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Changing WordPress Theme- 16 Things You Need To Know Before Making The Change

Let’s begin this blog by saying “when it comes to your online presence, appearance matters”. Your website design is the first thing a visitor see’s when they visit.

change wordpress theme

And first impressions matter. To create that captivating first impression you need a WordPress theme that aligns with

  1. your brand
  2. is user-friendly
  3. has an engaging design.

This may seem like asking for too much in case of a web site’s design and features. But you don’t have to worry, WordPress has tons for free themes that you can use and add any functionality using plugins.

And with WordPress, you can change the themes whenever you want.

This is a common occurrence and has happened with me as well and it is pretty relatable. While browsing the web, if you see a good theme and later on you find out it has all the functions you need. All of a sudden, you are thinking of either updating or switching your theme.

This mostly happens when you have recently launched a website or stepped in the field of blogging. In case you are looking to start one check our guide on How to start a WordPress blog

Before starting GeekyPlug, I tried a few themes and after putting a lot of thought finalized this one. It is important when you begin your journey, you pick the right theme for your blog.

This is a vital decision as you will be using this theme for a long time and you don’t want to change it every few months. If you are an existing WordPress user you already know how important this decision is.

With that said, in this article, I will be sharing a list of things you need to do before changing the WordPress theme.

This list will ensure the transition process is smooth and all the small details are taken care of.

Important Things To Do Before Changing WordPress Themes

things you need to know before changing WordPress theme

1. Creating a requirement list and taking notes

Before you make that all-important change, make sure you make a list of what you need on your website. Here is what you can include in your list.

  1. Colors
  2. Features and functionality
  3. User engagement

While you are making this long list the change of theme has an impact on the overall brand. Think from the user’s point of view.

With that said you can find many free and premium themes online and every theme comes with a demo and documentation. This theme document holds all the information about the features of theme and other technical specifications.

Before you download or purchase any theme make sure you go through the document and check the theme demo.

If you are an existing WordPress user, at some point in time you may have solved a theme related problem using a code snippet you found online. Scan through your theme files and make a note of such changes.

Also, record the website loading times as you may need this data to compare with the new theme.

You can use GooglePage speed insight, GTmetrix or Pingdom to check the load time.

2. Look for a Widget ready theme

widget area on wordpress theme

“Widget ready theme” a phrase you may have seen frequently while searching for themes online.

Widget areas are generally the sidebars, footers, and headers on the theme. These are the most dynamic areas on any website.

While browsing the internet, you may have come across several websites with widget areas containing one or several of these.

  1. Instagram Gallery
  2. Social media follow buttons
  3. Advertisements
  4. Popular or related posts
  5. Email subscription box
  6. Categories
  7. Tag clouds
  8. Facebook like box
  9. Flickr image gallery
  10. About section
  11. Youtube subscription box and much more

These are basically known as widgets. And you can see we have also used them on the sidebar and footer of this website.

Widgets are small programs on your website that perform a specific function when placed in the dynamic areas.

You can add and remove any function/ widget using the drag and drop feature. And this makes it very easy to use and most websites use it.

In case you are switching from a widget enabled theme to one that is not, then you will lose all the widgets and customizations you have done to the sidebar area.

Also, you will have to add the sidebars manually.

3. Don’t lose the tracking

google analytics

Not adding the analytics or Adsense tracking to the new theme is overlooked by many and happened to me as well. Most themes these days already have the predefined place to add the tracking code.

Also, some website owners use plugins to add the codes while others do it manually.

Make sure before you deactivate the current theme, you copy the tracking codes, save them and later add them to the new theme.

Anyone can forget this easily.

Web Hosting

4. Regular theme updates 

If you are an existing WordPress user, you already know the plugins you are currently using receive updates every now and then.

Also, WordPress recently received a major core update. With all these updates coming on a regular basis, it is important to make sure the theme is compatible.

If the theme is not receiving updates and bug fixes on a regular basis, it can be a potential threat to security or it may cause issues. And these updates are very necessary for the smooth running of your website.

In case you face issues, you will require the help of a developer to fix the problem and this can be expensive.

And you don’t want that. Go with a theme that you can use for the long term and is updated on a regular basis.

Generally, information regarding this is mentioned on the themes website and documentation. In the below screenshot you can see the changelogs by GeneratePress. This updated history is available on the GeneratePress website.

generatepress changelogs

You can see the dates are mentioned on the updates. The free version received an update on Jan 30 and the premium version received an update recently on March 18. To learn more about the changes made you can simply click on a particular update and it will show you the list of all the changes and bug fixes.

list of updates bug fixes

GeneratePress is available in both Free and Premium versions and you can click the button below to download

 

In case you are unable to find the update history, you can contact the theme developers.

5. Checking the compatibility across different browsers

Multi-browser compatibility or cross-browser compatibility is the ability of a website to retain its usability and design when viewed across different browsers.

browser market share stat counter

The above image is from StatCounter showing the recent market share of various browsers. You can see the wide variety of browser being used by the users to browse the internet.

And as a regular internet user, I m sure you are already aware of all these browsers.

Now, each browser renders the website in a different manner. Consider an example where the theme you have selected works perfectly on most browsers except Safari and Internet Explorer.

The visitors using those browsers will not be able to see the correct rendition and functionality of your website and will have an unpleasant experience.

This can make you lose traffic.

This is why it is necessary to test your new WordPress theme on various browsers to make sure the design and features are rendered correctly. In case you want to check which browsers are used by visitors to access your website, it can be done via Google analytics.

check visitors by browsers

6. Responsive

While we are discussing how important is cross-browser compatibility, we must not forget we use different devices to surf the internet.

These devices range from desktops and laptops to portable devices such as mobile phones and tablets. All these devices have different screen sizes and your website should be able to scale accordingly.

Although, it is very easy to claim that all themes are responsive these days. But I don’t think so.

According to Google on an average day

80% use a smartphone, 16% use a tablet and 67% use a computer Click To Tweet

This means we are living in a mobile-first world and we literally want answers on our fingertips. And this is the reason responsive is an industry-standard.

Before changing the WordPress theme make sure you test it on various devices and then go forward with the switch.

To check which devices are used by visitors to access your website you can use Google analytics.

If you are looking to access analytics from your WordPress dashboard, you can use Analytify. It has both free and premium versions with over 2,00,000 + downloads and recommended by GeekyPlug.

You can download the free version by searching for Analytify in the WordPress dashboard plugin search.

Also, let me tell you this both cross-browser compatibility and Responsive are very important factors contributing towards user experience and beneficial for SEO as well.

If you are looking to boost your rankings on search engines we have compiled this article on SEO tips.

7. Page Speed

Site performance or page speed is a vital part of the user experience. In the era where we expect answers on our fingertips, it is important for a website to load quickly.

Site speed can be one of the reasons why people switch themes.

The theme accounts for the major portion of your website’s code. In case you have a large theme or are moving to a heavy theme, it can have a negative impact on the website loading time.

It is important to check the page speed of the new theme and compare it with the existing theme and take the right decision.

40% of consumers will leave a page if it loads in more than 3 secs Click To Tweet

In order to check the page speed of the new theme either see the documentation of the theme or copy the URL of the theme demo and test it on Pingdom, GTmetrix or Google PageSpeed Insights

8. Testing the theme functionality

testing theme functinality

Let me begin this step by saying, you have found the right theme for your website and it has almost every feature that you have included in your list in the first step.

And the remaining features can be integrated with the help of plugins.

Its time to check how the theme functions and the most important thing is it compatible with the plugins. There are chances that at times plugins do not work as per our expectations or provide the desired output as they should.

To avoid such problems, test the plugins one by one and see how they work.

The next step in the process is testing the theme functionality. If you are using a free theme, you need to test every feature of the theme and make sure all the widgets are working perfectly.

In case you are looking to purchase a premium theme, check the theme’s demo for functionality and as far as plugin compatibility is concerned, check the theme documentation or contact the theme developers regarding the same.

Also, keep in mind most WordPress themes these days come preloaded with a lot of features and this can replace the plugins keeping its use to a minimum.

This helps improve the overall performance of the website by keeping it simple.

If you don't need it, Why keep it Click To Tweet

9. Customer Reviews and Ratings

customer reviews and ratings wordpress themeWe are very familiar with and use e-commerce websites such as Amazon to buy products. And before buying any product we generally check the customer review and ratings.

These reviews and ratings are honest feedbacks from the people using these products. Similarly, when you are finding a new theme for your website, make sure you read the reviews even if it is a free theme.

A theme with high reviews and ratings show, it is excellent in quality and offers strong support.

These reviews will also tell you more about the positives and negatives of the themes. If you are going for a premium theme, here are a few more things to keep in mind

  1. Go for a theme with a large number of reviews and ratings.
  2. Check for the number of sales.
  3. Frequency of updates
  4. From how long this theme has been on the marketplace.
  5. What is covered in theme and for how long?

10. Downloading or purchasing themes from a reliable source

There are tons of free and premium themes available online and chances are in no time you will find a theme that will fit into every criterion you have set.

But, let me tell you this that’s not enough. Even if you are satisfied with the design, features, and functionality, it should come from a trusted source.

There are 3 reasons to get the theme from a reliable source

  1. To avoid any potential security issues.
  2. Quality of the theme
  3. Themes from trusted websites will have strong support.
  4. Timely updates and bug fixes.

Here are a few places you can buy quality themes from

  1. GeneratePress
  2. ThemeForest
  3. Elegant Themes
  4. Template Monster

11. Backup your website

Having a backup plugin is a must for every site and you should install this from the beginning.

Now the question is why I m suggesting taking a backup before the change. The reason is to be safe while making the change. In case anything goes wrong you will not lose anything.

If the change does not work out as expected you can always go back to the previous theme by simply restoring the backup.

Take a backup before changing the WordPress theme. Better safe than sorry. Click To Tweet

Backup everything that includes

  1. All the theme files
  2. Database
  3. Plugins

And for the purpose of taking a backup, you can use the Updraftplus plugin. It is a freemium plugin that means both free and premium versions are available.

I personally use and strongly recommend using this plugin.

12. Use the Maintenance Mode

enable maintenance mode while changing wordpress theme

Imagine landing on a site that is under maintenance or construction. You will get the impression that the website is not working properly.

It can be frustrating for users to land on such pages and it is also possible that they may look for alternative sites.

It is highly recommended to hide your website under the maintenance mode while you are making the switch. This will let the users know the website is undergoing maintenance and the service will resume shortly.

Make sure to enable the maintenance mode before making any changes. And also don’t forget to deactivate after completion.

13. Updating the ads

For many webmasters, the website is a source of income. They use networks such as Google Adsense to place ads on their website.

Once you switch the theme make sure you add the advertisement code so that your website remains monetized.

Also, make sure you update the ads so that it works perfectly with the new theme. You can change the colors to make it look more professional.

If you do not update the ads, these will look the same as they used to earlier.

14. Slow and steady wins the race

make the theme related changes slowly

All the changes that you want cannot happen quickly. These things take time. Before you start making any changes create a plan and a priority list.

Complete the steps that need your attention first. The main objective is your site should be visible to users on most times.

While you are making these changes make sure it renders correctly. The key here is to check everything twice. Make sure to change the smaller things on the priority list first.

Once you are comfortable and understand the structure then proceed to make the bigger changes.

15. Announce the change

make the announcement about the change of WordPress theme

Changing the theme of the website is as important as any other event.

Think about doing a major renovation to your place and inviting your friends and family over for lunch or dinner to see the change and getting to know how they feel?

In a very similar way, after completing the change, make sure you let the audience know about the change.

You can write a blog post and later send a push notification or a newsletter, and also announce the change on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

You can use this opportunity to interact and ask people what they think about the change. This is a good opportunity to connect with the audience.

16. Collect user feedback and work on it

Use feedback plays a vital role in running an online world. You have made this change for a reason and its important for you to know what they think.

After all

Its the user experience that matters Click To Tweet

To collect user feedback you can

  1. Create a popup survey/ feedback form on your website.
  2. Add a feedback button
  3. Create polls on various social media platforms

You can use this valuable feedback to further improve your site and give the visitors amazing user experience.

Final Words

Before you go, there is one more thing you need to check in a WordPress theme and that is the proper use of heading tags.

Why I am suggesting this?

Most themes out there claim to be SEO friendly but do not offer proper use of heading tags which is an important element of SEO.

And that’s it for now, these are the 16 things you must do before changing the WordPress theme. 

If you are new to WordPress check out our article on 20 important things you need to do after installing WordPress.

Do let us know what you think about our theme in the comments section. Your feedback is very important to us.

You may like to read next- How to install the Akismet anti-spam plugin and stay away from spam.

I hope you find these tips helpful and use them when you make the change. Also, don’t forget to share these tips with your friends.

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GeekyPlug
Tags : Beginner's Guidetips and tricks
Jasmeet Singh

The author Jasmeet Singh

Jasmeet Singh is the Blogging El Jefe at GeekyPlug. Started his career as a BPO employee and now is a full-time blogger and writes how-to guides and his personal experiences related to blogging. In his spare time, he likes to read books, listen to podcasts and play video games.

34 Comments

  1. such an awesome, informative post! This is even helpful to someone who is just starting out, I wish I came across it when I was initially setting up my blog. I am considering a revamp so these tips are super!

  2. Thank you for these tips. I usually just change my themes and begin editing them without really paying attention to any of this and without using the ”under maintenance” page. It’s always slow and my site will be down for a few days. I should try these tips as I presume will make the change more efficient for me.

  3. One of the most useful posts on blogging. Will be helpful to many bloggers. You have covered all the important points which I keep in mind while changing my WordPress theme. Keep it up.

  4. Thank you for sharing these considerations prior to changing and switching themes. A very helpful guide indeed!

  5. This is a very good guide. I am thinking about the change but totally unsure what to look up. This is helpful. I save it.

  6. This post is seriously so helpful and full of awesome information! Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us ♡

  7. Thank you so much for this post. There is a ton of really good information here that I wasn’t aware of. This is a really helpful guide.

  8. Such a detailed post filled with lots of useful information. I don’t get the bit about replacing or updating the ads when you change theme.
    What exactly does one do? I would love some help in that regard,. That may be the reason I am not making much!

    1. Hi Joleisa, let me explain this a little better here. Placing banner ads is one of the ways to monetize. Now there are chances the creatives that you may be using before worked seamlessly with the previous design and may not work with new designs. So it is always recommended to use the ad creatives in a test environment first and then make changes in order for them to work perfectly with the design. I hope I have answered your query if not you can contact me via the contact form and I ‘ll be in touch ASAP

  9. Yay!!!! I needed this! This post is sooo refreshing. I haven’t had my free theme that long but I have been looking into paid themes and I was super scared to loose all my hard work. Thank you for this. Very much needed! Definitely saving this for later.

  10. Very informative, I am such a novice when it comes to changing themes etc, I will reread this when I am on my laptop and perhaps take action!!!

  11. Perfect timing! I was actually just looking at new themes but was not sure what to really look for and what to do to make the change once I had chosen one. With this, I am confident that I will get it right. Thank you!

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