If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written a detailed article that explains what themes are and how themes can save small business owners time and money.
This tutorial will show you how to update your themes to a new version inside the admin area.
Upgrading A WordPress Theme – Best Practices Checklist
We recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below before attempting the upgrade process, to help prevent any problems affecting your site during your update process.
1. Back Up Everything
Backing up your files and data before making any changes to your site is essential. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore things back to their previous configuration.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can 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 are using, there may be a changelog file included with an update listing new features, improvements, bug 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 upgrade.
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 any bugs and check if the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings 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 using the same plugins and configuration settings 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 do a quick search online to 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 provide forums for premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized Themes
If you have made extensive customizations to your existing WordPress 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 get 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 just visit the WordPress Codex child theme page here:
As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is easy. What can feel slightly bothersome is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.
Many 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 to help you avoid problems. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to protect your digital assets.
Updating Your Theme – Tutorial
Upgrading your WP themes in your admin dashboard is easy.
Log into your WordPress administration area …
Depending on the theme(s) installed on your site, you may receive an occasional notification in your WP Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating WordPress themes from your dashboard is simple and easy. You can update your WordPress themes via the “Themes” feature, or the “Updates” screen.
Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Themes” Screen
You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes page.
Choose Appearance > Themes from your WordPress admin menu …
This opens up the “Themes” page …
WordPress Themes that need updating display an “Update Available” message over their thumbnail image …
Locate the theme that needs to be updated and click on the “Update Available” alert.
When the theme details window opens up, click on update now …
WordPress will automatically update your 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 update multiple themes.
Updating Your Site Themes Via The “Updates” Screen
Update your themes using the “Updates” page as follows:
To view all themes on your website that require 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 upgrade process …
WordPress will automatically update all of your selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to update your themes in 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