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Beginner’s Guide: How To Change Your WordPress Theme

June 17, 2024


“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this saying before, which is probably why you’ve had the same theme on your WordPress website for quite some time now.


But while you’ve had good success with it, it may be time for a change. Perhaps you might want to redesign your site, or add new features and functionality!


Luckily, WordPress makes switching themes simple with just a few clicks. However, in order to avoid any issues like incompatibility, you should take care of a few things first.


Without further ado, here’s a straightforward guide to everything you need to know about changing your WordPress theme.



Why Switch Up Your WordPress Theme


person painting on a canvas

You generally want to change your theme to keep your website top-notch and up-to-date.
(Credit: Kinsta)


The visual style of your website is determined by your WordPress theme. Your website’s front end directly affects how users interact with it. However, whether you manage a blog, online store, or service-based website, the time will come when you need to think about updating the look or functionality of your website.


Some common reasons why users change their themes include:


  • Utilizing the newest WordPress additions and features to their advantage
  • Addressing speed issues due to their website’s coding
  • Including recent updates to Google SEO ranking criteria, such as mobile-first design
  • Displaying a cutting-edge, modern look to their visitors that fits their current branding
  • To quickly and easily add appealing content to their site
  • Keeping their site secure if their theme’s developer no longer supports it
  • Meeting standards for WCAG and ADA accessibility without using hand-coded solutions


If at least one of the reasons above speaks to you, you’ll be glad to know that there are thousands of themes available in the WordPress theme library. You can even find thousands more premium themes available from numerous website builders. The layouts and components of almost every theme vary, and are each created with a specific function in mind.


So, excited to do some redecorating? You’re almost ready—there are just a few things you need to sort out first.



What To Do Before Changing Your WordPress Theme


If you’ve already settled on a new theme, here’s a quick checklist of tasks you’ll have to accomplish for a seamless transition:


1. Back up your website


laptop with backup wallpaper background

Backing up your website allows you to restore your website when something goes wrong.


A backup refers to making a copy of all of your blog posts, plugins, files, and database information. This is the most crucial step to prevent any data loss in case you encounter problems in the process.


Thankfully, a lot of the best web hosting services allow you to install a WordPress backup plugin that will enable you to back up your entire website with ease.


2. Copy snippets from the theme you’re using


WordPress users who aren’t beginners anymore prefer to add code snippets directly to their theme’s functions.php file in order to customize their website. People typically forget about these modifications because they were made only once.


If you or your web developer made these changes, be sure to look through the theme’s files and make a note of all the extra code you’ve added in the past. This will enable you to include them later in a WordPress plugin for your particular website or the functions.php file of your new theme.


3. Take note of all your tracking codes


tracking code

Tracking codes help you monitor your web traffic.


Some users directly include their analytics tracking code in their theme files. There are also some WordPress themes that have a settings panel where you can add Analytics or Adverse code.


Ignoring or overlooking these codes is among the most frequent errors that beginners make. If you’ve added analytics code to the current theme, it’s especially crucial that you follow this practice. Otherwise, you won’t be able to monitor the effectiveness of your site after switching WordPress themes.


That being said, make sure to make a copy of every tracking code so that you can add it to your new site after changing your theme.


4. Keep a record of your widgets


For WordPress websites, widgets are valuable resources. They can be placed in the sidebar or the footer and come in different forms to enhance your website. These could be simple text, social media links, subscription forms, or advertisements.


So before switching themes, take note of the widgets and their locations if you intend to keep them in the same location. You can put them back in their original positions after switching.


5. Perform a speed test


Bitcatcha speed checker

Testing your website’s speed is fairly easy to do thanks to a lot of tools available online.


Finally, you should make sure that your new theme is operating at least as well as your current one. So, test your speed before the switch so you can compare the results. You can use tools such as our very own Bitcatcha Speed Test Tool or Google PageSpeed Insights for this.



The Fastest (And Safest) Way To Change Your WordPress Theme


Changing your website’s theme is a simple process that doesn’t take much time. If you want to do it yourself, here is a step-by-step guide.


  1. The first step is logging into your WordPress dashboard. From there, you can pretty much find everything you need.


    You have to log in to the WordPress dashboard first before you can do anything.


  3. After accessing your dashboard, navigate to Appearance and Themes. These can both be found on the left sidebar of your dashboard. (WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Themes)


    You can find the appearance and themes by accessing your WordPress dashboard.


  5. Here you’ll find the list of installed themes. If you haven’t installed one yet, you can click on the Add New button at the top of the page.

    add new button

    The Add New button is located at the top of the page.


  7. In the theme directory, look for the theme you want, then hit Install. Use the Upload Theme option to upload and install the WordPress theme if you have it as a ZIP file.

    search new themes in WordPress

    Look for WordPress themes by using the search bar.


  9. Install your theme, but don’t activate it just yet. There’s still something you have to do to make sure the theme looks exactly how you’d like it. The WordPress customizer can be accessed by going to WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Customize.


    Don’t activate your WordPress themes just yet.


  11. Once you’re there, choose the Live Preview button from the installed theme to check how your theme looks. Most of the time, all the menus and widgets will be available. The layouts of the home page and the inner pages, however, are likely to change. But if the design needs to change, that’s no problem either; just use the customizer to make any adjustments needed.

    Live preview option for WordPress theme

    Checking how your theme looks is a great way to see if it fits your website.


  13. Now that your theme has been changed, you can clearly see how it will appear. When you feel comfortable using the new theme, activate and publish it.

    WordPress theme successfully installed

    Activate and publish your theme once it’s to your liking.



What To Do After You Update Your WordPress Theme


After your website has gone live with its new WordPress theme, don’t take it easy just yet!


Even though you’ve gone to great lengths to ensure everything is correct, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on a few things:


Test Your Website On All Major Browsers


Compatibility across browsers is a major problem and isn’t something you should overlook.


Make sure your WordPress theme functions properly across all popular browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer. This is to prevent any differences in appearance or functionality.


You’ll need to return and address any issues if there are any, possibly putting the site back into maintenance mode if they’re pretty serious.


Insert A Tracking Code


Now is a good time to add your Google Analytics and AdSense tracking codes to your website in order to better understand the traffic that is coming to it. This also makes sure that you are getting paid for the content-relevant ads that are being displayed on it.


You’re lucky to find that a lot of managed WordPress hosting services have plugins that enable you to integrate Analytics with your website and display thorough website statistics right inside your WordPress dashboard.


Track Loading Times


A website’s excessive loading time is one of the main reasons why visitors leave.


When switching to a new WordPress theme, you should notice a speed improvement on your website. If not, it’s time to start over and find different ways to improve things.


Generally speaking, a good load time according to Google should be around one to three seconds.


Keep An Eye On the Bounce Rate


As soon as your new website goes live, it’s best to monitor your bounce rate.


A bounce rate between 30-40% should be your target. If it rises to, let’s say, more than 70%, that might indicate that the navigation on your site is confusing and not very user-friendly.


You can try to change the way it functions while also possibly adding fresh content and widgets to pique visitor interest.



Enjoy Your New Website!


Those who use WordPress should be familiar with how to change a theme since a majority of users will want to do so at some point.


Even though the procedure is straightforward, following the right steps will help to ensure that your website continues to operate effectively with your new theme as it did with your old one.


Now that you have a grasp of how everything works, you can now enjoy your new website!


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