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10 Things you Must Do Before Changing WordPress Themes

Having the ability to change WordPress themes is one of the benefits associated with using this open source platform. The theme determines the overall look of a website, so changing the theme can allow for a complete site redesign with relatively little effort. Despite the ease with which a theme can be changed, be sure to take care of the following things before installing a new theme to prevent data loss and other problems that can arise when making changing a WordPress theme.

1. Keep the site income intact.

Many webmasters rely on Adsense ads to generate income for their websites. Adding the code for this to the new theme will ensure the site continues to be monetized. One of the first changes to make when adding a new theme is adding this coding and integrating the ads with the new site in a visually pleasing way. This will ensure that the ads are active, functional and attractive in new layout from the moment the new theme goes live. Webmasters who forget this important step will face a loss of that site’s income until the issue is addressed.

2. Preserve statistics and other data.

Using analytics helps webmasters optimize their websites for the audience who uses it. This data can be used to understand where traffic is coming from, which pages visitors are most interested in, how long they interact with the site and much more. All this information helps to continue adding site content that is valuable to readers. Be sure to copy the analytics coding into the new theme so that this data continues to be available. Understanding the behavior of site visitors provides valuable insights into how to generate more interest, how to retain visitors and how to improve the website in the future.

3. Record WordPress PHP snippets.

Each PHP snippet used in the theme functions file uses programming language to provide various functions to a site. Keeping up with the codes can make preserving these changes easier. Keep a file with the snippet codes pasted into it so that the new theme can easily be adapted to have the same functionality as the old theme. If there is ever a problem with the site that causes data to be lost, having this information available can save a webmaster lots of time by simply cutting and pasting the snippets into a new theme.

4. Update RSS Feeds.

If the site being updated has subscribers, updating the RSS feeds to reflect the new theme will mean the people who are subscribed will continue to get updated when there are new posts made on the site. Requiring users to add a new RSS feed to continue their subscription will usually mean losing some subscribers. Automate these changes to retain the audience.

5. Hide the site using maintenance mode.

Visitors don’t need to see the site while it’s under construction. Turning on maintenance mode while the theme is being changed can hide the site from visitors while it is being worked on. Webmasters can even leave a custom message that explains the changes that are taking place. Visitors often find it frustrating when sites are inexplicably down, so this message can be reassuring to readers who want to see it go live again as soon as possible.

6. Keep Plugins to a Minimum

Newer themes are integrating the functionality of plugins, and using as few of them as possible is ideal for having fast loading times. A new theme can often replace several old plugins. Keeping these plugins to a minimum whenever possible helps improve a site’s overall functionality. Slow loading times cause some people to change their minds about visiting a certain website.

7. Change elements one at a time.

Changing WordPress theme elements one at a time can make it easier to know that everything is going smoothly during the transition to a new theme. It can also make it easier to identify the problem if one arises. It can take some time to get used to a new theme, so making changes slowly can help avoid beginner mistakes. When all the changes are made at once, it can be much harder to identify specific problems. Changing a theme slowly can actually save webmasters lots of time.

8. Check the new theme on different types of media.

People are accessing websites from a variety of devices, so it is important that the new theme is compatible with the ones the site’s visitors are using. Check the new theme on as many devices as possible. Invite a test audience to provide feedback on the new theme. This can reduce the number of site visitors that stop coming to the site because the redesign was incompatible with their browsers.

9. Test the theme for functionality.

The new theme should work seamlessly with the old site content if everything is formatted and added correctly. While checking the site on different media types and browsers, also check each element of the site for optimal functionality. If parts of the site are not working, those issues need to be at the top of the troubleshooting list. Sometimes, the specific problem will be compatibility with a particular browser. For that reason, checking functionality on various browsers can help identify the specific problem.

10. Use Feedback from visitors.

If visitors are having trouble using the new theme, make improvements based on their feedback. Perhaps a different theme would be a better choice. The most important thing a website needs is traffic, so listening to visitor feedback is crucial to keeping the audience engaged.

Changing a WordPress theme can be intimidating for people making these types of changes for the first time, but following the ten steps outlined above will help make the process go more smoothly. Using a new theme can allow for a total site redesign with relatively little trouble. Making sure everything looks good, works well, and tracks properly will help a newly redesigned website succeed.

Author: Kaumil Patel

Kaumil Patel is the Chief Operating Officer of GreenGeeks and has over 13 years of experience in the web hosting industry working for and owning web hosting companies. Kaumil’s expertise is in marketing, business development, operations, acquisitions and mergers.

Updated on August 8, 2017

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