If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our overview of WordPress themes. This detailed article explains what WordPress themes are and how using themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for website owners.
In this tutorial, you will learn how to update your theme to its latest version inside your dashboard.
Upgrading Themes – Best Practices Checklist
We recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below before going through the upgrade process.
1. Make A Complete Backup
Backing up your website before making any changes to your site is essential. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore things back to their former state.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many WordPress 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 are using, there may be some release notes accompanying an update listing new features, improvements, bug fixes or important information pertaining to the new version.
If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it’s best to 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 a theme, track 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’re managing your own website, you can set up a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain name with 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 offer this 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 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 the parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, all customizations 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 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 not complicated at all … a few simple clicks and you’re done! The bit 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 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 properties.
Upgrading Your Theme – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Upgrading your WP theme from the WP dashboard is easy.
Log into your WordPress administration area …
Depending on the theme(s) installed on your website, you may receive occasional notifications in your dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …
Updating themes in the dashboard is easy. You can update your site’s theme via the “Themes” screen, or the “Updates” page.
Updating Your Theme Using The “Themes” Area
To see which themes need updating, go to your Themes area.
Choose Appearance > Themes in your WordPress admin menu …
This opens up the “Themes” screen …
WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over their 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 automatically updates your theme …
Your theme is now up-to-date …
Repeat the above to update all of your out-of-date themes, or use the method below to bulk upgrade multiple themes.
Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Updates” Screen
Update your themes from the “Updates” section as follows:
To view all themes on your website that need updating, click on Dashboard > Updates …
This opens up the Updates screen. Scroll down to the Themes section …
Select all the themes you want to update and click on Update Themes to complete the bulk update process …
WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade 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)