If you are new to WordPress, make sure to 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 tutorial, you will learn how to easily upgrade a theme to its latest version inside your dashboard.
Upgrading Your WordPress Theme – Best Practices Checklist
Before updating your themes, we recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below.
1. Back Up Everything
Backing up your website before making any changes to your site is essential. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore things back to their former state.
If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many free and paid 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 are using, there may be a changelog file included with an update which provides an overview of 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, 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 make sure that the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before applying it to 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 using 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 type the theme name and version into Google, and search the theme developer’s support forum (many developers provide forums for premium WordPress 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 the parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, your 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 plan on using 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 very simple. The step that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.
Some people don’t upgrade their 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 the website owner’s responsibility to protect their online properties.
Updating Themes In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Upgrading your themes in your dashboard is easy.
Log into your WordPress administration area …
Depending on which theme(s) you have installed on your website, you may receive occasional alerts in your WordPress Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating WordPress themes in the dashboard is easy. You can update your themes using the “Themes” feature, or the “Updates” section.
Updating Your Themes Via The “Themes” Page
To see which themes require updating, go to your Themes area.
Choose Appearance > Themes in your WordPress admin 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 you want to update and click on the “Update Available” message.
When the theme details window opens up, click on update now …
WordPress will automatically update the theme …
Your theme is now up-to-date …
Repeat the above to update all of your outdated themes, or use the method below to upgrade multiple themes at once.
Updating WordPress Themes From The “Updates” Area
Update your WordPress theme via the “Updates” section as shown below:
To view all themes in your site that need 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 upgrade process …
WordPress automatically updates all of your selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your WP theme from your dashboard.
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