If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written an in-depth article that explains what WordPress themes are and how using a theme can save web business owners time and money.
This tutorial will show you how to easily update your theme with just a few clicks inside your admin area.
Updating Your WordPress Theme – Best Practices Checklist
We recommend going through the handy checklist below before attempting the upgrade process, to ensure that your update goes smoothly.
1. Back Up Your Site
Backing up your site before making any updates to your site is vital. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are a number of WordPress plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your site backups here:
2. Check The Theme Update Notes
Changes made to the WordPress software can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you have installed, there may be a changelog file accompanying an update listing any new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new theme version.
If the theme changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should update.
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 any bugs and check if the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before applying and activating it on a live site.
If you’re managing your own website, you can set up a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain name using the same plugins and configuration settings and test new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your main website.
4. Search Online
Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to search online and see if other theme users have 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 premium themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized WordPress Themes
If you have made extensive customizations to your existing theme files, upgrading your theme may 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 the parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, all modifications are preserved through the “child theme.”
If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with child themes, especially if you use a theme that gets regularly updated. You can learn more about child themes by searching online, or visit the official WordPress 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! What can feel slightly bothersome is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.
Many people don’t upgrade their themes regularly, while others upgrade without going through all of the steps listed in the section above. As mentioned earlier, the above are “best practice” methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, it is solely the website owner’s responsibility to protect their digital assets.
Updating Your WP Themes – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Upgrading your theme in your dashboard is easy.
Log into your WordPress administration area …
Depending on the theme(s) you have installed on your site, you may receive an occasional alert in your WordPress Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating WordPress themes from the dashboard is easy. You can update your site’s theme via the “Themes” page, or the “Updates” section.
Updating Your Site Themes Via The “Themes” Section
To see which themes need updating, go to your Themes page.
Select Appearance > Themes from your WP dashboard menu …
This opens up the “Themes” screen …
WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over the theme’s thumbnail image …
Locate the theme that needs to be updated and click on the “Update Available” notice.
When the theme details window opens up, click on update now …
WordPress will automatically update your theme in seconds …
Your WordPress theme is now updated …
Repeat the above process to update all of your out-of-date themes, or use the method below to bulk upgrade multiple themes at once.
Updating Your Themes Via The “Updates” Area
Update your WordPress themes from the “Updates” area as shown below:
To view all themes on your site that need updating, click on Dashboard > Updates …
This opens 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 bulk upgrade process …
WordPress will automatically update all of the selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to update your theme from the WP dashboard.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now