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How To Update WordPress Themes

If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written a comprehensive article that explains what WP themes are and how using themes can save small business website owners time and money.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to easily upgrade your themes inside your admin area.

Updating WP Themes – Best Practices Checklist

We recommend going through the handy checklist below before going through the upgrade process, to ensure that your update goes smoothly.

1. Back Up Your Site

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

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many WordPress plugins you can use. Learn 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 some release notes accompanying an update listing new features, improvements, bug fixes or important information pertaining to the new 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 bugs and verify that all plugins are working fine with the new theme before applying it to a live site.

If you manage your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain with the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) and play with the new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your live website.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to search online and see if other theme users have reported any serious problems 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 provide forums for paid themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Is Your Theme Customized? Use A Child Theme

If you have made extensive changes to your existing theme files, updating 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 that parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, your customizations get 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:

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 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 recommended “best practice” methods to help you avoid problems. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is solely your responsibility to protect your online properties.

Updating WordPress Themes In Your Admin Dashboard – Step-By-Step Tutorial

Upgrading your WordPress themes in the WP dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area …

Depending on the theme(s) you have installed on your website, you may receive occasional alerts in your dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …

Updating a theme in your WP dashboard is quite a simple process. You can update your site’s theme using the “Themes” page, or the “Updates” area.

Updating WordPress Themes From The “Themes” Area

You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes area.

Select Appearance > Themes in your WordPress admin 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” notice.

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 out-of-date themes, or use the method described below to update multiple themes.

Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Updates” Page

Update your themes via the “Updates” screen as shown below:

To view all themes installed on your site 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 themes in your admin dashboard.

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