Changing your website theme is not a child’s play. Trust me, having changed my own website theme about a 100 times till date, I know what I’m talking about. Being a graphic & web designer myself, I think always looking for something new to implement into my site design pretty much comes with the territory.

From my experience, I have put together this list of crucial things you MUST do before changing your site theme. These pointers will hopefully save you a lot of time and regret.

1. Deactivate all plugins

This is my latest lesson actually. Last week when I upgraded my site design, I did it with all my plugins active. And the result? My site simply crashed when I activated the new theme. This was because one of my plugins had a line of code that conflicted with my new theme’s code. There was simply no way for me to know about this before-hand because all my plugins were at their latest versions and the theme too. This could have been a disaster but read on to find out how I got through it without any downtime.

2. Take a back up

Luckily, my hosting service – WP Engine, which by the way I think is the best for WordPress sites – takes automatic back ups of my complete site every day. So I simply restored my site using the last back up. But this is not the case with all hosting services. If I didn’t have a back up, I would have had to spent hours figuring out and then fixing the issue before my site could be live again.

You can also use Back Up Buddy to take your manual/automatic back ups. Remember to specifically back up any custom changes you have hard-coded in your current theme files.

Action Item: Use a child theme for custom styles so you don’t lose them on updating the parent theme.

3. Photos

Make sure your photos are compatible to the new theme’s layout settings. Sometimes you really like the layout of a design, for example the large images it uses but you forget to consider whether or not your current images are big enough for this new layout. All your old blog post featured images may be a medium square size and your new theme might require (and in turn stretch) images that are full width. If you just switch themes without any homework, your site can end up looking really ugly as opposed to what your new theme’s purchase demo looked like.

4. Composing elements

It’s also important to check what kind of post/page composing plugins (if, any) you’re current theme came bundled with. For example, your current theme might be using a simple editor with shortcodes that you have already used on several of your pages and posts whereas your new theme might come with a completely different type of composing features – say the Visual composer. So if you go ahead with the switch, your old pages will be filled with garbage codes that your new theme does not understand and you’ll be forced (on a deadline) to manually check & edit ALL such pages you have.

What about you?

Have you ever changed your website theme yourself?
Were there any issues you faced/precautions you took before doing it?

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