If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our overview of WordPress themes. It explains what WP themes are and how they can save web business owners time and money.
This tutorial will show you how to upgrade a theme in the dashboard.
Upgrading Themes – Best Practices Checklist
We recommend going through the checklist below before attempting the upgrade process.
1. Back Up Everything
Backing up your website before making any updates to your site is vital. This way, if things don’t go as planned, you can always restore.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your backup process here:
2. Check The Theme Update Notes
When WordPress upgrades its software to a new version, this can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you have installed, there may be a changelog file included with an update listing new features, improvements, bug fixes or important changes in the new version.
If the theme changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it’s best to upgrade.
3. Test Your Theme
If you can, it’s a good idea to check the theme before installing it on your site.
Typically, web service providers will set up a test site where they can test the latest version of an installed theme, track bugs and check to see if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before installing it on a live site.
If you manage your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain with the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) and play with the new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your live website.
4. Search Online
Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to search online and see if anyone has reported any issues with the new theme version.
You can enter the theme name and version into Google, and search the theme developer’s support forum (many developers offer this for paid themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Is Your Theme Heavily Customized? Use A Child Theme
If you have made extensive changes to your existing theme files, upgrading your theme could result in your custom modifications being overwritten. To prevent losing your theme modifications, therefore, we recommend you learn how to create “child themes”.
A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme, and allows you to modify, or add to, the functionality of that parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, your customizations are preserved through the “child theme.”
If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with the use of child themes, especially if you plan on using a theme that gets regularly updated. You can learn more about child themes by searching online, or visit the WordPress Codex child theme page here:
As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is not complicated at all … a few simple clicks and you’re done! The step in the upgrading process that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.
Some people don’t upgrade their themes regularly, while many upgrade without going through some or all of the steps listed in the section above. As mentioned earlier, the above are recommended “best practice” methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, it is the website owner’s responsibility to protect their digital assets.
Updating A Theme In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Updating your theme in your dashboard is simple.
Log into your WordPress administration area …
Depending on which theme(s) are installed on your site, you may receive occasional alerts in your WP Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating WordPress themes in the WP dashboard is very simple and easy. You can update your site’s theme via the “Themes” screen, or the “Updates” area.
Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Themes” Section
You can see which themes need to be updated by going to your Themes area.
Choose Appearance > Themes from your WP dashboard menu …
This opens up the “Themes” screen …
WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over their thumbnail image …
Locate the theme you want to update and click on the “Update Available” alert.
When the theme details window opens up, click on update now …
WordPress will automatically update the theme …
Your WordPress theme is now updated …
Repeat the above to update all of your remaining themes, or use the method described below to bulk upgrade multiple themes.
Updating WordPress Themes From The “Updates” Page
Update your theme using the “Updates” area as shown below:
To view all themes on your website that need updating, click on Dashboard > Updates …
This brings up the Updates screen. Scroll down to the Themes section …
Check the box next to all the themes you want to update and click on Update Themes to complete the update process …
WordPress will automatically update all of your selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to update your WP theme from your admin dashboard.
"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)