How to Change Your Wordpress Theme

One of the questions that we often get asked is: How to Change Your WordPress Theme ? When your WordPress website or blog changes focus or you simply want a fresher look, it may be time to switch it up and change to a brand new WordPress theme. Since the theme reflects the look and feels of your site, right down to the colors and layouts, it should be clean and simple, easy for your readers to understand at first glance, telling them within a few seconds what you and your site are all about.

A fresh appearance can attract new readers as well as retain your existing audience. Humans are visual creatures and pictures to grab and hold attention. Changing You WordPress Theme also demonstrates you are current and engaged with your audience.

Once you’ve decided to update your Startup WordPress theme you have a number of options:

  • You can peruse existing WordPress theme designs (there are over 300) to find what best reflects your site’s overall subject matter. To save time, narrow down the search by using keywords to focus on a particular theme, feature, colour, layout, etc.
  • Design your own theme
  • Upload a custom theme you’ve purchased elsewhere.

Common sense considerations

Whether you’re changing an existing WordPress theme or switching it out entirely, before you begin there are a number of basic items you need to consider:

Make sure all your work is backed up

This can’t be emphasized enough. Backing up your work includes a screen snapshot of your Current WordPress theme and layout….sidebars, custom menus and widgets….especially the location of each on your desktop. If you’re using tracking codes, don’t forget them. Remember to copy and paste them into your new theme. Make notes and ensure you’ve captured every nuance of your existing home page.

If you are not already backing up your WordPress website, then you should pick one of modern WordPress backup plugins and start using.

Create a “Theme Lab

You’re in the middle of changing your theme and something goes wrong….it could be catastrophic. To avoid this scenario, it’s recommended you create a clone of your active production site in a lab-like environment. Here you can install and activate your new theme, test, change and iron out the bugs and see what it’s going to look and act like BEFORE it goes public. There is no pressure to rush. Take your time. You can start from scratch over and over again without any affect to your production site.

When the new “theme lab” has been thoroughly tested and is working to your satisfaction, you are now ready to replace your existing site with your “theme lab”. You can be confident your new WordPress theme looks great and everything is working precisely as it should.


Ensure your New WordPress theme is compatible with all the major browsers including Google Chrome, Firefox, Apple Safari and Internet Explorer. This also includes any existing or new plug-ins.

Don’t Forget

When you are building and trialing your new WordPress theme in your “theme lab”, any changes or additions you make to your existing, production site content during this time, will not be reflected in your “theme lab”. A self-imposed “change freeze” should be in effect while you are under construction.

Changing WordPress Themes

When an entire theme is changed or switched for a new one your basic site content doesn’t change. However, each theme has its own variations regarding layout such as menu locations, sidebars, widgets/widget-ready, etc. Whether you’re using a specific theme from WordPress or a custom theme purchased elsewhere, check to make sure the new theme provides the same capabilities as your existing WordPress theme. Equally important, ensure it reflects what you’re trying to portray.

  • Once you’ve completed a full backup of your website content and made all your notes you have a few options to create your Theme Lab or staging site:
    • Use the new WP Staging plugin
    • If you are using a managed WordPress host many come with built-in staging sites a part of their service
    • Create a subdomain and FTP account in WordPress
  • Navigate to the WordPress Theme section by selecting >Appearance >Themes from your WordPress dashboard. Your active theme will be highlighted along with a list of themes you’ve previously used.
  • Click the Add New button.
    How to Change Your WordPress Theme
  • To choose from over 300 available WordPress themes used the drop-down menu on the Add Themes page. For custom themes see note below.
  • Once you’ve made your selection, click on the themes Install button
  • WordPress Customizer allows you to work with your new theme, correcting any errors prior to activating it. To preview your new theme select >Appearance >Customize on your dashoard. Click Change in the Customizer sidebar and then select Live Preview next to the new theme you just installed.
    • You can also used the Customizer sidebar to fix issues with any widgets or menus you are currently using
  • Click through your site to see how it looks and to ensure everything is functional and intact.
  • To apply the New WordPress theme go back to >Appearances >Theme and select Activate.

Custom Themes Note:

If you’vepurchased a custom theme, you’ll need to save it as a .zip file.

  • From your dashboard select >My Sites >Design> Themes.
  • Click Upload Theme and either drag-and-drop the .zip file into the box or double-click on the box to locate the .zip file on your computer.
  • Preview your new theme
  • Once you’re ready Activate your new WordPress theme.

Wrapping things up

While the actual method itself is simple, doing it the right way helps assure that you don’t just How to Change Your WordPress Theme but also that your site functions exactly as well with your new theme as it arranged with your old theme.

Remember, here’s all you need to do:

  1. Install your fresh theme
  2. Preview your new theme ere activating it by using the WordPress Customizer
  3. Make sure your menus and widgets look right

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