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12+ Things You MUST DO Before Changing WordPress Themes

Are you wondering what you should do before you change WordPress themes?

When switching your WordPress theme, there are few very important steps that you must take to ensure the process is smooth, and you don’t lose any important data. 

In this WordPress checklist, we’ll share the top things you must do before you change WordPress themes.

12+ things you must do before changing WordPress themes

Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions on how to switch themes, then please see our beginner’s guide on how to properly change your WordPress theme.

Switching a theme is an important decision that every website owner makes at least once every few years.

Of course you have to decide your reasoning of why you’re switching, and pick a theme that suits all your needs.

We have a list of best WordPress multi-purpose themes and best WordPress blog themes that you can check out if you’re looking for recommendations.

Once you have chosen the theme that you want to switch to, it’s important that you follow the checklist below to ensure that you don’t lose any content or data during the process.

1. Make Note of Any WordPress Theme Customizations

Some WordPress website owners will customize their WordPress themes by adding code snippets directly to their theme files. Code snippets can be a great way to add new features to your website that aren’t part of the stock theme.

But, if you’re adding those snippets directly to your theme files, it can be easy to lose track of them.

If you or a web developer made these changes, then make sure you go through your current theme files and note all of the additional code that’s been added. 

For adding code snippets in the future, we always recommend to use a site-specific plugin or a code snippets plugin. This way, you can keep those snippets even if you change themes later. For more details, see our beginner’s guide on pasting snippets from the web into WordPress.

2. Get Current WordPress Theme Performance Metrics 

Before changing your theme, you should check your current website’s loading speed and performance. This lets you compare any differences in the page load time after you switch themes.

Since WordPress speed and performance plays an important role in user experience and WordPress SEO, you need to ensure the new theme is faster than what you’re using now. 

You can easily check your current website speed metrics using a WordPress speed testing tool such as IsItWP’s free website speed testing tool.

For more details, see our guide on how to run a website speed test.

3. Make Note of Current Theme Sidebars and Widget Areas

Sidebars are used for adding different widgets to your website, like email newsletter subscription forms, social media buttons, popular posts, and more.

Since every theme has different widget areas, your widgets may unexpectedly move or disappear from your site if you switch themes.

That’s why it’s important to make a note of what widgets you’re using in your WordPress sidebars and any other widget areas of your website before you change themes. Then you can easily replicate them after switching.

If you’ve added any custom code or shortcodes, then make sure to copy this code and save it somewhere safe so that you can use it with your new theme. 

4. Copy Existing WordPress Tracking Codes

Many users will add analytics tracking code directly to their theme files. Some WordPress themes also allow you to add tracking codes directly into your theme options panel.

It’s a common mistake to overlook these important tracking codes. 

You need to make sure you copy all of your website tracking codes you’re using for analytics, advertising, and more, so you can add them to your new website. 

If you want to make it easy on yourself, then we recommend using a plugin like MonsterInsights to install Google Analytics in WordPress.

By using MonsterInsights, you can rest assured there will be no interruptions to your analytics or lost data. You’ll also unlock bonus tracking like link clicks and button click tracking, WordPress category and tag analytics, author tracking, and much more.

MonsterInsights

For all other tracking codes, you can use the Insert Headers and Footers plugin. For more details, see our guide on how to add header and footer code in WordPress.

5. Back Up Your Current WordPress Website

It’s always a good idea to back up your website on a regular basis. Before changing your theme, you should completely back up your posts, pages, plugins, media, and databases.

The easiest way to do this is by using a WordPress backup plugin to create a backup of your entire site. For more details, see our guide on how to backup your WordPress site with UpdraftPlus.

This will help ensure you can easily recover your website if anything goes wrong when switching themes. 

6. Put Your WordPress Site Into Maintenance Mode

When making changes to your site, it’s always a good practice to put your website into maintenance mode. Maintenance mode lets you display a user friendly notice to your visitors.

Maintenance mode page example

This helps prevent your visitors from seeing your website when it’s half-finished or under construction.

To do this, we recommend using the SeedProd plugin. It’s the best drag and drop WordPress page builder used by over 1 million websites.

It lets you easily create custom maintenance mode pages, landing pages, coming soon pages, 404 pages, and more. 

SeedProd

For more details, see our guide on how to put your WordPress site in maintenance mode.

7. Test All Functionality and Installed WordPress Plugins

Once you have a new WordPress theme activated, you need to ensure you have the same functionality as before and that all of your old plugins work with your new theme.

You can start by adding back the code snippets that you copied from your old WordPress theme files. For more details, see our beginner’s guide to pasting code snippets into WordPress.

Then, spend some time using the features of your site that are powered by WordPress plugins. If you’re experiencing any errors at this time, see our beginner’s guide to troubleshooting WordPress errors.

8. Test New WordPress Theme Across Browsers and Devices

Cross-browser testing will help you make sure your new website looks good on different browsers, screen sizes, operating systems, and mobile devices.

Most of your visitors will probably use Google Chrome to visit your WordPress blog. However, other web browsers like Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and more are still used by hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

If your new website doesn’t work right on one of those browsers, then you’re missing out on visitors and traffic. 

Luckily, you can use all kinds of cross-browser testing tools to see how your website looks across different browsers and devices.

For more details, see our guide on how to test a WordPress site in different browsers.

9. Delete WordPress Plugins You No Longer Need

Some WordPress themes will pre-install plugins when you install the theme. Some of these may be useful, but other times you won’t need them.

Simply go to Plugins » Installed Plugins to see if your theme has added any new plugins.

List of installed plugins

Now is also a good time to go through your entire plugin list to see if any plugins are worth deleting. 

If you’re looking for high quality plugins to use with your new theme, then see our picks of the must have WordPress plugins

10. Let Your Users Know Your New Website is Live

Once you’re ready to make your new WordPress theme live, you can turn off maintenance mode.

You should also get in touch with your readers to tell them about your new website. This will prepare your audience so that they’re not confused by any big design changes, and it will also help to keep your subscribers engaged and returning to your site to see the new design.

Here’s an example post we shared on Facebook about our new website redesign.

Redesign announcement example

We recommend notifying your audience via your email newsletter, social media, and push notifications.

If you’re looking for more ways to promote your site, then see our guide on how to share your blog posts with readers.

11. Test Loading Speeds for Your New WordPress Theme

Once your new theme is live and you’ve gone through the steps above, it’s time to do another speed test. Ideally, your new website will be faster and get better scores in your speed test.

To do this, simply use the same website speed tool you used earlier and compare the results. 

If the new theme is slower than your old theme, then make sure you run multiple tests, test from different areas, and check to see if you have any caching or firewall settings that could be causing the dip. 

12. Monitor Your WordPress Website Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on your website and leave without continuing to a second page. A high bounce rate means that you didn’t convince your visitor to stay on your site long enough to take action.

After you switch themes, it’s important to monitor your bounce rate. Some themes are simply friendlier at helping visitors navigate around your site.

If your bounce rate has gone up since switching theme, then you’ll want to work to lower it. You can do this by improving your navigation menus, adding more internal links, adding a popular posts widget, and more.

For more details, see our guide on how to increase pageviews and reduce bounce rate in WordPress

13. Listen to Reader Feedback to Improve Your WordPress Website

Finally, it’s important you listen to reader feedback after you switch to a new theme. Some readers may love or hate certain parts of your design. 

You don’t have to listen to every reader and make the changes they suggest. But, if there’s a group of readers who are experiencing the same issue, then it’s probably worth looking into.

You can collect visitor feedback by adding a contact form to your website, or running a survey asking for reader feedback on your new design.

The easiest way to do this is by using WPForms. It’s the best WordPress survey plugin in the market used by over 5 million websites. 

WPForms

It lets you easily create engaging survey forms with the drag and drop builder.

Plus, the reporting section automatically creates beautiful reports to help analyze your results. 

For more details, see our guide on how to create a survey in WordPress.

We hope this article helped you learn exactly what you should do before switching WordPress themes. You may also want to see our guide on how to choose the best WordPress hosting and our expert picks of the best AI chatbot software for your website.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Reader Interactions

200 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. hey, iam using supernews theme by acmethemes. its good but i cant find page option it only show older post to go next page. i have used wp pagenavi plugin but it same. it dont show pages number. pls give me a solution, or tell about a good newspaper theme

  2. I changed themes and there seems to be some code from my previous theme in some of my posts on the new theme. Is there a way to delete or suppress all of the previous theme editor codes across the board or do they have to be done manually?

  3. Hi WPBeginner Support
    I have just updated my theme and failed all the rules you suggested.

    Everything seem to work but I can only view coming soon pages on other computer.

    What do I need to twick?

    Michael

  4. Hi
    I have just updated my theme and failed all the rules you suggested.

    Everything seem to work but I can only view coming soon pages on other computer.

    What do I need to twick?

  5. I was getting the 500 error message. Your advice on removing plugins and slowly adding them back was a great help. I have used those plugins for a long time but maybe they do not like my new theme. Thanks for the help.

  6. Hi there

    First of all, great post.

    I’m looking for a theme that can support 2 writers, do you know a theme that can give this use?

    Thanks :)
    Tzachi – His side her side

  7. I am using Spacious free theme for my Niche Blog-Ease Bedding. But now I am planning to change theme to pro.

    Is it going to effect my site or not?

  8. Thank you for sharing those valuable tips with us. Migration from a wordpress theme to another is not as easy as one might think espcially when it comes to complicated themes that require certain skills.

    It took me one week to migrate to my current theme and those are the steps i followed:
    1- backing up database and files (wp-content folder).
    2- importing the database and the files to a localhost to explore the new theme.
    3- restoring backup after making necessary changes to the server.

  9. Hi,

    I am considering temporarily changing theme as my theme (free theme Virtue) for whatever reason doesn’t give access to the header or footers and I need to add some code to have my site verified. I have tried everything – also uploading the file using filezilla and that was also rejected! I would rather not change theme if I can avoid it as I like a lot about Virtue – but can you tell me what the effects of changing theme temporarily and then changing it back – (of course, I would back everything up) but would it cause an issue for the site to change, put in the code – get verified and then change back – or would I find a lot of things changed when I get back!?!?

    Thanks,

    Sarah

  10. Hi, i cannot see the Theme that I activate. It shows another menu and layout. Is there a change to make, something to select or deselect on the Page section? widget? Menu?

    Thanks for the help

  11. Great article. Thanks for list.
    I’m a total beginner in coding and WordPress. My current WordPress site (non-responsive and Genesis Prose theme) was done by a developer (no longer use him). I find that Genesis is too hard for me. Now I want to change the theme something that is easy for me to install and update without an experienced web developer, maybe like GeneratePress. If I change theme, will I lose all my Google search indexing that I’ve accumulated over the years?
    Thank you again.

  12. Hi Thanks for the article. I have a word press zerif-pro theme “shared on wix-theme. I have had alot of people tell me they can’t open my website on there iPhone and I am wondering if this is a server compatibility problem. I also have run into problems with not being able to carry out automated deliveries through my PayPal plugin on the site even though I have filled it all in correctly. I was told to take it out of the wix theme and buy it directly to possibly fix these issues. Have you heard anything like this before? Plus how would one take it out of wix theme and just pay for the premium site? I had some one from fiverr do it for me originally . Thanks for your time and your site!!

  13. Sir I am facing a problem with my self hosted WordPress site that I kept my website in maintenance mode for few weeks to change my theme…. My site is fully approved by Google adsense… But now after deactivating maintenance mode, my adsense ads are not showing… I thought it may take some time so placed the ad on side bar…. But after 2 days, it still not showing any ads…. I am a newbie to blogging so please help me out…

    • Please refer to the troubleshooting section in Adsense support website. You may want to test if the Google Adsense bot can crawl your website. You may also want to check your site in webmaster tools to make sure that Google crawlers can crawl and index your website.

      Admin

  14. Hello,i costumized my theme i af posts and i putted the ad code in my header,then i clicked get starting on godaddy settings,i pressed personal website and then i choosed a theme there,then it shows “your websitr is under construction” then all my posts were gone and i think my ad code is gone too,what ca i do?

  15. hey bro i just changed my theme from (SETRA) to (SCHEMA) why did i lost my visitors? there were 550 to 650 regular but now i jxt have 160 visitors?? plz help how do i go back and bring my visitors?

  16. I really love this website. It offers so much helpful guide for anyone working in wordpress. I never used anything such as maintenance mode, I am going to use it now onwards. Thanks

  17. Great article! I’m thinking to change my theme but I have a a question: What happens with my blog posts images if I change theme? Mine have a specific size at the moment. Should I change each of them?? Thanks!

  18. Hi,
    My biggest concern is losing the Yoast SEO data after migrating to a new theme. Since the interface in the new theme is going to be so very different than my current theme, I think I’ll have to manually re-publish my pages in the new theme keeping in mind that the new pages retain their old “SEO Title” and “Meta Description”.
    Whats your take on it??

    Thanks a lot!!!

  19. Hi I have changed the my website theme 2 days back.. My theme is not getting loded properly when i search from Internet.. But when i login to wordpress and see everything is looking fine.. how to resolve this isue

  20. nice checklist.
    But, what should I do so I dont loose the facebook and google+ likes and plusses? Is it enough to copy the code i wrote in the header?

  21. Hello,
    We are currently using Classifier on our community based site and after a trial run are considering switching to FacePress…any idea how time intensive this switch could be? And would it require a shut down of the current site for longer than your suggested 20-30 minutes to implement the change?

    • We would recommend creating an staging environment on your localserver first. Once you know what needs changing you can export those settings (Depends if the theme has theme settings export/import feature) or make a list of changes to implement. The actual time may vary. Each site is different and you may come across an issue that would require more time in fixing.

      Admin

  22. I am beginner and I have already install WORDPRESS using XAMPP/localhost. Now I have a question about wordpress Footer…. If i change the copyright section or powered by section of any WORDPRESS theme. Is that OK ?

  23. Hi,
    I have just registered with hostgator and have changed my theme to Hiero. However, I can see the changed theme only when logged in as admin. Otherwise, its just the old Twenty Twelve theme.
    Please advise
    Thanks!!

    • You probably have a caching plugin like “WP Super Cache” or “W3 Total Cache” installed on your website. If this is the case, then you will need to disable the caching plugin and then visit your website. You can reactivate the plugin later.

      Admin

  24. Hi,

    I am wanting to change from the Modernise template that has a child theme to the Advocate template. Is this as simple as just changing the template? Do I have to disable the child theme? Create new child theme? All I really want to retain is all the content, and a couple forms. Any help appreciated!!

    Many thanks!!

  25. I really love this forum. I am new to wordpress and I need mentors to look up to. I am working on a theme called corpo from wordpress.org. I have almost finish the project then I started having issues like. When I paste content and save or update it won’t appear in the font end. Then recently some when I click on some of the pages it will bring up. 404 msg that the page cannot be found.
    Is it a hosting problem or theme problem

  26. Hi,
    I just found your article which came at a great time because I’m thinking about switching from WP Twenty Twelve to a Genesis Theme. But I’d like to know whether my posts that I already have on my blog will be automatically updated when I make the switch. Or, do I have to manually update and publish each post when the new Genesis theme is installed?
    Thanks,
    Kara

    • Switching a theme does not affect your posts in any way. When you will switch theme WordPress will automatically display your posts with the new theme. In case if you don’t like your new theme, you can always deactivate it and reactivate your old theme.

      Admin

  27. I am NARGIS,
    I’m trying to learn something about WORDPRESS –
    After WordPress installation I have successfully INSTALLED THEME ZIP file that (NOT IN FREE SITE) in an own hosted site,
    but some of the contents, such as original MENU / original IMAGES / original IMAGE SLIDER are not showing in any browsers!
    Where is my fault/mistake …! Or do I need to do some work …!
    I wanted to show WordPress theme originally that it’s look a like.
    If you do have suggestions or tutorial from that I will be helpful !

    Regards;
    NARGIS

    • Sometimes premium themes display images and sliders in their demo which are actually not included in your theme. You have installed your theme correctly. Please contact the theme developer for support.

      Admin

  28. Hello there,

    I am so glad that I found your blog. I am new to wordpress.org and I’ve never used their software before. Although I am a bit familiar with blogspot.com but since joining wordpress it’s a big transition.

    I have just hosted my sites with hostgator and I really like their customer support and the cPanel.

    Anyway, my main questions are the following:

    1) I am about to start building my blog on wordpress but because this will be a long term investment and I wasn’t sure whether to select one of the free wordpress themes that allows me to customize once installing them or buying a wordpress paid theme. However, if I decide to change my theme in future (e.g: if my site becomes successful and if I’ll be able to monetize) I might want to change to a paid theme. Is this going to be a hassle changing from a free wordpress theme to a paid theme? If this can be done in future, do I have to backup all the time? My hostgator package will back up my sites everyday. Is it necessary for me to back up still on BackupBudy before installing to a new wordpress paid theme? Obviously, I don’t want to lose any of my contents.

    2) I am also worried about using the wordpress free theme because I’ve read everywhere that whenever wordpress updates its software the current free theme that people are using may not be compatible with the new wordpress update. However, I went to wordpress.org/freethemes there are quite a few reliable free themes that provides support and developers are also up to date with their themes to keep up with the compatibility with wordpress and therefore wordpress users are satisfied too.

    To conclude, would you suggest that I would use wordpress free theme for now (as I am still a beginner and still trying to build my site on wordpress) and change to a paid theme later once it becomes successful? Hostgator backs up my contents all the time, do I still need to backup before changing to a new theme? That’s all for now, thank you very much for providing these information. It’s very useful for newbies. :) I hope you can reply to my questions above as soon as you can.

    I am your new reader from now on and will be bookmarking your site.

    • Bel, welcome to the WordPress community.

      1. Backup. Yes you should still backup your site. If you do not want to invest into BackupBuddy right now, then you can create a complete WordPress backup for free with BackWPup. However, BackupBuddy comes with premium support and we highly recommend it.

      2. Free themes can be very reliable too, themes in WordPress theme directory go through extensive testing before getting approved. Create a child theme to customize your WordPress theme so that when there is a new version for your theme available, you can update it without loosing your changes.

      Admin

  29. Thank you for an excellent resource. I took the plunge and started building my site myself at the beginning of this month. You were an awesome help as I am not all that PC literate. I am now seriously considering changing my theme as my initial goal with the site has changed since getting a feel for word press. I suppose that ones goal should determine the choice of theme? Therefore asking for advice on cool themes may be a waste of my time? Should I rather concentrate on functionality than looks?

    • Functionality always trumps looks in our eyes. Yes asking for cool theme suggestions is a waste because beauty is in the eyes of beholder. Also you are the only person who knows exactly what you want in terms of functionality.

      Admin

  30. I recently changed my theme and didn’t take note on my google analytics code. So now every time I look into my analytics it comes up with a flat line on zero. What can I do to retrieve my old code?

    Thanks
    Scott

  31. I am hoping to change my theme to ‘Made’ theme this Weekend.

    This article is really good. I hadn’t considered many of the issues you have raised.

    Thank you for coming up with such a useful guide.

    Many thanks.

  32. Currently going through a WordPress one-on-one bootcamp with a seasoned WP developer. I’ve hit three of his WP-Black-Holes and “Changing Themes is Easy” is the third one. Changing themes is easy if you have a simple theme with minimal customization BY THE DEVELOPER. If a theme has 8 custom admin areas for sliders, additional menus, special content areas within the post area or sidebar, etc, and you switch themes to something you think “looks nice” you are in for a nightmare. DEFINITELY not “just a few clicks.” “Changing Themes is Easy” is a total myth. Just read this article and ask yourself, “Does it sound like just a few clicks?” Really?

    WordPress would be better if there were more honesty from the development community about the realities of using it as a CMS. Still a great checklist for what to watch for when changing themes.

    • Any developer that tells you that changing themes is easy is probably NEW or do not understand the reality themselves. Blaming the entire community based on your experience with a few is not fair. We created this article for this vary reason.

      Admin

  33. Great read!
    One more thing to keep in mind is to check the behaviour of theme by testing it locally using something like wamp server, to be sure that the end product is user friendly

  34. I just downloaded a new theme, but can’t install unless it is a zip file. How do I do this. I tried by selecting all and compressing, but nada. thanks.

  35. A nightmare has happened to me when I changed my popular theme to a new theme.
    Most of my nice sidebar widgets are gone forever and I have to again create them.

    Still I am missing lot of them.

  36. Can you elaborate more on the RSS portion of this? I redirected everything..so I thought..but I went from 1500 subscribers to 500ish. Initially it went down to 47 but then I used a feedsmith plugin and it went up to 500. I’m at a loss for what to do and could use some help! :)

    •  @jamielee841 You have to make sure /feed/ of your domain name is pointing to the feedburner feed. Other than that, not sure why u r losing subscribers.

  37. Really helpful suggestions! Some of them I really overlooked. I use Lubith in order to design and change my wordpress themes so most of the compatibility problems I haven’t yet encountered. It’s a very flexible and intuitive editor, you work directly in the browser which means you can test immediately the compatibility between the editor and your WP site or between your theme and your browser and you can quickly make the required modifications.

  38. Thanks for the checklist…will prove helpful tomorrow when I change my theme. I am a bit concerned that old files from my older themes will linger when simply changing themes. Does anyone know if this happens or does switching themes wipe everything clean? I just want to make sure I’m starting with a clean plate.

    Also, you mentioned “WordPress SEO” by Yoast. Is that better in your opinion than “All in One” or “Platinum SEO”? Thanks for any response.

  39. Just one word of advice on using some of the Maintenance plug-ins. Some of them (be sure to check out WordPress forum feedback) tend to bog down servers, resulting in unreachable WP Admin, and in the worst case scenario have your host shut down the account or charge you extra.

  40. i read somewhere that theme change kills google rank. If installed correctly like from twenty eleven to thesis, and GA code intact, should there be any penalty for changing a theme?

  41. Wow is THIS helpful! I’m getting ready to change themes on my new blog already! It took actually using WP for a few weeks before I knew what I was looking for in a theme and now I see that I need to plan wisely before switching. Thanks!

  42. Can you keep those images a little smaller.. or at best not use them at all. Doesn’t really serve much purpose.

    • @Jal Images are eye candy… when you read sites that doesn’t have them in longer articles, it looks dead. Just trying to keep the article lively.

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