So you Want to Change your WordPress Theme? A Bit of Preparation Makes it Easier. . .

Block 3 is your WordPress theme

WordPress Theme Tutorial

As your business evolves and grows, you may want to completely change your WordPress theme.

While it’s super easy to activate a new theme, tweaking it to make sure it works with your existing content can be very time consuming. Be very sure that changing your theme will help you accomplish your business goals — it’s not something to start on a whim.

Back in the day, businesses thought long and hard before changing their web design. It was costly and they usually had to hire designers and programmers to do it.

While you don’t need to hire a programmer for a WordPress theme change, it’s still not something to undertake lightly.

Here are some good reasons to change your theme:

  1. Your business goals have changed
  2. Your business mission has changed
  3. Your audience has changed
  4. Your site doesn’t have the tools you need to improve conversions
  5. Your site looks tired and dated

If you do decide your WordPress site needs a facelift, it’ll go much more smoothly if you prepare ahead of time. Here’s a list of some basics you’ll need to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.

A Complete Backup

Before making any change to your WordPress site — and especially before changing your theme — back it up completely.

There are two parts of WordPress to back up: the file structure and the database. You can see step-by-step instructions on how to back up both in this article.

Regenerate Thumbnails Plugin

Different themes use different size thumbnail images. (The thumbnail is the image that shows up on the blog and archive pages. It’s smaller than the image you see when you’re reading the article or the page by itself.)

Here’s a very common type of thumbnail.

image of blog thumbnail images

But we’re seeing this style of thumbnail more often, where the thumbnail image takes up the whole column width above the blog excerpt.

image of blog thumbnail

To painlessly resize thumbnails that will work properly in your new theme, install Regenerate Thumbnails.

WP Maintenance Mode Plugin

While you’re making changes, WP Maintenance Mode will pop up a message on your site telling visitors the site is under maintenance, and inviting them to check back later. You can customize the message and the time it displays.

This keeps your redesign under wraps until you’re ready to unveil it.

Widgets

When you change themes, your new theme won’t usually recognize the widgets you’ve been using. They don’t disappear (usually). Instead, they get moved to the Inactive Widgets area.

It’s a good idea to make a list ahead of time of all your widgets and their settings. (Hint: If you use a screen capture tool like SnagIt, open each widget and capture it in an image. It’s a lot easier than writing down every setting!)

image of widget settings

Header, Logo and Favicon Images

When you change themes, you’ll need to re-upload your logo or header image. If you use a custom favicon (that’s the little bitty image that you see on the browser tab — for this site it’s a little “W” in our colors), you’ll most likely need to re-upload that as well.

Make sure you have those images handy. It’s very frustrating to have to go hunting all over your hard drive to find them when you’re trying to get everything changed quickly.

A Good Night’s Rest and a Sense of Humor

Sometimes a theme change goes like clockwork and sometimes. . . well, let’s not go there. Suffice it to say, it’s a good idea to be well rested before you start.

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