Changing the theme of your WordPress site is only a matter of a few clicks, but making sure that you maintain all your site’s functionality involves a checklist and some careful work before and after the new theme is activated.
The smoothness of the transition will depend on which two themes you’re switching between, and while it’s possible that not everything in this list is going to be a problem for you, it’s worth going through to make sure that there are no unaddressed issues.
In fact, it’s better to get the gory details out of the way before you make any changes to your site. This way, you’ll know precisely what to take note of and what to expect as you go.
So, grab a pen and paper and jot down the following pre-template-change considerations:
1. Consider the unique code of your current theme
If you’ve adding functionality, components or stylistic changes to your current theme on your own, or if you’ve having someone do it for you, go through your template’s code and make note of those changes.
A responsible coder would have made comments within the template that note when the changes were made, so do your best to jot these down and be aware of the fact that they won’t be in the new template (unless you add them again).
2. Back everything up
Messing with your website’s code always presents the possibility of things going south in the form of losing data, functionality or components of your site. With that being said, you always want to have everything backed up so that if something does go awry, you’ll have the opportunity to start fresh.
3. Plugin testing
Most of the time, WordPress plugins will transition between templates without issue, but on occasion, there is the slight possibility that new code may cause problems with your plugins. In this case, they will need to be addressed by either reinstalling the plugin or deleting it and finding an alternative.
Check the functionality of each one, starting in order of the earliest one you installed to the most recent.
4. Check your RSS
Feedburner can be integrated while changing between a number of WordPress themes. In order to make sure it works for your new template, you’ll want to ensure that the feed is properly directed to Feedburner through your RSS URL when then new theme is installed.
If you make the switch without checking and the URL doesn’t direct correctly, people won’t be able to subscribe to your site’s feed.
5. Check browser compatibility
This needs to take place after the theme transition is complete, as you’ll use a compatibility testing tool to test across multiple browsers. Most themes will clear, but if there is an issue on a browser you’re not using, you’re better off to catch it before somebody else does.
6. Make sure your ads have a spot
WordPress is a bit picky about their ad program, only allowing certain PPC and affiliate ads on their sites. However, if you do use ads, you’ll need to make sure that the template you’re using affords you the space necessary. If not, you’ll need to change up how you’ve got your ads configured or find an alternate theme.
Even if a theme looks great out-of-the-box, it’s a good idea to go through and do some final touch-ups and customizations, especially if you’re comfortable working with HTML and CSS. If you’re not, however, make a checklist of things that need get done and find someone you know who is a bit more tech-savvy to take care of it for you.
Worth the Work
Seeing as how it’s so easy to switch between themes, the temptation is there to ignore the details and just change the theme as quickly as possible. Do your homework and note the items mentioned here, as it can save you some trouble in the long run.
If you’re migrating to WordPress from another platform and considering one of the three ways to move your content, the same rules apply and become even more important.
So tread lightly; hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Camille McClane is an online entrepreneur and freelance writer living in Southern California. She is always finding new ways to improve her WordPress site, and encourages fellow WordPress users to consider these tips when changing themes.