Beginner’s Guide: How to change WordPress theme?

Beginner’s Guide: How to change WordPress theme?

If you think it’s high time to change WordPress theme, on the exterior front, the entire process may turn out to be a harmless one. Truly, changing the theme can be so easy that not many people would have paid heed to the difficulties.

Moreover, these days, without the need of any manual FTP upload, changing a theme can be done right from the dashboard itself. So, it turns out to be safe, quick, and uncomplicated, isn’t it? Maybe, not! In reality, the ease of changing primarily depends upon how you have set up your website.

One of the major things about WordPress websites is that, over the period of time, it converts into a puzzle. Once you have your theme, activated plugins, small & major changes done; all of these factors comprise into a striking functional site.

And, that’s the reason why it’s essential to be cautious when you change the theme or even update the website, for that matter. If you rush into things and pull out the wrong fragments, your entire structure may collapse.

So, here’s how you can safely change your WordPress theme step-by-step.

Step 1: Select A New Theme:

If you haven’t decided upon anything yet, find a new alluring theme without further ado. If you wish to navigate through premium WordPress themes, a great place to find options is on Themeforest. Here, you can easily come across a variety of theme, comprising added features, color options, page builder compatibility, and much more.

On the other hand, if your budget doesn’t support a premium theme, you may also explore your free options in, which is a significantly enormous repository of WordPress and keeps adding new themes now and then.

Also, while selecting a new theme, there are certain factors that you must keep in mind. The list may include plugin compatibility, responsiveness, browser compatibility, prompt support, and more. Once you’ve found an adequate theme, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Creating A Backup:

Before you change the theme, it’s recommended to take the complete backup of your website. If you’re new to it, you can either use a plugin to take the backup or do it manually. Regardless of the method you choose, both of them are quite easy, even if you’re a novice.

Backup with a plugin:

When you consider going on with this option, you’ll surely come across a variety of plugins. In the inventory, you can easily find both free and premium backup plugins that come with additional functionality and options. So, choose before you move. And then:

  • Download & install the plugin in your dashboard
  • Configure and customize the settings, however, required
  • Setup offsite backups
  • Complete your first backup
    And, you’re done.

Once you will completely change the theme, you can also schedule daily backups, to be on the safe side.

Manual Backup:

If you’re relatively new to this department, backing up the website manually may seem a complicated and overwhelming task. However, to your surprise, it’s quite straightforward. All you’d have to do is follow these steps to take the backup of your website manually:

  • Log into the web host control panel
  • Find FTP login information, or you can even create a new account
  • Login into your account and copy all the essential files from the directory
  • Visit the control panel and open phpMyAdmin
  • Select the correct database and export it
    And, your backup is done.

Step 3: Clone the Website:

Even before you decide to experiment with your live site, you must make sure that you’re professional enough to prevent undesirable problems. If not, it’s always recommended to clone your website, regardless of the task you wish to execute.

Now, when you’re ready to install WordPress theme, there would be two different methods to clone the site for testing. Either you can set up a local server or use a staging site that is available with a hosting plan.

Cloning to a Local Server:

This one is a great way to clone your site as the local server would be accessible even if you don’t have an internet connection. Similar to backing up, this method also gives you two different options; either use a plugin or do it manually.

Using a Plugin:

Based on the operating system of your desktop, you can choose a plugin, proficient enough to help you set up a local server. For this, you can:

  • Install local server WordPress & software, which you can choose from WAMP, XAMPP, MAMP, and more.
  • Once localhost is ready, install WordPress locally
  • Install and activate the plugin on the original website and export
  • Install and activate the plugin on the local hosted WordPress and import


Wait for a while, and the plugin will finish importing your website.

Manual Cloning:

If you wish to execute this process manually, you’d have to perform just a few extra steps:

  • Setup the localhost server and install WordPress locally
  • Copy & paste the backup copy of your site
  • Visit phpMyAdmin and import database
  • Locate precise database user and password information and create a new user in phpMyAdmin
  • Replace URLs by editing two fields of the database, site URL, and home. You can find these options under wp_options.

Cloning to a Staging Site:

There are several hosting companies, such as WPEngine and GoDaddy, that provide one-click staging when it comes to cloning the website. This one is a great option as you can always test your theme online on different devices, something which isn’t possible with the localhost setup.

So, to do this, follow these simple steps, and your work will be done:

  • Log into your WordPress dashboard
  • Click on the hosting menu item
  • Click on staging tab
  • Choose Copy site from LIVE to STAGING

And, that’s pretty much it.

Step 4: Testing & Troubleshooting WordPress Theme on the Clone Site:

This step would be as easy as logging into the dashboard of your staging or local website. You would have to install and activate the theme first. And then, there are certain steps that you might want to test when you change WordPress theme.

  • Enabling wp_debug:

This is one of the considerable ways to find out if there are any errors in your theme. To enable wp_debug, you’d have to visit the wp-config.php file and set up wp_debug to true, like:
define(‘WP_DEBUG’, true);

This will display all of the PHP notices and errors on the front end of the site. Although not every error would break your site, still, it’s advantageous to fix all of them.

  • Widgets:

It’s nothing but a good idea to have a look at widget options, footer columns, sidebar width, ad spots, and any other widget ready areas. This way, you’ll make sure that there aren’t going to be any surprising situations erupting later.

  • Post Formats:

There is a variety of themes that use custom fields. Thus, if you’ve been using one to define certain audio, video, gallery, or anything else, you may have to tweak the output of the post formats in the new theme. This can be easily executed through child theme so that you can use the old meta on the old posts.

  • Browser Console:

Next, you must open the browser to have a look at the JavaScript errors. If there is anything that isn’t working adequately, be it a drop-down menu, carousel, slider, or anything else, you can look into your browser console for errors. All you’d have to do is open the console and look for JavaScript errors. And then, hover over them to see the location of the error.

  • Checking SEO:

If you’ve been using SEO optimized WordPress themes, you might not be able to carry their inbuilt SEO features to the new theme. Therefore, if your new theme isn’t supporting any inbuilt SEO features, it’s recommended to install relevant plugins on the live site and fill out the void before you begin updating.

Step 5: Install and Activate your New WordPress Theme:

Now that the thorough testing of the WordPress theme is done, you’d have to log into your dashboard and install the same on the live site. However, before you activate the new theme, just conduct a quick check with the help of the Live Preview option, to be on the safe side.

You can use this option and check a few pages just to ensure that everything looks perfect. Also, before activating the new theme, you may also install a coming soon plugin. In this way, even if you’d wish to edit a few things after activating the new theme, your visitors won’t get to see what’s happening at your end.

Once you’re ready, navigate to Appearance and click on the Themes button. After that, click Activate, and your new theme will be live.

Final Words:

Someone who hasn’t experience the process to change WordPress theme, this may seem like an over-complicating method. However, it’s surely not. But, make sure that you’re taking enough cautiousness and being attentive while executing the entire process to prevent unnecessary troubles.