How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard.

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading A Theme In WordPressIf you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written a comprehensive article that explains what themes are and how using a theme can save small business website owners significant time and money.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to update a theme inside your admin area.

Upgrading Your WordPress Theme – Best Practices

Upgrading Your WordPress Theme - Best Practices

Before updating your themes, we recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below to prevent any problems that may affect your site during the process.

1. Back Up Everything

Backing up your site before making any changes to your site is essential. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many free and paid plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups here:

2. Check The Theme Update Notes

Changes made to the WordPress software can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you have installed, there may be a changelog file included with an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, bug 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 upgrade.

3. Test Your Theme

If you can, it’s a good idea to check the theme before installing it on your site.

Useful Tip

Typically, web service providers will set up a test site where they can test the latest version of an installed theme, track bugs and make sure that the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before applying 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 live site.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to search online to see if anyone has 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 premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized Themes

If you have made extensive changes to your existing 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 customizations 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:

Useful Tip

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! What can feel slightly bothersome is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.

Many people don’t upgrade their WordPress themes regularly, while others 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 digital assets.

Upgrading Your Theme – Step-By-Step Tutorial

Upgrading your themes in your admin dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

Depending on which theme(s) are installed on your website, you may receive an occasional notification in your WP Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …

Theme Management: How To Update Themes In WordPress

Updating themes from the WP dashboard is easy. You can update your themes via the “Themes” section, or the “Updates” page.

Updating WordPress Themes From The “Themes” Page

To see which themes need updating, go to your Themes area.

Select Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard menu …

Theme Management: How To Update WP Themes From Your Dashboard

This brings you to the “Themes” screen …

How To Update Your WP Themes

WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over the theme’s thumbnail image …

Updating Your WordPress Theme

Locate the theme you want to update and click on the “Update Available” notice.

When the theme details window opens up, click on update now

Updating Themes In WordPress

WordPress will automatically update the theme in seconds …

Theme Management: How To Update Your Themes

Your WordPress theme is now updated …

Updating Your Theme

Repeat the above process to update all of your outdated themes, or use the method below to bulk update multiple themes.

Updating WordPress Themes From The “Updates” Area

Update your WordPress theme using the “Updates” screen as follows:

To view all themes on your website that need updating, click on Dashboard > Updates

WordPress Theme Management: How To Upgrade Your WP Theme

This brings up the Updates screen. Scroll down to the Themes section …

Updating Themes In WordPress

Check the box next to all the themes you want to update and click on Update Themes to complete the bulk upgrade process …

Updating Your WordPress Themes

WordPress will automatically update all of the selected themes …

Theme Management: Updating Themes In WordPress

Congratulations! Now you know how to update your theme in your admin dashboard.

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as How To Update WordPress Themes.