If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. This comprehensive article explains what themes are and how using themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for website owners.
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to easily update a WordPress theme with just a few clicks inside the admin area.
Updating Themes – Best Practices Checklist
We recommend going through the checklist below before going through the upgrade process.
1. Back Up Everything
Backing up your website before making any changes to your site is vital. This way, if things don’t go as planned, you can always restore your site to its previous settings.
2. Check The Changelog
Changes made to the WordPress software can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you are using, there may be a changelog file included with an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new theme version.
If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it’s best to update.
3. Test The 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 the theme, track any bugs and check if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before applying it to a live site.
If you’re managing your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain using the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) and test new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your main site.
4. Search Online
Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to search online to see if anyone has reported any issues with the new theme version.
5. Is Your Theme Customized? Use A Child Theme
If you have made extensive changes to your existing WordPress theme files, upgrading 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 using child themes, especially if you plan on using a theme that gets regularly updated. You can learn more about child themes by searching online, or just visit the official WordPress child theme page here: WordPress Codex: Child Themes
As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is not complicated at all … a few simple clicks and you’re done! What can feel slightly bothersome is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.
Some people don’t upgrade their themes regularly, while many 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 solely your responsibility to protect your digital properties.
Log into your WordPress administration area …
Depending on what theme(s) you have installed on your website, you may receive an occasional alert in your dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …
Updating Your Site’s Theme Using The “Themes” Page
This brings you to the “Themes” page …
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 will automatically update the theme in seconds …
Your theme is now up-to-date …
Updating Your Site’s Theme Via The “Updates” Section
To view all themes in your site that require updating, click on Dashboard > Updates …
This brings up the Updates screen. Scroll down to the Themes section …
Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your themes in your dashboard.