You can change WordPress themes

13 tips that you should consider when creating or changing your WordPress theme.

The biggest advantage of WordPress is that it is very easy to change design and functions. In fact, the around 3000 themes in the WordPress directory and all the premium themes tempt you to test dozens of themes before deciding on your favorite one.

But switching from one theme to another is unfortunately not always that easy. Themes have a wide variety of layout options, work with their own sport codes, and place the logos or sidebars differently.

Depending on the complexity of the topic, a theme can require a lot of customization before you are happy with the look and feel of your new website and venture into the public eye. In this article we will look at what to consider when switching between two themes.

Make yourself a checklist

I've got used to documenting every adjustment in a theme. I write code changes to the file with a short comment. I write down general changes to widgets, menus, links, colors, etc. in a text file (or Evernote). It is good advice to also keep a record of the navigation structure, since the menu structure is over with some topic changes (especially if you have built in individual links). In addition, a new beginning is made easier because you can compare and optimize your menu structure 1: 1.

Also check the functionality between the themes. A popular mistake is to leave all plugins from all theme variants activated. This is not beneficial. Check which plugins you actually need for which theme! You can deactivate all other plugins - or even better, delete them. I have created a plugin evergreen folder in which I do not need any plugins, but save good plugins for the what-if-case.

Many themes also offer their own widgets. Depending on the theme, these cannot be reproduced.

Tip: Take a screenshot of your most important pages and widgets. In this way you can ensure that you adopt the correct position and order in the new topic.

Tip 2: Make sure to make a note of the colors you use in the theme. Often you adapt your desired colors with a lot of love, but forget that these are saved with the theme. If you change the theme, the colors are gone. Here you are well advised if you have written down the color values ​​beforehand. Incidentally, the same applies to the steps and font sizes.

Start with a backup

Before you make a big change, you should make a backup of the site. If you change a single page, you can copy the corresponding file. If you change the theme, you should make a backup copy of your installation, especially since this can be done free of charge. There are many free backup plugins available, such as myRepono WordPress Backup Plugin, Simple Backup, Backup and many more.

A popular plugin is “Backup”.

This plugin offers a free backup and restore that works in the background. Databases, files, themes and plugins are backed up. You can automatically save backup to multiple locations including Dropbox, FTP, and many more. If there is a problem with the change, it is easy to get back to the original website.

Maintenance mode

Renovation work can sometimes take several hours. Depending on the complexity of the website, the website can even be "off" for several days. It is a good idea to put the website in maintenance mode during this time. There are many plugins out there to put the website in maintenance mode while you are working on the website, such as Coming Soon, WP Maintenance Mode, WordPress Maintenance Mode, and others.

Let the user know that there are a few changes being made and how long the maintenance will be.

Save code in footers and headers

Many programmers also put a lot of code in the headers and footers. These can be codes from Google Analytics, confirmation codes from Facebook, banners, promotional codes, logos and more. Make sure that you have copied this code so that you can paste it into the new theme later.

Sidebars and Widgets

Widgets are an easy way to design a theme. Accordingly, many themes offer dozens of widget areas. Make sure that these areas are usually specified individually by the theme. As soon as you install a new theme, these widgets are moved to the active widgets area, or in the worst case even deleted. So that you don't lose text widgets in particular, I recommend moving all widgets to the inactive widgets area before changing themes. So if your new theme does not contain a corresponding area, you have saved your content anyway and can create a widgets area according to the specifications of your new team and copy your content.

Secure CSS

The appearance of a template can easily be changed with CSS. Remember that the CSS file belongs to the theme. So you have to save these too, in order to be able to transfer your changes to your new theme. This also applies to the changes you have made to plugins. I recommend creating your own child theme in which you can enter your changes. You can then easily copy this content into your new child theme and do not have to start all over again to make all the graphical changes for your plugins and theme settings. Here I have written instructions on how you can create a switching film.

Post excerpts

Some topics will automatically trim posts while others use a "more" tag. If you always want to have an excerpt or the full content displayed, you can also write this directly into the code. Use the_excerpt () instead of the_content () for text excerpts. This will automatically place an excerpt on your homepage - and vice versa.

contact form

When using forms, don't forget to set up your email address. Some topics have templates for contact forms. This function can easily be added to other themes using a plugin. I use the free plugin "Conact 7".

404 page

Anyone who tinkers with a theme will quickly touch the individual pages and page structures. In this case it happens that one or the other link no longer works. So make sure that all links still work after the conversion. Faulty pages are represented by a 404 page. These pages can be read out with a simple plugin. I use the "Redirection" plugin for this:

This plugin shows all 404 errors, so that you can quickly get an overview of where you need to make manual improvements. Now you can link the missing pages to the new pages with a 301 command. This is how Google knows where to find the new pages. In addition, the visitor no longer receives an error page.

Page layouts

Modern themes are delivered with a drag & drop layout. These layouts make it very easy to design a page. The disadvantage, however, is that you are more or less tied to the corresponding page builder. So you should make sure that when you change, you use a temple that supports your own page builder. Otherwise, I recommend taking a screenshot of the most important pages before switching so that you can easily recreate the desired look with the new theme and the new pagebuilder.

 

All current themes from Designers offer a modern page builder with which almost any layout can be recreated very quickly.

Testing

Make sure to test your new website thoroughly before launching it. Test menus, links, sidebars, widgets, images, galleries, ads, registration forms, etc. Please don't just click on the homepage.

You should also check multiple pages and posts, the search box, the comment box, the contact form, and the RSS feed. Also make sure to test the new theme in all major browsers, including mobile devices:

Internet Explorer
Chrome
Firefox
safari
Opera

Also test the loading time and make sure to monitor the bounce rate. A good tool here is e.g. Pingdom or GTMetrix.

Ask a few friends to take a look at the website and see if there are any problems with the user experience.

write an article

As soon as you have gone live with your new site, you could write a post and point out to your readers what is new to discover on your site. In this context, ask for feedback and wish your readers. In this way you can continuously improve the functionality of - and the result on your website.

Tips

Make a small checklist using the steps above. This way you make sure that you don't forget anything when you change the subject.

To test new designs, I would use a trial installation. Do not test a design in active operation. Try to avoid the inconvenience of a construction site as much as possible, or at least keep it short.

Remember that plugins also often adapt their appearance to the theme. So after setting up a new design, check whether the plugins still match the overall impression.

Ask your visitors for feedback.

How do you start your new website? Which tools make it easier for you to get started and what have I possibly forgotten? Please write me a comment! I look forward to your feedback.

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13 comments

  1. Gabriele Zickler on February 20, 2016 at 8:58 am
  2. Marco on February 20, 2016 at 10:33 am
  3. Christine Wagener on April 17th, 2016 at 2:37 pm
  4. Marco on April 19, 2016 at 11:41 am
  5. Luke on August 22, 2016 at 6:12 pm
  6. Rob on June 23, 2017 at 4:57 pm
  7. Frank Dieterich on January 9, 2018 at 5:55 pm
  8. Marco on January 12, 2018 at 4:29 pm
  9. Schwander on April 9, 2018 at 9:44 am
  10. Marco on April 13, 2018 at 11:00