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How to Change WordPress Themes on a Live Website

Changing a WordPress Theme on a Live Website

Need help changing WordPress themes on a site that is live on the internet? Changing WordPress themes on a live website is not all that hard. Follow Rackwoo's Knowledge tutorial to swap WordPress themes on a live website securely. If you are on our Managed SSD WordPress Hosting packages, you can always submit a support ticket within your client dashboard to have the Rackwoo Support Team help you change WordPress themes.

Important! Backup your website files and export, then download a .sql database backup file of your database. If you have these two things, no matter what happens, you will get your website back up and running if things do not go correctly.


To Use Maintenence Mode or Not

You could put your website in Maintainance mode, so it tells people things are going on. This is not that massive issue unless the website you are working on sees a high-traffic site or if the site is only going offline for a few minutes.



Taking Notes Before Changing WordPress Themes

Take notes about your current theme and its layout. It's also a good idea to take screenshots of your home page layout, blog page layout, and any other custom pages you have for reference with colors, placement, etc. It will help when tweaking the new theme and find yourself rebuilding from memory. 

Also, be sure to review any custom sidebars, either module or HTML custom coded. Sometimes new themes do not allow for these to be brought over, or if they do, it involves manually bring them over to the new theme. Again, screenshots work great for reference and reassembling if needed.

Screenshot Tips: If you have a Microsoft Windows PC, taking screenshots of your website is easy. Either type in the search bar down in the lower-left corner of your screen "Snip," and you will see the Snipping Tool, or in the lower right-hand corner the right of the time and date, click the square notifications icon, and at the bottom is a new Screen Snip app.


Don't Forget To Transfer Custom Coding to Your New WordPress Them

Be sure to bring over any code snippets for Google Analytics or Google Adsense as some themes store this info within their settings. The Analytics or Adsense code was manually installed (copy and pasted) within the section of the header.php.


It doesn't Hurt to Test Drive a New WordPress Theme

Install the new theme and take it for a quick test drive. If you install the new theme, you can activate it to see how it has changed your website and switch back to the old theme without any issue or lost data or layout. If you temporarily activate a new theme, and if the site does not look right, reactivate the old theme to go back to the way things were.


When Is the Point of No Return When Switching WordPress Themes on a Live Website?

The point of no return is when a custom layout or custom demo, along with its demo content and media, are imported. This is done to make the new theme look like how it was on the developer's demo website. Although rare, importing demo data and media can overnight previously built custom pages, blog posts, and images. This is why a complete site files backup and database .sql backup are essential. 

Importing a WordPress Theme's Demo Content Will Most Likely Overwrite Any Existing

  • Menu links arrangements
  • Widget areas layouts
  • Sidebar layouts
  • Custom page layouts such as the homepage
  • Image galleries

During the import, the new theme's modules, menus, and layouts are brought over. They overwrite any existing modules, custom layouts, designs, graphics, etc.. to make the theme look on the developers' theme demo website. Theme demo import injects new content and media across a website. Not the best on-page SEO tactic, but certainly can help webmaster get their site online, along with giving them a clear guideline to follow when switching everything over.

In most cases, besides sidebar, menu, and widget layouts, importing a demo theme will only import content and media over, not overwriting it, placing it right next to your existing content. Either way, if something goes wrong, backing up will help prevent any lost written text content or images.


Final Tips for Changing a WordPress Theme on  A Live Website

  • Do not jump to delete your old theme just yet, but be sure to deactivate any plugins required by your old theme as soon as you activate the new one. 
  • You can set your homepage to recent blog posts (Under settings, then reading, click "Your Last Post") while you tweak your static homepage.


WPCrafter from YouTube shares a great video to help guide you and keep the theme swap smooth.

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