If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written a detailed article that explains what WP themes are and how using a theme can be cost-effective and time-saving for small business owners.
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to upgrade themes inside your admin area.
Updating A WordPress Theme – Best Practices Checklist
Before updating your WordPress themes, we recommend going through the checklist below to make sure that no theme settings or customizations are lost and your upgrades go smoothly.
1. Back Up Your Site
Backing up your website before making any changes to your site is vital. If something goes wrong, you can always restore things back to their previous state.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many WordPress plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your backup process here:
2. Check The Changelog
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 accompanying an update which provides an overview of new features, improvements, bug fixes or important information pertaining to 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 any bugs and check if the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before installing and activating it on a live site.
If you’re managing your own website, you can install 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 to see if other theme users have reported any serious problems with the new theme version.
You can type the theme name and version into Google, and search the theme developer’s support forum (many developers provide forums for paid themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized Themes
If you have made extensive changes 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 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 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 just 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 that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.
Some people don’t upgrade their WordPress 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, as a website owner, it is solely your responsibility to protect your digital properties.
How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress – Tutorial
Updating your WP theme in your admin dashboard is easy.
Log into your WordPress admin area …
Depending on which theme(s) are installed on your website, you may receive occasional notifications in your WP Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating WordPress themes in your WP dashboard is easy. You can update your site’s theme using the “Themes” area, or the “Updates” section.
Updating Your Theme Via The “Themes” Section
You can see which themes need updating by going to your Themes area.
Select Appearance > Themes in your WP dashboard menu …
This brings you to the “Themes” screen …
WordPress Themes that need updating 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 in seconds …
Your WordPress theme is now up-to-date …
Repeat the process described above to update all of your outdated themes, or use the method described below to update multiple themes.
Updating Your Site’s Theme Using The “Updates” Area
Update your WordPress themes from the “Updates” screen as follows:
To view all themes installed 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 update process …
WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your WP theme in your dashboard.
"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum