If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our overview of WordPress themes. We’ve written a comprehensive 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 update your WP themes inside the admin area.
Upgrading Themes – Best Practices Checklist
Before updating any WordPress themes, we recommend going through the handy checklist below.
1. Back Up Your Site Fully
Backing up your website before making any changes to your site is essential. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore everything to its former settings.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are a number of WordPress plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups 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 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 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 to see if the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before applying and activating 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 with the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) and test new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your main 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 enter the theme name and version into Google, and search the theme developer’s support forum (many developers provide forums for paid 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, 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 the 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 to 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 very simple. What can feel slightly bothersome is the precautionary work 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 “best practice” methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, it is the website owner’s responsibility to protect their digital properties.
How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Updating your WP themes from your admin dashboard is simple.
Log into your WordPress admin area …
Depending on the theme(s) installed on your website, you may receive occasional notifications in your WordPress Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating a WordPress theme from the WP dashboard is a simple process. You can update your WordPress theme via the “Themes” area, or the “Updates” feature.
Updating Your Themes Via The “Themes” Area
You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes area.
Select Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard menu …
This opens up the “Themes” page …
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 automatically updates the theme …
Your theme is now updated …
Repeat the process described above to update all of your remaining themes, or use the method described below to bulk update multiple themes at once.
Updating Your Site’s Theme Using The “Updates” Area
Update your themes from the “Updates” section as follows:
To view all themes in your website that require updating, click on Dashboard > Updates …
This brings 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 upgrade process …
WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your theme in your dashboard.
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