How to change a WordPress theme without losing content
Do you intend to change a WordPress theme? WordPress makes changing and managing themes on a website quite simple. However, keep in mind that changing the look of your live website is a huge task. Before and after changing a theme, there are a few things to ensure that you don’t lose any data or website traffic. With a step-by-step checklist, ArrowTheme will show you how to change a WordPress theme in this post.
Before changing a WordPress Theme
Copy snippets from your current theme
Some WordPress users like to modify their websites by directly inserting code snippets to their theme’s functions.php file. People seem to forget about these adjustments because they were done only once.
In case you or your web developer made these modifications. So be sure to browse through the files of your current theme and make a list of all the extra code you included. Therefore, you can include them in the functions.php file of your new theme or a site-specific WordPress plugin later.
Test load time
Before changing your theme, you should verify your website’s load speed. Therefore, you can quickly compare the differences in page load time after making modifications.
Remember that WordPress performance is a key aspect in both user experience and SEO. So make sure the new theme is faster than the old one.
Furthermore, you can use a WordPress speed testing tool to examine the speed of your website. Make sure to test the homepage’s load time as well as some of your internal pages.
Make sure you don’t lose any tracking codes
Some users directly include their analytics tracking code into their theme files. Besides that, some WordPress themes have a settings section where you may add Adsense or Analytics code. One of the most typical mistakes of newcomers is failing to notice these codes.
You should copy all of the tracking codes. As a result, you may paste them into your new site after changing the theme. We always advise users to utilize a plugin like MonsterInsights to install Google Analytics, or the header and footer plugin for other tracking codes.
Create a complete backup
Before updating your theme, always make a backup of your posts, photos, plugins, and database.
To create a backup of your current site, you can utilize a WordPress backup plugin. Before proceeding, make sure you have downloaded this backup to your computer.
This step ensures that you can quickly restore your website if something goes wrong.
Content in the Sidebar
Sidebars are used to display social media connections, adverts, subscription forms, and a contact form, among other things.
Make a note of these modifications. If any custom code has been added to a widget, make a duplicate of it and save it to your computer. As a result, you can reuse it in your new theme.
Make sure your website is in maintenance mode.
When making updates to your website, it’s a good idea to place it in maintenance mode. You wouldn’t want your visitors to see your site while it’s being built, do you?
For this, we recommend utilizing the WordPress plugin. It makes it simple to design appealing coming soon and maintenance mode pages for your website.
Why is it so delicate to change a WordPress theme?
Let’s have a look at a few of the most popular free WordPress themes for your website:
Switching to a new theme often causes your site’s design and functionality to suffer.
In the best-case scenario, your new theme only breaks a few items, which you can quickly replace or restore to their previous state. However, the more closely your theme is related to the design of your website, the more likely moving to a new one may have major consequences. This can include things like:
- Having an impact on some of your site’s most critical characteristics. For example, messing with your navigation bar, contact forms, important sections within your pages, etc.)
- Disabling any shortcodes which your previous theme had installed
- Getting rid of any theme-specific widgets on your pages
- Interfering with the schema data on your sites
As a general rule, the more complicated the theme is, the more difficult it will be to change it. In case you’re using a multipurpose theme with its own page builder. So you’re definitely in for a long wait.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use WordPress themes that are more complicated. Because each website is unique. So you should select the theme that best meets your needs. Nonetheless, it’s critical to understand how to change your theme properly. Because issues might develop regardless of the type of theme you’re currently using
How to change a WordPress theme safely?
Step 1: Create a staging version of your website
Consider a staging environment same as a lab for you to test the important changes to your site before the public sees them. You can make any changes you want to your website without fear if you have a staging copy. In case you break something. So you can easily start over without risks.
Nowadays, many WordPress hosting platforms include staging functionality as part of their packages.
Because changing WordPress themes is a delicate process, it makes no sense to do so within your live site. With WordPress staging, you can see what happens to your content after switching themes, fix any errors, and then publish the result when you’re ready.
In case your web host does not provide staging functionality. So you have other options. For example, you can set up a local WordPress environment and use one of your backups to create a copy of your website.
This method isn’t as simple Because you can’t easily implement your local website online as you can via your web host. In that case, after you finish making changes, you have to make another copy of the site and upload it to your server.
We recommend using a web host which includes staging capabilities. It can greatly simplify your workflow in a variety of situations.
Step 2: Install your new theme and preview It
Your WordPress staging site should be ready at this point. It’s now time to log in and install the new WordPress theme
However, before activating the theme, browse to the Appearance > Customize section of your dashboard. Therefore, you can make changes to the appearance of your WordPress site from there. Furthermore, you also can use it to see how your new theme will look.
To do so, in the left-hand sidebar, click Change next to the Active theme section:
Then, choose the theme you want to try and click Live Preview button next to its name:
Following that, WordPress will show you what your home page looks like after activating the new theme. Take a few moments now to go through your entire website in the Customizer, noting any obvious problem areas or bugs.
To begin, you must activate the new theme on your staging site.
Step 3: Activate your new theme
You already know how your website will look after switching themes. So it’s time to get to work. Close the Customizer and go to the Appearance > Themes > click Activate
It may take a few seconds for WordPress to process the change. Then your new theme has been activated and is ready to use. It’s now live on your staging site. So double-check that everything is working properly.
Step 4: Resolve errors and replace missing elements
This step takes the most time. The extent of the work will be entirely determined by how the switch affected your website.
As mentioned above, changing themes frequently breaks parts of your site, including:
- Theme-specific widgets and shortcodes
- Your sidebar and navigation bar
- Specific sections of your pages, typically as a result of formatting issues or missing elements
- Your favicon may disappear.
Because switching themes will not affect that part of your site. Therefore, all of your content should remain in place. So you should customize your new WordPress theme until it looks exactly how you want it to.
If you add schema markup to your pages, you should configure your new theme in order for it to load properly. However, in case you’re using a plugin method to handle schema markup rather than manually adding the data. So you should be able to skip that step.
Step 5: Publish your staging website
After you make sure that your website is bug-free and looks exactly how you want it to, it’s time to public it. In case you use a staging website. So now you have to make your staging site live. In other words, the new and improved staging copy will replace your existing live website.
Furthermore, in case you’re using your web host’s staging functionality. So this should be a simple process. Because it often only takes a few clicks to complete a task
In case you’ve been publishing new content on your live website while tweaking your new theme on its staging copy. As a result, that content will be overwritten. So, before going live with your staging website, you have to move all of the new content there.
This process will take longer if you check your new theme on a local WordPress installation instead. You must perform a manual backup of your website before uploading it to your server.
When you’re finished, your live site will be ready to go, complete with its new theme! It’s a great idea to go over its important pages and content one more time to ensure that each element transitioned smoothly.
How to change a WordPress theme without going live?
You’re ready to switch themes after you install your new theme. However, you should test a theme before implementing it on your public website.
Therefore, you can see the new theme’s compatibility with your existing plugins. It will ensure that everything is operating properly. You have two options for changing your WordPress theme without going live:
Live preview option
Thanks to WordPress, you can preview a theme on your website without having to change it by default. To do so, navigate to Appearance > Themes in your admin panel’s left sidebar.
On this page, you’ll find a list of all the themes which have been installed on your site. To see a live preview of a theme, move your mouse over it and click the Live Preview.
This will take you to the WordPress Theme Customizer, where you may customize your new theme. You can now test your new theme to ensure that it functions correctly.
Theme Switcha plugin
The Theme Switcha plugin is another alternative. By it, you can see how your new theme looks without having to activate it.
You must first download, install, and activate this free plugin. Then, from the left sidebar of your admin panel, navigate to Settings > Theme Switcha.
Select the Enable theme switching option on the Settings page. And then you can go to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.
At the bottom of this page, this plugin will now show all of your installed themes. To see your new theme in action, open a new tab in your browser and click on it.
How to change a WordPress theme on Live Site?
It’s time to switch the theme on your WordPress site after testing your new theme.
To do so, go to Appearance > Themes on the WordPress admin panel’s left sidebar.
To change the WordPress theme, move the mouse pointer over the theme you want to use on this page > click Activate.
So now you can see the new theme in action on your website’s homepage.
How to change a WordPress theme manually?
Your WordPress admin area may become inaccessible due to an error. You cannot alter the theme using the above way in that situation.
You can restore your website from a backup. Besides that, you also can solve the WordPress error that caused the problem.
However, if you don’t have a backup, you can use phpMyAdmin to manually alter the theme. This method informs WordPress which theme to use by altering database information.
To begin, use an FTP client to link to your website and navigate to the /wp-content/themes/ folder.
You can see all of the themes which are currently active on your website in this section. In case you don’t see a WordPress theme. So you can install it using FTP.
Next, write down the name of the theme folder that you want to use. Because you will use it later.
After that, you must log into your WordPress hosting account’s cPanel. You must scroll down to the Databases area of this website and then click on phpMyAdmin.
On the left side of the screen in phpMyAdmin, you will find a list of databases. Simply select the database for your WordPress site.
It will then provide a list of the database’s tables. To open the wp options table, you must first click on it.
Note: the prefix for table names in WordPress is set to wp_ by default. However, as seen in the picture above, a different database prefix is possible.
On the right panel, you must now locate the template and stylesheet rows.
Then, on the Template row, click the Edit link to open the editor.
Modify the value in the option_value field to the name of the theme you want to use here. It is similar to the folder name you copied earlier from the /wp-content/themes/ folder.
When you’re finished, press the Go button to save your changes. After that, repeat the procedure for the Stylesheet row.
You may now visit your website to see the new theme in action after making modifications to both rows.
After changing a WordPress theme
Before you switch off the maintenance mode on your website after changing the theme, there are a few things you need to do.
Check out the checklist below for what to do after updating your WordPress theme:
Test your website
To begin, double-check that all of the functions, plugins, and widgets are operational.
You should spend time testing your website and checking various elements such as articles, comments, photos, and the contact form.
Certain things are displayed differently by different browsers.
You should test your website on a variety of browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. As a result, it appears well in all of the major browsers.
Add tracking code
You should add your analytics and Adsense tracking code to your site after testing the functionality and cross-browser compatibility.
To add the Google Analytics tracking code, you can utilize the MonsterInsights plugin. Therefore, you can configure analytics and view extensive website statistics directly from your WordPress dashboard.
Disable the maintenance mode.
To make your site online, you can turn off the maintenance mode.
To disable the maintenance mode in case you’re using the SeedProd plugin. So go to SeedProd > Pages in your WordPress admin and switch the toggle to Inactive
Test loading time
After updating the theme, you should test the loading time of your homepage on the Pingdom website once more.
Then, compare that to the time it took to load your former theme.
Keep tracking of bounce rate
In case your new theme is not user-friendly and difficult to browse. So it may boost your site’s bounce rate.
To lower bounce rates and improve page views, you might include related posts, a popular posts widget,…
Ask for feedback
You may also request opinions and suggestions from your users on how to improve the design of your website. To get customer feedback, you can utilize survey forms or an online poll.
Besides that, you can use an email marketing service to send the new design to your subscribers and ask for feedback. This can assist you in obtaining suggestions for what they want to see improved.
A WordPress theme is quite important, and most users choose to stick with the same theme for a long period. Therefore, hopefully this article is helpful for you. In case you are seeking assistance for your business. So ArrowTheme is the perfect choice for you. We are proud of bringing the awesome WordPress themes and full WordPress Website Packages to our customers all over the world. More importantly, our WordPress Website Packages will provide you with 2 options of a complete ecommerce website solution: Standard and Advance. The Advance package is more advanced than the Standard package. So simply choose one package, and our devoted specialists will help you do the rest of your Ecommerce Website Building Process. Do you want to learn more about it? As a result, make sure you don’t ignore them. Let us know your requirements via this CONTACT FORM.