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How To Update WordPress Themes

If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our overview of WordPress themes. The comprehensive article explains what themes are and how using themes can save business website owners significant time and money.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to update your theme to its latest version inside the dashboard.

Updating Your WordPress Theme – Best Practices

Before updating any themes, we recommend going through the checklist below.

1. Back Up Your Website Fully

Backing up your site before making any updates to your site is vital. This way, if things don’t go as planned, you can always restore.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many free and paid 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 some release notes included with an update listing new features, improvements, security fixes or important information pertaining to the new theme 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 the theme, track bugs and verify that all plugins are working fine with the new theme before installing 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 play with the 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 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 provide forums for paid themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Is Your WordPress Theme Customized? Use A Child Theme

If you have made extensive changes to your existing WordPress 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 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 child themes, especially if you plan on using 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 easy. The part that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.

Many 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 recommended “best practice” methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, it is solely your responsibility as a website owner to protect your digital properties.

Upgrading Your Theme – Tutorial

Upgrading your WP themes in your dashboard is simple.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

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

Updating themes from your WP dashboard is quite a simple process. You can update your theme via the “Themes” section, or the “Updates” screen.

Updating Your Themes Via The “Themes” Page

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

Choose Appearance > Themes in your WP dashboard menu …

This brings you to the “Themes” screen …

WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over the theme’s 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 up-to-date …

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 From The “Updates” Area

Update your themes from the “Updates” section as follows:

To view all themes installed in your website 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 will automatically update all of the selected themes …

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

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"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)