Are you worried that if you change your theme you’ll break your WordPress site? Are you trying to figure out, how to switch WordPress themes without your visitors being affected?
We’ve got you covered.
Changing your WordPress theme is a big step and unfortunately, it’s not as simple as clicking the Activate button to get a new theme. A number of things can go wrong such as your website malfunctioning or breaking.
When this happens, your regular visitors will see a broken site and move to a competitor. Your traffic and ranking take a hit, which eventually will bring down your revenue.
Luckily, all this can be avoided if you change your WordPress theme the right way. That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in this guide. We’ll show you the steps you need to take to safely switch between different WordPress themes.
TL;DR – To change your WordPress theme, you need a reliable tool like BlogVault that will help you make the switch without breaking your site. Activate BlogVault on your site to create a staging environment to safely test your new theme. Once you’re satisfied with the new look, you can merge the new theme to your live site.
How To Safely Change Your WordPress Theme
There are plenty of themes available to create your WordPress site. Some themes allow you to carry out heavy customizations. Under regular circumstances, activating your new theme poses a challenge. But when you have a custom theme or a premium theme, making the switch is extremely risky.
We’re sure you know to get a new theme, you can simply go to Appearance > Themes. Here, choose a theme that you like and Activate it. You also have the option to Live Preview the theme.
You can use this method only if you’re just starting out and are trying out different themes. But for WordPress sites that have been running for a while, you’ll know that your theme becomes ingrained into your site’s functionality. Therefore, changing themes using this quick method can potentially break your site.
Another way would be to put your site into maintenance mode while you switch your theme. But this results in downtime and your visitors won’t be able to access your site. Now, you might be wondering then how to switch themes in WordPress?
We’ll show you a safer method that avoids breaking your site and eliminates the need for maintenance mode. This method involves creating a backup copy of your site and then using a staging site to test your changes first.
This route takes a little bit longer but it will ensure that the transition process is smooth and your site remains intact at all times.
Tools Required To Switch Your WordPress Theme
As we mentioned, safely switching themes requires you to backup and stage your WordPress site. Now, there are multiple ways to do this. Three are WordPress Staging plugins or you can use your WordPress hosting provider like WP Engine, Kinsta, and GoDaddy.
However, not all of these methods are easy to use and many times, they fail to deliver.
To switch your website’s theme easily, a reliable solution is the BlogVault plugin. You can use this WordPress plugin to carry out all the steps in this process.
BlogVault will backup your site in under a few minutes and store it safely. It offers a one-click restore option that allows you to restore your site instantly in case anything goes wrong during the process.
You can create a staging site with one click too. It will automatically set it up for you and password-protect it. This ensures that your staging site is hidden from visitors and search engines.
All this is done on BlogVault’s secure servers and not your own web server. This means your website’s performance and loading time is never compromised while you switch your theme.
Before we proceed, simply download and activate BlogVault on your WordPress site.
Now that we have the right tool, let’s switch your WordPress theme!
Important Things To Do Before Changing Your WordPress Theme
How to change a WordPress theme without losing content? Knowing how delicate the process of switching your active theme is, it’s essential to take precautions to be prepared for any contingencies.
1. Backup Your WordPress Site
A backup ensures you have a copy of your website stored securely. In case anything goes wrong during the process, you can quickly restore your backup copy and have your site back to normal.
Step 1: After you’ve installed BlogVault on your site, select the plugin from the menu on your WordPress admin panel. To take a backup, you need to do the following –
i. Enter your email address
ii. Click on ‘looking for’ and from the drop-down and select Backups
iii. Get Started
You’ll be redirected to the BlogVault dashboard where the plugin will sync with your website. It will automatically begin to take a complete backup of your website.
Once the backup is complete, on the BlogVault dashboard, you can select your website and view the number of backups taken.
Here, you’ll see an option to Restore your site easily if required at any time. Keep our guide on How To Restore Your Site With BlogVault handy. It details the exact steps you need to take to restore your site.
2. Set Up A WordPress Staging Site
A staging environment is a secret clone of your website where you can carry out experiments. Your live site is independent and will never be affected by the changes you make here.
Step 1: On the BlogVault dashboard, you’ll see an option called Staging. Select Add Staging Site.
Step 2: Select the backup version and PHP version you want to use. By default, BlogVault will choose the latest version, so we recommend that you leave this as it is.
BlogVault only takes a few minutes to set up your staging site.
Step 3: Once done, the plugin provides you with a username and password to access your staging site. You can proceed to Visit Staging Site.
Step 4: The staging site will open in a new window. A pop-up will appear requesting a username and password. Enter the credentials provided by BlogVault in the previous step.
Step 5: Access your wp-admin console by adding ‘wp-admin’ at the end of the staging site URL.
That’s it. You can use your staging site like you would your live site, except that any changes made here will not affect your live environment.
PRO TIP: When you switch themes, you can lose your customized tracking code that syncs your site with Google Analytics. To keep your SEO data intact, remember to copy the same Google Analytics tracking code from your old theme into the new theme. Alternatively, you can go back to your Google Analytics dashboard and fetch it from there.
Steps To Safely Change Your WordPress Theme
Now that you have your secret demo site ready, we can proceed to the next steps. This may seem overwhelming, but stick with us here. We’ll detail every step you need to take in order to switch your theme seamlessly on your live site.
1. Activate Your New Theme On Staging Site
Your staging site has absolutely no effect on your live site, so go ahead and activate your new WordPress theme without any stress.
On your staging site, go to Appearance > Themes.
Go to Add New where you can search for a theme from the WordPress repository or upload your own theme.
Once you Activate the theme of your choice, your current theme will be replaced with the new one. You can move to the next step.
PRO TIP: When you first install a new WordPress theme, always create a child theme. When theme developers improve their software, they release updated versions.
When you update your website theme, there are chances that you will lose any customizations you have made. To overcome this issue, you can create a child theme and then make customizations here. You can update your parent theme as and when updates are available without losing customizations.
2. Resolve All Errors On Staging Site
From our experience with newly installed WordPress themes, we’ve encountered a number of errors. To prepare you, here’s a list of errors you most likely will experience:
- White screen of death where your WordPress site goes completely blank.
- The new theme enforces its own layout causing your existing layout to break.
- The theme is incompatible with a plugin that you are using on your site.
- Your new theme is incompatible with the PHP version.
- Customized widgets disappear.
- Your navigation menu style changes to the new theme’s style
- Your contact forms stop working
- Sections within your page break
- Any shortcodes that were added in by your previous theme are deleted
- The new theme starts interfering our pages’ schema data
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of the errors you want to look out for. You need to identify and fix any errors caused by the integration of the new theme. This will ensure you get your new theme without losing your customizations.
PRO TIP: If you’re trying to install a pirated or nulled version of a premium theme, you might see errors like the white screen of death on account of malware. Pirated software is known to be riddled with malware, therefore, you should never use nulled themes. If you still choose to go forward, it’s best to scan your WordPress theme before you install it.
The great thing about a staging site is that you can test out multiple themes to see which one works the best.
If you’re unhappy at any time with your staging site, you can delete it and start afresh.
After you resolve all errors and fix any incompatibility issues, you need to test out your staging site.
3. Test Your WordPress Staging Site With The New Theme
Switching your theme can become a bit complex. This makes it easy to overlook errors. To overcome this, we recommend making a checklist of items you need to test to ensure your new theme works perfectly fine.
Here’s our checklist of the most important points to test out. You can add on to it according to the needs of your site.
- All important pages such as your homepage, cart and checkout page, contact page, about us, and any other page that’s critical.
- Any input fields such as contact forms, appointment forms, and comment boxes.
- Your navigation and sidebars.
- All widgets embedded on your site.
- Ensure all your plugins are working properly.
- If you’ve carried out technical customizations, check custom CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) code, or additional PHP within the functions.php file.
- Carry cross browsing and device testing to make sure the site looks and functions correctly. Ensure you cover all major browsers like Google and Mozilla Firefox.
- Test your site’s speed as poor quality themes are known to slow down websites.
- We recommend installing any updates if available.
When you’re completely satisfied that your new theme is working perfectly on your staging website, you move to the next step of installing the new theme on your live site.
4. Push Your Staging Website To Live
To eliminate the nightmare of retracing your steps and recreating your hard work in your live environment, BlogVault has a nifty feature that enables you to push your changes to the live site.
Step 1: Visit the BlogVault dashboard and select Staging.
Step 2: Select Merge to Source. BlogVault will sync your staging site with your live site to determine the differences.
Step 3: You can view the changes you made. Here, you can choose to merge all changes or select the changes you want to push to your live site.
Step 4: Enter your FTP or SFTP credentials. This allows BlogVault to access your site’s server to merge your staging site with your live site. You can get your FTP credentials from your web host or use our guide to Finding Your FTP Credentials.
Step 5: Select the folder in which your WordPress installation resides. This is usually public_html unless you’ve created a separate folder for your website.
BlogVault will begin the automated process of pushing the changes you made on your staging site onto your live site.
The time taken to complete greatly depends on the size of your WordPress site. However, it usually takes just a couple of minutes.
Once the merging process is complete, you can visit your live site to see your new theme implemented.
While BlogVault is a reliable plugin that merges your site without breaking it, it’s best to check your website to ensure it’s functioning fine. You can run the same recommended tests performed on your staging site in the previous step.
PRO TIP: A client once asked us Can I have multiple themes on WordPress? You can have multiple themes installed on your site but only one theme activated. It’s not possible to use multiple themes at the same time. Further, it’s best to have only one WordPress theme installed. Unnecessary elements on your WordPress site can slow down your site and lead to security concerns. Ideally, you should delete any inactive and old themes on your site.
That’s it! You’ve successfully changed your WordPress theme – without breaking your site!
Changing your WordPress theme can be a nightmare but with the right tools and the right process, making the switch is easy.
As your WordPress site grows, it’s natural to upgrade and enhance your website. Remember, always backup your website and use a staging site to experiment with changes.
This way, your live site always remains functional to your visitors. It ensures your website doesn’t break while you make major changes. With staging, you can keep improving your site safely.
Get the BlogVault Backup and Staging Plugin Now!