15 Things You Must Do When Changing WordPress Themes

When you revisit some WordPress-driven sites, you may note a change in the feel or appearance of the site since your last visit. This change has been made by altering the WordPress theme of the site. The theme change may result in the disappearance of all your widgets. WordPress makes it very simple to change your blog’s theme design completely. Before you change the design, of your blog or site, you need to take some critical steps so that the change works smoothly.

15 Things You Must Do When Changing WordPress Themes

The best thing about WordPress is that there are thousands of themes for customizing your blog. WordPress offers great flexibility. New themes are being created daily with many highly customizable free WordPress themes made available. The theme is actually just like a skin for the weblog. The overall look and presentation is also changed. The theme makes changes to the way you display the site but does not make changes to the basic software of the site.

Things You Must Do When Changing WordPress Themes

When you change themes, sometimes the new theme is not able to display the widgets well. This is not such a big problem in the case of standard widgets, such as Archives and Pages. But, you might have painstakingly created several customized scripts and hand written codes having hand-entered parameters. How can you prevent such a disaster from happening while changing your WordPress theme? You need to take care of some aspects while changing the theme to avoid this problem.

1. Saving Sidebar Codes

Sometimes, the sidebar gets overwritten. Every so often, people make changes to the sidebars on WordPress by adding some text, links, and widgets. In cases using WordPress themes that are widget enabled, there is no problem regarding sidebars getting overwritten. However, in cases where you have made some manual changes, you may have to do them again. It is suggested you save the codes from the sidebar. You can do this by copying and pasting it safely somewhere. When switching the theme, you can edit sidebar files and then reapply the changes.

2. Stat Tracking Code

Many users make use of Google Analytics, common stat tracking tools which function with the help of code snippets in the footer or in the header. Annoyingly, when you change WordPress themes, both the header and the footer will get overwritten. Hence, you need to reapply the code snippets. If you forget to do this, the tracking of the site may not be done accurately and you will not be able to collect any data on visitors to your site. Check out whether the tracking tools are functional after switching themes.

3. Checking Plugins for Deleting

When changing themes, it is likely that you may not need all the plugins that you used for the previous theme. Some of the plugins might also not be suitable for the new theme and others might just be redundant. For instance, you might have used the optimal title plugin, which offers functionality of putting the title of the post in front of the name of the blog in the page title. This plugin is effective for increased SEO. But, suppose you change to a new theme that already offers this functionality, due to a changed code structure? You no longer need this plugin.

If you are making use of a plugin for making payments through the PayPal gateway, when you change themes, it is possible to completely eliminate this plugin. The new theme might already have PayPal integrated and does not require any plugin for making payments. Clean up all the plugins you don’t need and delete them.

Removing irrelevant plugins can also help in improving the security of your site. Removing these also helps the speed of downloading the pages of the blog.

4. Working of the Plugins

If you have not edited the template files, the plugin should work effectively. However, some plugins require making changes to the template file to work properly. For instance, the Related Entries plugin needs an addition of a code snippet, albeit small, in the WordPress file. In this case, it would be better to verify whether the plugin works. Again, it is also possible that some plugins display strangely in the new theme because of the changed CSS code found in the style sheet. You might have to make changes to the CSS as well.

If the plugins don’t work well in the new theme, you might also need to update the plugin. You can contact the author of the plugin. Alternatively, if you know a bit of CSS or HTML code, you can make changes to the plugin file.

5. Changes in Design and Color of Ads

Many blogs or sites run advertising, such as Google AdSense. They usually blend these ads to suit the color and design of the blog with its previous theme. When you make changes in the theme, you may have to make changes to the colors of the links. This means that the advertisements in their old color and design will not blend well with the new theme. If you are using AdSense Deluxe, it is fairly simple to make changes to the colors in WordPress. In the case of Text-Link-Ads too, you can make the changes with WordPress.

If you have been using a plugin for managing the ads, you need to replace the code of Adsense or other advertising networks manually in the new theme.

6. RSS Feed Subscriptions

Every blog owner knows the importance of RSS Feed Subscriptions. Make sure that it’s working after you switch themes. You could do this by yourself subscribing to the site. Subscribe using the FeedBurner link using just the URL of the blog alone. What should naturally happen is that the RSS reader should be able to find the feeds that are available. Make sure that it is pulling the right feeds. Though Google has shut down their Google Reader, there are other RSS aggregation services out there.

7. Check out Secondary Features

It is important to check out all the features and see them in action. These include: searching, archives and also pages and categories. Sometimes, you might encounter some issues, due to a wrong format or some other problem. Sometimes, an excerpt from a post also could be missing. You’ll need to change this.

8. Testing on Multiple Browsers

It is not enough to check the blog or site on a single browser. Make the test on multiple browsers. You will need to check it on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari.

9. Care in Making Modifications

Don’t make any sudden and radical changes to the WordPress theme. Take it slowly, one step at a time. Make minor adjustments and check them out before you test and see how they work. Try to optimize the blog when you change the theme. Replace any unwanted php codes and any other static URLs. This could be in the form of a homepage link or an RSS URL. Remove unnecessary JavaScripts and any other unused material.

You may also want to look into security loopholes. There are many WordPress theme designers who make use of codes in case of footer links, so that the users cannot remove the sponsor’s link. Sometimes, it is possible that some malicious script can also be encoded. It could be really disastrous for your site. Hence, ensure that there is no malicious code in your new theme.

In addition, if there are any unnecessary codes present in the header, you can remove these. Check out the listings of your pages. The display of the pages might differ in various themes. If you had excluded any page in the previous theme header, you will have to do the same thing with the new theme.

10. Informing Users

After making changes to the theme, you might need to inform your users and visitors regarding the changes in the design of the blog. Ask them for their feedback. Different users have different types of setups, different browsers, screen sizes, and resolutions. They can give you an idea about any issues for correction at your end. Also, ask the RSS readers to check on the site and give you their feedback.

11. Backup for Widgets

You will have to manually create a backup for widgets. Go to the backend of WordPress and access the Widgets settings. It’s an old school method. Unfortunately, there’s no alternative quick fix. You will have to begin copying and pasting codes from every Widget. Paste them into a text document.

12. Back up Everything

Create a backup for everything on the blog: the posts, the pictures, and the database. Keep the backup on your hard drive. While making a backup, you need to have a complete database backup and a backup of all the folders on the site which are under the WordPress installation directory. You will also need to take a screen shot of plugins that are active and paste the codes of widgets in a text file. Paste header and footer scripts as well.

Have a backup for the Custom CSS, if you need to apply them to the new theme. These could be in the form of social bookmark styles and archives. You must make note of all critical wp-options. This will protect you against anything that might go wrong with the new theme. Note the values of fields, namely: the template, current theme, and the stylesheet. If the new theme fails to render the blog accurately, you can fall back on your old theme by restoring the above noted options.

13. Check out the Links

It is crucial to note whether the links are working—especially, the About Me links and Contact links. These are very important for your blog. They are the major sources of contacting the author of the blog. There is a default About page in most themes. Ensure that you have linked to the right pages.

14. Removing Unwanted Links/Widgets

If you have any unwanted links in the sidebar, remove them. If you have any unnecessary widgets as well, you can remove them from the side bar. It is also important to get rid of any footer links that are encrypted. You don’t need to be an expert programmer to do this.

15. Researching a New Theme

When selecting a new theme, select one that is appropriate. The new theme might not match the blog niche. Selecting a new theme can be quite tough at times. Bloggers are usually so enraptured with the features on the current theme that they want everything present in it and a lot more. Check out the XHTML compliance and whether it is validated. Run the demo of the theme URL in some validation service, such as W3C Markup Validation Service. If there are several validation errors, it would be better not to choose that theme.

Make a size check as well. Use the Save option in the browser and check out the size of the file. This should include the sub directories as well. It is suggested that you don’t pick a theme that is more than 150KB size in itself, without adding images, thumbnails, and ads. You may also want to look into the performance of the new theme before you install it.

One easy way of checking this out and seeing whether it loads quickly is to use some performance tools. You can get a rough idea for checking the site performance with the new theme. You will also have to verify other basic requirements, such as widget support and some after sales support.

Conclusion

WordPress is universally acknowledged as one of the best Content Management Systems (CMS). It is very simple to use. Even people with little technical background can use it. WordPress allows you to do amazing things with your site even if you have little knowledge of CSS or HTML. It is a popular platform for web developers and for bloggers as you can set up the site or blog in minutes by choosing and installing WordPress themes along with Plugins.

You don’t need a Webmaster for modification of the style or design of the blog. Yet, many developers ignore some basic steps while making changes to the design and style of the site with a new theme.

Sometimes, you might design the blog or site and might not be too happy with the results. You may get tired of the design and would like to change the WordPress theme. When you change the theme of the blog, you need to keep in mind that the changes you make should not in any way interfere with the functionalities of the blog.

You need to do some backup and other modifications when changing themes. Make sure that everything is functioning well. Apart from these tips, you may also need to become familiar with the new settings and the options provided, so that you don’t miss out on any important elements and features. Try keeping a change log to document the customization of the site. Develop the habit of taking screenshots of any changes you make to the site. This will make upgrading easier.

Take screenshots of the side bar and other customized settings in the blog before making theme changes. Other things to take care of while making modifications to your WordPress themes are Validation before you select a new theme.

It would also be a good idea to select a theme that is Widget Ready. You can select themes that are Widget ready by activating the theme and seeing whether there is a Widgets subpanel beside the Themes subpanel.

By following these steps, you can be assured of a smooth transition to the new theme for both yourself and your site visitors.

How often do you change your WordPress theme? What are some of the best practices that we should take note of before, during and after the process OF switching theme?