If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written an in-depth article that explains what themes are and how themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for business owners.
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to update your theme in the admin area.
Upgrading WordPress Themes – Best Practices
We recommend going through the handy checklist below before attempting the upgrade process, to reduce any potential problems occurring as a result of the updating process.
1. Back Up Everything
Backing up your site before making any updates 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 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 have installed, there may be a changelog file accompanying an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, security fixes or any other information pertaining to the new theme version.
If the theme changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it’s best to upgrade.
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 any bugs and make sure that the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before installing and activating it on a live site.
If you manage your own website, you can install 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 site.
4. Search Online
Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to do a quick search online and 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 themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Is Your WordPress Theme Customized? Use A Child Theme
If you have made extensive customizations 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 the parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, all customizations are preserved through the “child theme.”
If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with the use of 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 not complicated at all … a few simple clicks and you’re done! The part 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, it is solely the website owner’s responsibility to protect their online properties.
Updating Your Themes – Tutorial
Updating your WP themes in your dashboard is easy.
Log into your WordPress admin area …
Depending on the theme(s) you have installed on your website, you may receive occasional notifications in your WP Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating a WordPress theme from your WP dashboard is simple and easy. You can update your site’s theme via the “Themes” screen, or the “Updates” screen.
Updating WordPress Themes From The “Themes” Section
You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes area.
Select Appearance > Themes from your WP dashboard menu …
This opens up the “Themes” screen …
WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over the theme’s 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 your theme …
Your WordPress theme is now updated …
Repeat the above process to update all of your remaining themes, or use the method described below to bulk update multiple themes at once.
Updating Your Site Themes Using The “Updates” Page
Update your theme using the “Updates” screen as shown below:
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 update process …
WordPress will automatically update all of the selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your themes in your 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)