If you’ve ever thought, “If only changing a WordPress theme was as easy as just clicking that ‘Activate’ button,” then I know how you feel. Unfortunately, it takes a little more work than that. But once you’ve got the colors and fonts just right, and your header image FINALLY in the right place, it’s time to relax, right?
Not quite. There are a few more things you need to check on before you’re done changing themes.
There are a lot of steps you want to take before switching themes, but I’ll only talk about one for now:
Back up everything.
This is a really important step that even I (cocky as I can be) neglect to do. But it’s super important to do it here. Switching themes can break your site in ways you likely won’t think of.
When I switched themes, something went wrong. I got emails and Facebook messages from fellow bloggers, telling me my page was showing “a bunch of gibberish.” At first, I couldn’t replicate the problem. Finally, after clearing my cache multiple times and checking every browser on two different computers, there it was. The gibberish. I had just finished the day’s link parties. Everyone coming to my site was seeing gibberish. And had been for HOURS. My bounce rate was through the roof.
I didn’t know what to do, so I called in back up in the form of a friend of mine who runs back end web development for a large company. We sat here for hours trying to figure it out and we got absolutely no where. (So don’t worry, if you don’t have a friend with this experience, it wasn’t much help to me. Even though I love her. 😛 )
Then my husband said, “Didn’t you have a problem with the .htaccess file reading one process multiple times?” I had, in fact, had this problem a few months ago. But it had been fixed. Why would my theme cause it to happen again?
Well, I don’t know. But I was out of options.
So I went into my FTP client (I use Filezilla), backed up the .htaccess file that was currently in use, and then moved the old one into the FTP. The one I had backed up before installing a new theme.
Bam. Problem solved. Everyone messaged me back saying, after a couple refreshes, my site was working again.
But here’s the real secret:
Don’t just do a WordPress backup. Don’t just export your site. Go to to your FTP and back up those files. ESPECIALLY the .htaccess file. This is the one that causes most of the issues when I switch themes.
Put them in a folder on your computer and make sure you KNOW they are the original files. If something goes wrong, you may not be able to get into your WordPress Dashboard to fix it. You’ll want to be able to get into the FTP and fix it there.
Now that you have a backup, you’re ready to switch themes (and you’re hopefully only editing your child theme. If you’re not sure how to make one, or your new theme didn’t automatically come with one, check out my post on How to Create a Child Theme).
But now you need to make sure everything works right. Here’s how you do that.
5 Things You Need to Do After Switching Themes on WordPress
1. Clear your browser cache and check your site in all browsers.
This will clear out all the data that your browser has saved on your site. That way your new theme shows up and any problems will be easy to see and fix.
Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Chrome, and Firefox are the big ones. Make sure your site works by testing the homepage, clicking around to other pages in your menu, trying to leave comments on your site, etc. Make sure nothing is broken. It’s pretty rare for someone else to alert me when my blog isn’t running correctly. Occasionally someone does, but mostly readers will just leave and not come back.
2. Deactivate redundant plugins.
If you go from a free theme to a pro theme, you may find that some plugins are no longer useful to you.
When I was using a free theme, I had a ton of plugins that I installed to help make the site look the way I wanted it to look.
When I bought and installed a new theme, I found that it had built-in coding (and a couple of its own plugins) that did exactly what those other plugins did. But it wasn’t as bloated as those plugins were.
I went from having 50 plugins to having 13 plugins (including one for my ad network and two that my host requires to integrate my site with them). My site is far less bloated now and loads much faster.
3. Double-check your settings.
The weird one for me was the comment section. After switching out my theme, I noticed the comments were missing in my posts. So I went to my Dashboard > Settings > Discussion and found that the option to close comments after 28 days was turned on. So I unchecked the box and that fixed it. But very weird.
4.Post about it on social media.
Let your readers know you changed the look of your site and ask them to click around and test it for you. Sometimes even after clearing my cache, my browser won’t show problems. I found out I was having a huge problem with my .htaccess file because someone else tried to visit one of my posts and saw a bunch of weird symbols instead. I had the hardest time replicating the problem, but I finally did and got it fixed before it went on too long.
5. Stay vigilant.
There’s always something that gets by me during the first week or so of having a new theme. And try not to get discouraged when people inevitably come to you with problems.