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Switching a WordPress Theme


Changing WordPress themes isn’t tricky, but it does take a bit of work, especially if your theme has many custom coding or features. Here are a few things to think about before hitting “activate” on that new WordPress theme.

What to expect

Your menus will probably disappear

Don’t worry–they’re still there. You’ll need to reassign them. After you activate your new theme, go into Appearance / Menus in WordPress, select the menu you want to use, and choose its location.

Widgets will probably deactivate

Because of the way widgets and themes work together, some of your widgets will transfer over, and some might not. For example, if your old theme came bundled with custom widgets, those probably won’t transfer over. Also, the widgets that do transfer over might not automatically display. Some of your widgets might still be available in Appearance / Widgets under “Inactive Widgets.

Your homepage might disappear

If you had a theme-specific homepage, that probably wouldn’t transfer to your new theme, so you’ll need to create a new one. Non-custom pages and posts should transfer, but you might need to go in and relink them.

You might need to resize images

While your image and video uploads will still be available under the WordPress media tab, switching themes might affect how they’re sized or displayed. Many themes come with their own sizes for things like featured images and thumbnails. You might need to resize them to get the exact look you want.

Theme-specific shortcodes will stop working.

If your old theme relied on shortcodes for things like formatting, styling, buttons, and sliders, that code would break, and those lines of code will show up as text in the middle of your content, for example, [video src=”video-source.mp4”]. Delete the code and relink the assets. If your theme relied heavily on shortcodes, you’d need to work through your pages and posts to restructure your content.

How to get ready

  1. Backup your website. - If you use a plugin to automatically create your site's backups, make sure your last backup covers your latest changes. Jetpack, which comes with your Bluehost plan, creates automatic backups of your site. There are other plugin options if you aren’t using Jetpack (UpdraftPlus is the most popular free WordPress backup plugin). Check out this article for more information on how to backup your site.

  2. Copy unique code and tracking codes. - If you manually added any code to your old theme, copy that code and save it to add it to your new theme. If you’re using Google analytics, it will automatically transfer. But if you’ve added tracking code to your theme files or in your settings panel, you’ll want to copy all the tracking codes so you can add them to your new theme.

  3. Take screenshots. - Screenshots of your menus (Appearance / Menus) and widgets (Appearance / Widgets) can make it easier to recreate them in your new theme. Just remember—there’s a balance here. Your new theme might have a different layout or new ways to display information. Be open to changing your site, trying new things, and refreshing your layout.

  4. Set up a staging website or put your site in maintenance mode. - A staging website lets you work on your website in a test environment. When it’s ready, you can push your changes live (Bluehost offers one-click staging). You can also put your website in maintenance mode. If you do this, visitors won’t be able to access your site, but you will be able to let them know that you’re making changes to your site. You can work on your website without doing either of these things, but if you have traffic hitting your website at those times, visitors might encounter broken links.

How-to switch themes

  1. Log in to your WordPress Dashboard; on the menu on the left side of your screen, click Appearance.
  2. Then, choose Themes, use the search bar on the right, type in any keywords, and search for thousands of themes that WordPress offers, both free and paid. 
  3. You can also search for a new theme by clicking Feature Filter and sort through the themes by color scheme, layout, features, and much more.
  4. Once you choose a theme that you like, click the Install button that appears when you hover your mouse over the theme.
  5. Now that the theme is installed, you can click Activate to make your site start using this theme immediately. 
  6. And that will switch your old theme to your newly chosen theme.

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