You’ve been thinking about changing the look of your site for a while now. You found a WordPress theme that you like, but you’re a bit nervous about what will happen to your site after you activate the new theme.
You’re overcome with questions: Will you lose any of your site data? How do you pick and customize a new theme? How will a new theme impact your site layout, and will widgets that you installed remain intact?
There are many things to consider before making the switch to a new theme. Knowing what to look for is half the battle, but we’re here to help guide you along the way.
Let’s explore exactly what you should keep in mind when changing your WordPress theme to make it a smooth transition.
First things first: back up your site
The most important thing that you can do to maintain your site is backing it up. In the event that something goes wrong (like unexpected downtime during the transition) or the new look isn’t what you envisioned, you can use a current backup to revert things back to how they were.
Additionally, all plans come equipped with real-time backups. This is an especially useful feature if you have a “high velocity” site that sees a lot of daily activity that you want to ensure is backed up, such as a popular ecommerce store with orders rolling in every few minutes.
Make sure you’re up-to-date
Updating WordPress and any third-party themes and plugins you may have should be the next item on your to-do list.
Not only is doing so likely to improve your site security (as updates often come with patches and bug fixes), but many themes and plugins integrate new WordPress features, such as the customizer, into their newer versions. They also tend to incorporate common menu and widget area naming conventions, which can simplify the process of transitioning to a new theme.
In the future, you can opt to enable automatic updates, which is especially useful if you maintain multiple sites or run a single site with a large number of plugins.
Find your style
As a WordPress user, you have access to tens of thousands of styles to choose from. Finding the right one can be a hard decision. How do you pick just one?
Start by looking for elements that reflect your brand. You can search through more than 150 themes included with Jetpack by entering specific terms like a certain color or style in the search box. Search for “green,” and you’ll find themes that use green as a primary color. Or, enter a style, such as “professional” or “simple.”
Don’t judge a theme by its color. The WordPress customizer lets you change colors and other details in themes that allow for it.
Modern themes often have multiple color palettes to choose from while keeping the functionality and layout the same. Feeling pastels for spring and deeper tones for fall? With the right theme, those color changes are possible.
Not seeing something that aligns with your brand? Jetpack Professional plans offer more than 200 premium themes, often with advanced features baked in.
Ensure your menus stay the same
A simple theme with one menu at the top of a page rarely poses trouble when switching to a new one. But today’s themes often come with a header, subheader, and footer menus. It can become more challenging if the number of menus is not the same between themes, or if a theme author used more “creative” menu descriptors.
Go to Appearance >; Menus on your site and be prepared to take some screenshots, as having them on-hand can make it easier to recreate a menu if needed.
Make sure you select each of the menus in your old theme from the Select a menu dropdown at the top of the page. Expand each menu entry and take a screenshot. Like the backup, you may not need them, but you’ll be happy to have them if you do.
Most themes use the same menu names, and swapping themes usually keeps these menus intact. For those that don’t, you may find that a menu still exists but is not displaying correctly.
To fix this, select the menu from the dropdown mentioned previously and look to the bottom of the page for Menu Settings >; Display Area You likely only need to check a box to get your menu back.
Make sure your widgets transfer
Widgets are one of the elements that can change between themes. Most themes will have widgetized areas, but these aren’t always in the sidebar. You’ll find widget areas in headers, footers, and possibly in a home page “featured” section. It’s important to note the different widget areas that are present in your current theme before making a switch.
To explore the widget areas in your current theme, go to the Appearance >Widgets menu. If you worry about forgetting what widget was located in each area, open up your screen capture tool, expand each widget area, and take a screenshot.
Thankfully, widget areas that disappear when a new theme is activated will still retain those widgets with their settings intact. They are stored in the Inactive Widgets list on the bottom of the page. You can usually drag your old widgets from the Inactive Widgets list, and insert them right into your new theme’s widget areas.
Customize a new theme to your liking
Now that your new theme is online and you have your widgets and menus back, it’s time to customize it to align with your branding.
One of the best reasons to upgrade your theme is to get more WordPress customizer features. Many themes, including the premium themes that come with Jetpack Professional plans, have extended features available. These can include options like additional fonts, homepage image galleries, or sidebar placement customization. If you want an extremely customized site design, consider upgrading to a Professional plan.
Many newer themes allow you to change the default color scheme. If you really like a “professional” style theme, but don’t care for the green base color, you can pick the Caribbean color palette instead.
Once you’re prepared, change your theme!
With the right considerations in mind, you’ll be positioned to change your site layout without losing your site data, widgets, menus, and personalized site style. Make sure that your new site looks its very best to keep visitors engaged and coming back for more visits.
Do you have any tips or success stories from updating your own website layout? Share your journey with us in the comments below!
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