If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our overview of WordPress themes. We’ve written a detailed article that explains what WordPress themes are and how themes can save small business owners significant time and money.
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to easily update your WP theme with just a few clicks inside the admin area.
Updating WP Themes – Best Practices Checklist
We recommend going through the checklist below before attempting the upgrade process, to reduce any potential problems happening as a result of your upgrade.
1. Back Up Your Site Fully
Backing up your site before making any updates 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 a number of plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully 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 accompanying an update listing any new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new theme version.
If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should 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 an installed theme, track bugs and check if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before applying and activating it on a live site.
If you’re managing your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain name 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 to see if anyone has reported any issues 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 themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized Themes
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 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 use a theme that gets regularly updated. You can learn more about child themes by searching online, or just visit the official WordPress child theme page here:
As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is easy. The step in the upgrading process that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation 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 recommended “best practice” methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to protect your digital assets.
Upgrading Your Theme – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Updating your themes from the WP dashboard is easy.
Log into your WordPress admin area …
Depending on the theme(s) installed on your website, you may receive occasional alerts in your WordPress Dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …
Updating a WordPress theme in the dashboard is very simple and easy. You can update your site’s theme via the “Themes” feature, or the “Updates” page.
Updating WordPress Themes From The “Themes” Area
You can see which themes need to be updated by going to your Themes page.
Select Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard menu …
This opens up the “Themes” page …
Themes that need updating 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” alert.
When the theme details window opens up, click on update now …
WordPress automatically updates the theme in seconds …
Your WordPress theme is now up-to-date …
Repeat the above process to update all of your remaining themes, or use the method described below to upgrade multiple themes.
Updating Your Site’s Theme Via The “Updates” Page
Update your themes from the “Updates” area as shown below:
To view all themes in your website that require updating, click on Dashboard > Updates …
This brings up the Updates screen. Scroll down to the Themes section …
Check the box next to 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 update your WP themes from your dashboard.
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