If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our overview of WordPress themes. The comprehensive article explains what WP themes are and how using a theme can be cost-effective and time-saving for web business owners.
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to easily upgrade your WordPress theme to a new version inside your admin area.
- Updating Themes – Best Practices Checklist
- Upgrading Your Themes – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Updating Themes – Best Practices Checklist
We recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below before going through the upgrade process.
1. Back Up Your Website Fully
Backing up your website before making any updates to your site is essential. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore everything to its former settings.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many free and paid plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups here: Back Up, Copy And Keep Your WordPress Web Site Protected With Backup Creator Plugin For WP
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 some release notes accompanying an update listing new features, improvements, security fixes or any other information pertaining to the new version.
If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it’s best to upgrade.
3. Test The 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 any bugs and check if the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before installing and activating 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 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 do a quick search online to see if other theme users have reported any serious problems 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 themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized WordPress Themes
If you have made extensive customizations to your existing WordPress 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”, all modifications 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 official WordPress child theme page here: WordPress Codex: Child Themes
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 WordPress themes regularly, while many upgrade without going through 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 Themes – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Updating your WordPress theme in your admin dashboard is simple.
Log into your WordPress administration area …
Depending on which theme(s) you have installed on your site, you may receive an occasional alert in your WP Dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …
Updating themes in the dashboard is simple and easy. You can update your WordPress theme from the “Themes” section, or the “Updates” feature.
Updating Your Themes Via The “Themes” Section
To see which themes need to be updated, go to your Themes area.
Choose Appearance > Themes from your WordPress dashboard menu …
This opens up the “Themes” screen …
WordPress Themes that need updating display an “Update Available” message over their thumbnail image …
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 …
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 below to bulk update multiple themes at once.
Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Updates” Section
Update your theme from the “Updates” area as shown below:
To view all themes on your site that require 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 update process …
WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to update your themes in the WP dashboard.
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