If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our overview of WordPress themes. We’ve written an in-depth article that explains what WP themes are and how using themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for small business website owners.
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to upgrade your WP theme to a new version inside the dashboard.
Updating WP Themes – Best Practices
We recommend going through the checklist below before going through the upgrade process.
1. Back Up Your Files
Backing up your files and data before making any updates to your site is vital. If something goes wrong, you can always restore things back to their former settings.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your backup process here:
2. Check The Changelog
Changes made to the WordPress software can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you are using, there may be some release notes included with an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, security fixes or any other changes in the new theme version.
If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should update.
3. Test The 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 a theme, track bugs and check if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before applying and activating it on a live site.
If you manage 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 live 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 provide forums for premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Is Your WordPress Theme Customized? Use A Child Theme
If you have made extensive customizations to your existing WordPress theme files, updating 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”, all modifications get preserved through the “child theme.”
If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with using 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 very easy. The bit that takes the most time and effort to complete is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.
Some people don’t upgrade their WordPress themes regularly, while many upgrade without going through all of the steps listed in the section above. As mentioned earlier, the above are “best practice” methods to help you avoid problems. Ultimately, it is solely your responsibility as a website owner to protect your online properties.
Upgrading Your WordPress Themes – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Upgrading your WordPress themes from your admin dashboard is simple.
Log into your WordPress admin area …
Depending on the theme(s) installed on your website, you may receive occasional notifications in your WP Dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …
Updating a theme in your WP dashboard is easy. You can update your themes using the “Themes” page, or the “Updates” screen.
Updating Your Site Themes Using The “Themes” Screen
You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes area.
Choose Appearance > Themes from your WP dashboard menu …
This brings you to the “Themes” page …
Themes that need updating 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” message.
When the theme details window opens up, click on update now …
WordPress will automatically update the theme …
Your theme is now updated …
Repeat the above process to update all of your out-of-date themes, or use the method described below to bulk update multiple themes at once.
Updating Your Site Themes From The “Updates” Screen
Update your theme using the “Updates” area as follows:
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 bulk upgrade process …
WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to update your themes from the WP 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)