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 using themes can save small business website owners significant time and money.
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to upgrade your themes to a new version inside your admin area.
Updating WP Themes – Best Practices
Before updating your WordPress themes, we recommend going through the checklist below.
1. Back Up Your Site Files And Data
Backing up your site before making any updates to your site is vital. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are a number of plugins you can use. Learn 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 have installed, there may be some release notes included with an update listing new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new 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 the 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 manage your own website, you can set up a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain name with the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) 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 do a quick search online to see if other theme users have reported any issues 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 offer this for paid WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized WordPress Themes
If you have made extensive changes to your existing WordPress 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 that parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, your 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 visit the WordPress Codex child theme page here:
As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is very simple. What can feel slightly bothersome is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.
Some 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 “best practice” methods to help you avoid problems. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to protect your online assets.
Upgrading Your Theme – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Updating your theme from your admin dashboard is simple.
Log into your WordPress admin area …
Depending on what theme(s) you have installed on your website, you may receive an occasional alert in your WordPress Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating WordPress themes in the dashboard is a very simple process. You can update your site’s theme from the “Themes” screen, or the “Updates” area.
Updating WordPress Themes From The “Themes” Area
To see which themes require updating, go to your Themes area.
Choose Appearance > Themes from your WordPress dashboard menu …
This brings you to the “Themes” screen …
Themes with new versions 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 automatically updates the theme …
Your theme is now up-to-date …
Repeat the above to update all of your outdated themes, or use the method below to update multiple themes at once.
Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Updates” Screen
Update your theme via the “Updates” area as shown below:
To view all themes installed in your site 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 your selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to update your theme from your dashboard.
"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie