If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. It explains what WordPress themes are and how using a theme can be cost-effective and time-saving for small business website owners.
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to upgrade your themes to the latest version inside your dashboard.
Upgrading WP Themes – Best Practices Checklist
Before updating any themes, we recommend going through the handy checklist below to help prevent any problems that may affect your site during the upgrade process.
1. Back Up Everything
Backing up your files and data before making any changes to your site is vital. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore.
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 fully automate your site backups here:
2. Check The Changelog
Changes made to the WordPress software can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you are using, there may be a changelog file accompanying an update listing new features, improvements, security fixes or any other changes in the new theme version.
If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should update.
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 bugs and verify that 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 play with the new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your main website.
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 paid WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized WordPress Themes
If you have made extensive changes 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 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 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! What can feel slightly bothersome is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.
Many people don’t upgrade their WordPress themes regularly, while others upgrade without going through some or all of the steps listed in the section above. As mentioned earlier, the above are “best practice” methods to help you avoid problems. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a website owner to protect your digital properties.
Upgrading Your Themes – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Updating your theme from your dashboard is easy.
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 dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …
Updating WordPress themes from the WP dashboard is a simple process. You can update your WordPress theme from the “Themes” page, or the “Updates” page.
Updating WordPress Themes From The “Themes” Page
To see which themes require updating, go to your Themes page.
Choose Appearance > Themes in your WP dashboard menu …
This opens up the “Themes” page …
WordPress Themes that need updating display an “Update Available” message over the theme’s 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 your theme in seconds …
Your theme is now updated …
Repeat the above process to update all of your out-of-date themes, or use the method described below to bulk update multiple themes.
Updating WordPress Themes Using The “Updates” Section
Update your WordPress themes via the “Updates” page as follows:
To view all themes installed on your website that need 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 upgrade 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)