If you have used WordPress, then you have probably switched themes at least once in your life. If you haven’t, and this is your first time, then it is even better.
Changing themes is one of the most beautiful features that our very own WordPress provides, and it’s designed to be executed with only a few clicks so that even beginners would not have any problem doing it. However, there are some critical steps one has to perform before changing a WordPress theme. Failing them may lead to an unresponsive website or losing elements that are important to you.
1. Take notes on your current theme
Taking notes on the current theme is essential. Decide which widgets, colors, links or menus are crucial, and try to imagine them in the new navigation structure.
2. Create A Backup Of The Website
Of course, changing a WordPress theme is not that risky because the system allows you to go back to your old theme whenever you want to. But, you never have anything to lose by creating a backup. You must create and save backups of the database, theme files, and plugins. This will ensure that a copy of the interface will be available in case things go wrong.
3. Maintenance Mode
You probably don’t want your users to see while you are making the switch because they will end up seeing a broken site or such. It is best to turn on Maintenance mode for 15 – 20 minutes that it may take you to make sure that everything is working properly. Once you have setup Maintenance mode, you are good to go ahead and activate the new theme.
4. Testing all functionality and plugins
Once you have set the new WordPress theme, you need to make sure that all the functionality and plugins still work properly. This is the time when the note that you created in step one comes handy. You can go back and add any or all functionality that you want to bring back from the old theme into the new one. Try out all the features including but not limited to the commenting process, single post pages, search, contact page, 404 page etc. Make sure all of your widgets are still there and are working fine.
5. Cross-Browser Compatibility
Test your site in all browsers you have access to. Browsers have a tendency of rendering things differently. Especially Internet Explorer. You want to make sure that your design looks good in major browsers. Some pretty looking themes have a tendency of breaking in various browsers. So if a lot of your audience is using Internet Explorer, then you want to make sure that it is still accessible to them.
6. Test the WordPress theme in various devices
Users will check your website as soon as you change your new theme, and you need to make sure that your content is accessible from all types of devices they may be using. You might want to perform the testing on as many devices as you can and ask users to review the new theme. Having a mobile-friendly theme is a guarantee that bounce rates won’t increase, or at least that you will keep current users on board.
7. Inform Users about the Change
Turn off maintenance mode, and write a quick blog post to let the users know. Notice, you only spent like 15 – 20 minutes on checking things. There is no way that you could’ve catch all the bugs. By letting your users know, you can expect to get bug reports. We often ask our readers on twitter for bug testing. Ask your audience via twitter, facebook , etc to see if the site looks good in their browser. If they say YES, then its good news. If they say NO, then ask them to please take a screenshot of the issue. You can take a look at the issue and try to fix it. If you can’t fix it, then kindly ask the developer of the theme to fix it.
8. Listen to your reader’s suggestions, and IMPROVE
When a new design comes out, users always have suggestions. They either love a specific feature or hate a specific feature. Communicate with your audience using surveys or Facebook Polls. See what they would like to see improved, and then work on getting that done.