If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written a detailed article that explains what WP themes are and how themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for online business owners.
In this tutorial, you will learn how to easily update themes with just a few clicks inside your dashboard.
Updating Your WordPress Theme – Best Practices Checklist
Before updating your WordPress themes, we recommend going through the checklist below.
1. Back Up Your Website
Backing up your website before making any changes to your site is essential. If something goes wrong, 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 backup process 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 some release notes included with an update listing new features, improvements, bug fixes or any other changes in the new version.
If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should 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 a theme, track any bugs and check if the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before installing 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 plugins and configuration settings 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 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 provide forums for premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).
5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized 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 customizations get 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 WordPress Codex child theme page here:
As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is easy. The step that takes the most time and effort to complete is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.
Some 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 for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to protect your online assets.
Updating Your Themes – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Upgrading your themes in the WP dashboard is simple.
Log into your WordPress admin area …
Depending on what theme(s) are installed on your website, you may receive an occasional alert in your dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …
Updating a WordPress theme in your dashboard is simple and easy. You can update your WordPress theme from the “Themes” section, or the “Updates” page.
Updating Your Theme From The “Themes” Section
You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes area.
Choose Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard menu …
This brings you to the “Themes” screen …
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” alert.
When the theme details window opens up, click on update now …
WordPress automatically updates your theme in seconds …
Your WordPress theme is now updated …
Repeat the process described above to update all of your out-of-date themes, or use the method below to bulk update multiple themes at once.
Updating Your Site Themes Via The “Updates” Screen
Update your theme using the “Updates” page as follows:
To view all themes on your site 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 automatically updates all of your selected themes …
Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your theme in your dashboard.
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