Things You Must Do Before Changing WordPress Themes

The ability to change the theme any time you want is one of the many benefits of WordPress. In a matter of minutes, you can redesign your website from the ground up and make it look fresh. Still, there are some things you must do before changing WordPress themes, and today we’ll tell you what those are.

Switching the theme is a big decision, and every WordPress site owner does this at some point. But, of course, the reasoning on why you’re doing it is on you and no one else. If you do everything by the book, you can be sure that you won’t lose any traffic. On the contrary, the chances are that you’ll see a bump as people will like the new look and maybe even the new features if you add them.

Now, it’s vital that you spend as much time as possible researching themes and finding one that suits your needs the most. If you’re not sure how to get about it, here’s a guide on how to choose the best WordPress theme for your business. But before you get onto changing it, let’s see what you need to do to prepare.

Make a Note of Any Customizations You Did

It’s not unusual for WordPress website owners to customize their themes to make them look nicer or add some functions that weren’t there originally. You do this by adding code snippets to theme files, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s easy to lose track of the changes you made, and we don’t want that to happen.

Before you set off on incorporating the new theme, go through the file of the current one, and note all the additional code. If you want to transfer the changes you made to the new theme, we suggest using a code snippets plugin to do it. Go down this path, and you won’t have to dig through theme files ever again.

A woman taking notes of the changes on her WordPress site.
One of the first things you must do before changing WordPress themes is taking notes of any changes you made to your current site.

Get Current Performance Metrics

Before you change anything on your site, make sure to check the current loading speed and performance. Even if it looks nicer, you won’t really improve your site if it performs worse after the facelift. Ideally, you want your new theme to work faster than the one you’re using at the moment.

You can check your loading times and website speed with Google Page Speed Insights, or you can use any other free website speed testing tool. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding one.

Pay Attention to Your Sidebars and Widget Areas

If you have some widgets such as email subscription forms or social media buttons on your site, you’re probably adding them through sidebars. However, every WordPress theme has different widget areas. So, your widgets might disappear after you switch themes.

It’s not a scary scenario, as long as you take note of what widgets you’re using with your current theme. Then, you can easily replicate them if anything goes wrong during the switching process. Furthermore, if you used any custom code or shortcodes, copy and save them so you can use them once again.

Don’t Forget About Your Tracking Codes

Business owners often want to know how many customers they get from the website, so they install conversion tracking codes directly to the theme files. Of course, it’s not hard to add these codes to your site, but if you add lots of them, it’s convenient to have them all in one place so you can do it again. So, same as with sidebars, copy and save them for later.

If you want to take it a step further, consider getting a Monsterinsights plugin. It’ll allow you to add Google Analytics to your WP dashboard, and you won’t lose any tracking data no matter what theme you’re using.

A man copying codes from one laptop to another.
Make sure to copy and save all the codes and snippets so you can transfer from one version of the site to another.

Back-Up Your Current Website

Backing up your site is one of the crucial things you must do before changing WordPress themes. As a matter of fact,  we advise you to do it on a regular basis. This way, you can make sure you never lose any of your posts, pages, plugins, or databases.

Naturally, the easiest way to do this is with a WordPress backup plugin like the UpdraftPlus. Then, if anything goes wrong during the switching process, you’ll have your old site back in no time, and you can start over again.

Put Your Site Into Maintenance Mode

Remember to put your WordPress site into maintenance mode whenever you’re making changes to it. Your visitors will see a friendly notice that will tell them what’s going on, and they won’t have to deal with a half-finished new version of the site.

If you want to make this page look nice, use a plugin like SeedProd to do it. It’s easy to use, and it’ll give you peace of mind. You won’t have to rush to finish everything as quickly as possible, and you’ll keep people away from your work in progress.

Test Functionality and Installed Plugins

When WP Full Care changes the theme of any site, we always go through all the pages and menus to make sure that all the functionality is there. On top of that, we also check all the plugins to confirm they work as they should. Of course, we recommend you do the same.

Paste back all the snippets from the previous site version, and spend some time testing them. If you see any errors, troubleshoot them before making the site live again. This way, you’re preventing possible future downtime for fixing the issues.

Test the New Theme Across Browsers and Devices

Same as the old website, the new one has to perform well on all the browsers and devices out there. Although most of your visitors

will probably look at your site through Google Chrome, you can’t afford to ruin the experience for the ones who don’t.

So, test your site with every device you can get your hands on. When you make sure everything works, move on to different browsers. It’s an extensive process, but once you go through with it, you’ll be sure you aren’t missing out on any traffic or visitors because of the malfunction you overlooked.

A woman using her phone and laptop simultaniously.
Check your new website on as many devices and browsers as possible.

Let Your Audience Know Your New Site is Live

Once you’re through with all the tests, all that is left is to let people know you have a new website. Turn off maintenance mode and post the happy news on social media. It’s a good idea also to write an email newsletter and send it out as soon as the site goes live. Your users will be curious about the new look, and they’ll rush to see the redesign.

Those are pretty much all the things you must do before changing WordPress themes, and now you can enjoy the results of your hard work. Still, listen to your users’ feedback and fix anything they don’t like. Maybe they’ll need some time to adjust, but if you did everything by the book, they should enjoy it.

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