WordPress has revolutionized the digital publishing game. In the past, teams of graphic designers, web developers and content managers had to work overtime for weeks to launch a redesigned website. These days, WordPress users can browse through thousands of layouts, click update and have a brand new theme. This has basically allowed amateur bloggers to have the sleek look and robust functionality that only professional publishers had before, in minutes instead of weeks.
As easy as it is to change themes, however, there is still some legwork site owners need to do before switching themes. Luckily, they are pretty much as fast and simple as, well, changing a WordPress theme.
Check your plugins
Look at the plugins you use. Are they working the way you wanted them to? Are they actually useful? Decide whether or not you’ll need your plugins in the new theme, and check that they are compatible with the new theme. If they aren’t, you can easily find similar ones which are compatible. It is just good practice, though, to have as much in place as possible before having the site go live, instead of updating little things for weeks.
Back up everything
This can not be reiterated too much. Back up your database and files! WordPress is designed to be easy to update, but that doesn’t mean it is free from error. Make sure you don’t lose all your hard work and all your lovely posts by backing everything up before you change anything.
Make notes of your changes
Go through your old code, noting down the changes you made manually. Perhaps you added tracking code to your footer.php. Maybe you manually edited some widgets. Whatever you did manually, find it, and copy and paste it into a plain text file. When you update to your new theme, you can then replace all the changes you made easily.
Any plugins or widgets you added through WordPress and any changes you made outside of the coding will likely be saved, so you don’t need to worry about doing this if you never touched any code.
Get into maintenance mode
WordPress has a number of maintenance mode plugins you can install. Essentially, they let your audience know that although your site is down, it will be back soon, looking better than ever. It also gives you the time to make sure your new site is working properly before you unleash it on the world, so you can fix any unexpected bugs.
Set up a test site
The great thing about WordPress is that it is so easy to set up websites. This means that while you are getting used to a new theme, you won’t have to put your actual site at risk. Set up a test site, so you can play around in the coding, check how plugins work or make major changes without messing up your real site. Do this before you update, and you can figure out the changes you want to make before doing anything. That way, you’ll have as little time as possible offline, and your audience will not have to wait long to see your gorgeous new site.
With a little preparation, then, you can change your WordPress theme, without fear of incompatibility issues, wonky looking design or lost blog posts. So what are you waiting for? Start changing your WordPress theme now!