Are you in doubt about what to do before changing WordPress themes?
When you change your WordPress theme, there are few very important steps you need to take to ensure that the process is smooth and you do not lose important data.
In this WordPress checklist we will share the most important things you need to do before changing WordPress themes.
Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions on how to change themes, please see our Beginner’s Guide on how to properly change your WordPress theme.
Changing a theme is an important decision that every website owner makes at least once every few years.
Of course, you need to decide your rationale for why you are switching and choose a theme that suits all your needs.
We have a list of the best WordPress multi-purpose themes and best WordPress blog themes that you can check out if you are looking for recommendations.
Once you have chosen the theme you want to switch to, it is important that you follow the checklist below to ensure that you do not lose any content or data during the process.
Make a note of all WordPress theme customizations
Some WordPress site owners will customize their WordPress themes by adding snippets of code directly to their theme files. Pieces of code can be a great way to add new features to your site that are not part of the stock theme.
However, if you add these snippets directly to your theme files, it can be easy to lose track of them.
If you or a web developer has made these changes, be sure to review your current theme files and note down any additional code that has been added.
To add snippets of code in the future, we always recommend using a site-specific plugin or snippet. This way, you can keep these snippets even if you change themes later. For more details, see our Beginner’s Guide to Inserting Excerpts from the Web into WordPress.
Get current WordPress Theme Performance Metrics
Before changing your theme, you should check the loading speed and performance of your current website. This allows you to compare any differences in page load time after changing the theme.
Since WordPress speed and performance play an important role in the user experience and WordPress SEO, you need to make sure that the new theme is faster than the one you are using now.
You can easily check your current site speed metrics using a WordPress speed test tool, such as IsItWP’s free site speed test tool.
For more details, see our guide on how to run a website speed test.
3. Make a note of the current theme page bars and widget areas
Sidebars are used to add various widgets to your site, such as subscription forms for email newsletters, buttons on social media, popular posts and more.
Since each theme has different widget areas, your widgets may unexpectedly move or disappear from your site if you change the theme.
Therefore, it is important to note which widgets you use in your WordPress sidebars and other widget areas on your website before changing theme. Then you can easily replicate them after shifts.
If you have added a custom code or shortcodes, be sure to copy this code and save it in a safe place so 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 in your theme settings panel.
It is a common mistake to overlook these important tracking codes.
Make sure you copy all of your site tracking codes that you use for analytics, advertising, and more so you can add them to your new site.
If you want to make it easy for yourself, then we recommend using a plugin like MonsterInsights to install Google Analytics in WordPress.
By using MonsterInsights you can be sure that there will be no interruptions in your analyzes or lost data. You will also unlock bonus tracking like link click and button click tracking, WordPress category and tag analysis, author tracking and more.
For all other tracking codes, you can use the Insert Header and Footer plugin. For more details, see our guide on how to add header and footer code in WordPress.
5. Back up your current WordPress site
It is 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 make a backup of your entire site. For more details, see our guide on how to back up your WordPress site with UpdraftPlus.
This will help ensure that you can easily restore your site if something goes wrong when you change the theme.
Put your WordPress site in maintenance mode
When making changes to your site, it is always a good practice to put your site in maintenance mode. Maintenance mode lets you display a user-friendly message to your visitors.
This helps prevent your visitors from seeing your website when it is half finished or under construction.
To do this, we recommend using the SeedProd plugin. It is 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, upcoming pages, 404 pages and more.
For more details, see our guide on putting your WordPress site in maintenance mode.
7. Test all features and installed WordPress plugins
Once you have activated a new WordPress theme, make sure that you have the same functionality as before and that all 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 Inserting Code snippets in WordPress.
Then spend some time using the features of your WordPress-powered site. If you are currently experiencing errors, please see our WordPress Troubleshooting Beginner’s Guide.
Test new WordPress theme across browsers and devices
Cross-browser testing helps you make sure your new site looks great 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 does not work properly on one of these browsers, then you are missing out on visitors and traffic.
Fortunately, you can use all kinds of testing tools across browsers to see what your site looks like 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 do not need them.
Simply go to Plugins »Installed plugins to see if your theme has added new plugins.
Now is also a good time to review your entire plugin list to see if any plugins are worth deleting.
If you are looking for high quality plugins to use with your new theme, then check out our selection of the must have WordPress plugins.
10. Let your users know that your new site is live
When you are ready to make your new WordPress theme live, you can turn off maintenance mode.
You should also contact your readers to tell them about your new website. This will prepare your audience so that they will not be confused by major design changes, and it will also help keep your subscribers engaged and return to your site to see the new design.
Here is an example post we shared on Facebook about our new website redesign.
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, check out our guide on how to share your blog posts with your readers.
11. Test loading speeds for your new WordPress theme
Once your new theme is live and you’ve completed the steps above, it’s time to do another speed test. Ideally, your new website will be faster and get better results in your speed test.
To do this, simply use the same site speed tool you used before and compare the results.
If the new theme is slower than your old theme, be sure to run multiple tests, test from different areas, and check to see if you have any caching or firewall settings that could be causing the drop.
12. Monitor your WordPress site Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on your site and leave without continuing to another page. A high bounce rate means you did not convince your visitors to stay on your site long enough to act.
Once you have changed the theme, it is important to monitor your bounce rate. Some themes are simply more friendly to help visitors navigate around your site.
If your bounce rate has increased since you changed the theme, you may want to work on lowering it. You can do this by enhancing your navigation menus, adding more internal links, adding a popular mail widget, and more.
For more details, see our guide on how to increase pageviews and reduce bounce rates in WordPress.
13. Listen to reader feedback to improve your WordPress site
Finally, it’s important that you listen to your readers’ feedback after switching to a new theme. Some readers may love or hate certain parts of your design.
You do not have to listen to every single reader and make the changes they suggest. But if there is a group of readers who are experiencing the same problem, then it is probably worth a closer look.
You can collect feedback from visitors by adding a contact form to your website or running a survey asking for feedback from readers about your new design.
The easiest way to do this is by using WPForms. It is the best WordPress survey plugin on the market used by over 5 million websites.
It lets you easily create engaging survey forms with the drag and drop builder.
In addition, 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 to do before changing WordPress themes. You may also want to see our guide on how to choose the best WordPress hosting and our expert selection of the best AI chatbot software for your site.
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The Blog post first appeared on WPBeginner.