WordPress is an open source platform which makes website design and creation much easier. Advanced compatibility allows extremely ease-of-use and flexibility to WordPress, so that it becomes more and more popular among webmasters. Easily changing WordPress theme is one of the great benefits of stating your site with WordPress. WordPress Theme Directory, third party and theme markets all provide a wide range of options. Namely, you can easily change your website appearance with different themes at different phases and WordPress allows you to make it with just a few clicks.
However, making sure your website still display content properly is not as simple as clicking several buttons of changing your theme. Each theme has its own layouts and designs, and they are not you and don’t know how to display your logo is the best, whether the theme can match with your sidebar, or whether to display headers or footers. In order to help you change theme properly, we conclude several critical aspects which should be taken into consideration when changing your WordPress theme.
1. Take Notes for Current Theme
As we talked before, each WordPress theme comes with different designs and layouts, so to ensure the new theme to display things and content as the way you want or the best performance should be and remain some unique features like menus, widgets, and links, you have to take notes for current theme and those important things you have to keep in new theme.
For example, to get some special features, you will need to add additional CSS codes or snippets into WordPress theme file. Therefore, you have to check all related theme files to write down the code lines you ever added, and these code lines should be added to your new theme files to take it effect for the features you need.
Besides, we recommend you to make a map of your navigation menu by going through it, to ensure the new navigation will work as the same as the old.
Taking notes is to give you an instruction about where to change and how to change in new theme file. Also, it is a good way to help you check out whether the new theme can work well and display the effect you really need.
2. Back up Your WordPress Site
Each time when we talked about making some changes on your site, we always remind you to make a full backup of your website, in case of any accident, so does changing your WordPress theme. The full backup should cover all your site files, settings, templates, databases, and others.
3. Switch on Maintenance Mode Temporarily
Changing website theme may take a few minutes or even hours, which depends on how many things you will change on your site and how complicate your website is. If you need modify the new theme to well meet your demands, it may take hours; if you do not have many special requirements to set up, then it is simple and takes only a few minutes to fulfill the process.
However, no matter how long or short you will spend in this, we still recommend you to turn on maintenance mode on your site and display a message saying the site will come back very soon. It can tell your readers what are happening on your site and ask them to come back after a certain period.
4. Note for Your Sidebar Widgets
Currently, sidebar is one of the essential parts of a popular website with full customization. In sidebar, you can showcase some featured content, ads, links, images, and others via widgets. To be frank, sidebar widgets are high-performance areas to show the most valuable things on site. It means you should consider it when changing WordPress theme.
If the new theme you choose comes with the widget settings different from the old one, your sidebar will not be displayed in a proper way. It may discount your site performance. For example, if your old sidebar showcases “About Me” with text widget, while your new theme doesn’t include the widget, then “About Me” part will be automatically removed. Even worse, your new theme just does not have widget included, and then your current content in sidebar area will be totally removed.
Additionally, there is one more thing you need note that the settings you ever modified in sidebar.php files for old theme will be rewritten.
5. Copy and Pate Your Tracking Code into New Theme Files
It is certain that most WordPress users will overlook this aspect when they change theme. Possibly, you have enabled a tracking service such as Google Analytics to learn your website performance, traffic growth and reader source. To activate the tracking service, you have to add a tracking code line into theme files like footer.php and function.php files.
If that, you need to ensure these tracking codes have been copied as well as pasted properly when changing new WordPress theme. Also, you need to check for your ads codes and verification codes which should be copied and pated into the related files in new theme.
6. Check for Your Current Plugins
Each theme includes unique functions, so when you plan to change your theme, you should check for your current plugins and figure out which plugins you still need to use and which can be deleted. After all, your new theme may not support for those plugins or it has the same functions by default. To avoid the redundancy and achieve the best possible performance, checking for you current plugins is needed.
Supposed that you are currently using a plugin to integrate PayPal gateway, but your new theme includes the PayPal integration already. Then, you need remove the redundant plugin.
Besides, to make some plugins work well needs to edit template files. So, when you are changing your WordPress theme, you need to test your essential plugins to see if they work well and add those coding stuff to the right files. Also, plugin compatibility with the old theme should be considered as well.
7. Check for Browser Compatibility
Different browsers have different tendency for displaying different things. Considering this situation, we think you should check whether your new theme can make your site be displayed properly on the majority of existing browsers.
For cross-browser compatibility, to check whether your new theme include responsive design for showing your content properly on both tablets and mobiles.
8. Begin from Minor Aspects
Even though changing website theme can be very simple, to make sure everything is right, we think it is better to take baby step and firstly begin from those minor aspects such as favicon, logo, footer, header, as well as background image. Then, you can make drastic changes for layout and navigations. Do as the way we introduced, and you can address issues encountering during the process quickly.
9. Optimize Third Party Components
Using WordPress as website building platform always take advantage of third party plugins and components to add functions. When you are changing website theme, you will need to change third party settings to achieve the same view effect as the whole theme showcase your content, images, links, and ads. In addition, if your old theme has special buttons for third party plugins, like Twitter and Facebook, you also need to adjust these buttons with new color scheme.
10. Inform Your Audience
The last thing you should do is to tell your audience that you have made some changes on site. Meanwhile, you can invite them to give feedback for your new theme. According to their feedback, you can know if you made successful WordPress them change, and how the new theme perform for driving traffic and increase conversion rate. Also, you can make future changes according to your readers’ suggestions and feedback.