Before changing the theme, you must take the below steps before starting the process.
1. Copy your code snippets
Some WordPress users wish to customize their WordPress website by adding custom code snippets right into the function.php file of their theme.
People usually forget about these custom changes that they have done in the past.
If you or your WordPress web developer made these changes, then you need to go to the current theme and take note of these extra custom codes before changing your theme.
2. Test the load time
Before you change your current theme, you should test the load time of your website. That will allow you to compare the difference in the load time of the page after you made changes to your site.
WordPress speed is a key factor in user experience and in search engine optimization. You need to make sure that your new theme is at least functioning at the same speed as your old one if not faster.
Make sure you to test the speed on the home page and on all important inner pages. A great free tool that you can use is: GTMetrix.com.
3. Copy your tracking codes
Some web developers add their custom codes directly into their theme files. Also, many WordPress themes allow you to add Analytics or AdSense codes in their settings panel.
Make sure you copy these codes if you are using theme so that you can re-configure them again after changing your theme.
4. Take note of theme-related codes
- Theme-Specific Shortcodes & Widgets: Shortcodes and widgets that came with your theme will not be carried over to the new theme. Take note of them if you have any. That will allow you to replicate them using custom codes or plugins if you still need them after activating your new theme.
- Theme-Specific Homepage: There are some themes that allow you to create a special homepage for your website. These built-in features will not carry over to the new theme. Please note them as well so you can design a new homepage when your new theme is active.
5. Make a full backup
It’s always suggested to back up your entire website including your assets and database before changing your theme. A full snapshot backup is what you need. Your hosting provider may provide this feature. You can also install a WordPress backup plugin to do the job.
6. Activate the maintenance mode
If you are not working on a staging website or on a local host, it is recommended to activate the maintenance mode on your WordPress site before changing your theme.
You can find many plugins on WordPress.org that offers a maintenance mode functionality for your website.
How To Choose The Right WordPress Theme?
We have a full detailed guide on this topic that explains all the factors that you need to be aware of.
Check it up by clicking here.
A short summary is provided below:
- It must be fast, lightweight, accessible, responsive, and bloat-free.
- It should not depend on any plugins or force you to install any.
- It should be e-commerce ready, translation ready, SEO optimized, and AMP friendly.
- All of its codes should be valid and secure.
- It should also be customizable and fully supports all popular page builders.
- It should come with free updates, documentation, and support.
- It should be licensed under GPLv2 or later without limitations or restrictions.
Learn more by checking our complete WordPress theme changing guide.
How to Install a new WordPress Theme?
After following the important steps mentioned above, the next step would be to install the theme that you want to use on your WordPress site.
If you haven’t already selected a theme, we highly recommend you to check our WordPress Marketplace that contains the best coded themes for WordPress. Our marketplace also covers all your needs in one affordable lifetime membership.
How To Change Your WordPress Theme Without Going Live?
It is important to test your newly installed WordPress theme with your existing content and plugins.
Find below two popular ways to test your theme without going live.
Method 1 - Use The Live Preview Option
WordPress allows you to preview your newly installed theme before activating it.
To preview your theme, head over to the Appearance > Themes from the left sidebar of your admin panel.
You’ll see all the themes that you have installed. Move your cursor over the theme you want to preview and then click on the Live Preview button.
It will open you newly installed inactive theme in the WordPress Theme Customizer. That will allow you to test your theme without activating it.
Method 2 - Activate The Maintenance Mode
Alternatively, you can activate a maintenance mode on your website. That would allow you to test your new theme properly at the cost of some downtime.
This is a much better method of testing than the first one but it only works if you can afford to put your website down for some time until you complete your test.
Method 3 - Test On A Staging Website
This is the professional method of testing. If your hosting provider offers a website staging feature from its cPanel, it will make your job much easier.
You simply need to create a staging environment for your site, apply the changes that you need, then test everything up. Once you’re done testing and feel perfectly satisfied with the results, you can then roll these changes on the live website.
Contact your web hosting provider and ask him about this feature. All of them have it.
Alternatively, you can clone your website to a local WordPress installation to test these changes.
How To Activate Your WordPress Theme?
To activate your theme, go to the Appearance tab, and then click on Themes from the left sidebar of the WordPress admin panel.
Thereafter, you need to move the cursor over the theme you want to use and then click on the Activate button.
How to Change Your WordPress Theme Manually?
Occasionally an error can make your WordPress Admin Dashboard beyond reach. If your old theme is causing the problem, then you need to change it manually from your server.
Note: If your hosting provider is keeping backups of your website, you might be able to roll back to a working version of your site.
However, in case you don’t have a backup, then you need to change the theme manually. One method to do so is by using the phpMyAdmin.
First of all, connect to your server using an FTP client then go to the /wp-content/themes/ folder.
Here you’ll be able to see all the currently installed themes on your website. You can also install a theme via FTP by uploading its zip file then decompressing it in the /wp-content/themes/.
Note: Make sure to write down the folder name of the theme that you want to use because you’ll need it later.
Thereafter, go to the cPanel, scroll down to the Databases section, and click on the phpMyAdmin.
Once you enter in phpMyAdmin, you’ll see a list of databases on the left side of the screen. Just click on the database that you are currently using for your WordPress site.
Next, after clicking, it’ll show the list of tables in this database. You’ll need to click on the wp_options table to open it. By default, WordPress uses wp_ as the prefix for the table names. However, it is also possible to have a different prefix if you have specified a custom one during your WordPress installation.
Now on the right panel, you need to locate the template and stylesheet rows.
Click on the Edit button in the template row to open the editor.
In the option_value field, you’ll need to change the value to the theme name you wish to use. It’s usually the same as the folder name that you have copied earlier.
When you’re done, you need to click on the Go button to save the changes.
Repeat the same process for the “stylesheet” row. That will complete the process of changing your theme manually. View it live to confirm the changes.
What To Do After Changing Your WordPress Theme
1. Update Your Permalinks
Go to the Settings > Permalinks screen and choose the right option that suits your website. Updating your permalinks may solve some URL problems when choosing a new theme.
2. Test Your Website Properly
Take your time in testing your website to ensure that everything is working well before you settle on your newly chosen theme.
Test you pages, posts, contact forms, and any custom functionality your website provides.
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