How To Change Your WordPress Theme

Dec 12, 2020

WordPress makes it extremely easy to change your website’s theme, literally with one click. 

However, there are a few things to consider before changing your theme, especially if you’re changing a live website’s theme. 

This is important as you don’t want to lose site traffic or any data.

In this article, we’ll guide you through all the necessary steps to change your WordPress theme.

Pre-Change Checklist

Here is our recommended pre-template change checklist. 

Make A Backup

Always create a backup before making any significant changes on your website. We recommend backing up posts, images, plugins, and the database. Please check the following article for more information on how to backup your WordPress installation.

Please make sure to download the backup to your computer, so you can always restore your website in case anything goes wrong.

Tracking Code

If you’ve added various tracking codes (AdSense, Analytics, etc.) directly to theme files or use themes that allow you to add these via options – make sure to back this up to a safe location. You’ll need to insert these again once you change the theme. 

Code Snippets

If you’re an intermediate WordPress user, you’ve likely customized your website by adding custom code to the theme’s functions.php file. Make sure to note this down as you’ll need to re-add it again to the new theme. If you had a web developer do this for you, make sure to backup all the old theme files just in case of anything.

Maintenance Mode

Make sure to put your website in maintenance mode each time you’re making any significant changes, as you don’t want your visitors to see potential errors and warnings.


Many websites add different content to the sidebar (contact form, social links, newsletter forms, advertisements, etc.), so if you have any of these – make sure to note them down to add them to your new theme.

Additionally, if you have any custom code in your widgets – back this up as well.

Installing The Theme

Now that you’ve gone through all the precautionary steps, it’s time to install the theme itself. WordPress Theme Directory has thousands of free themes available for download if you haven’t found the new theme yet.

There are three ways to install your theme:

  • Via the WordPress search function
  • By uploading the theme ZIP file in the WordPress Dashboard
  • Via FTP

WordPress Search Function

To install the theme directly in WordPress, head to Appearance > Theme, and then click on the Add New button on top:

Pick the new theme from the list, or use the search bar to search for your theme at the top-right corner. Once ready, click the Install button on the theme thumbnail to install it.

Theme ZIP File

If you have the theme ZIP file ready, you can upload it via your WordPress Dashboard. Head to Appearance > Theme again, and click the Add New button on top.

Next, click the Upload Theme button, click the Browse button, find the theme file, and click the Install Now button to finish the upload and the installation.

FTP Upload

To install your theme via FTP, upload your theme ZIP file using the FileManager feature to your website’s wp-content/themes directory. Then, use the Extract button to extract the theme files:

Now head back to your WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Themes, and you’ll find your new theme there.

Test And Preview

Before activating the new theme, we recommend testing it first using a couple of available options:

Live Preview

WordPress allows you to view the new theme without activating it via the Live Preview feature in the Appearance > Themes option. Hover your mouse over the desired theme, and click the Live Preview button:

WordPress will then open the Theme Customizer so you can see and test the new theme to ensure everything works correctly.

Theme Switcha

Alternatively, you can use the third-party Theme Switch plugin to preview your theme without activating it. Head to Plugins > Add New option, use the search field in the top-right corner, and click the Install Now button to install the plugin:

Next, click the Activate button to activate the plugin:

Head to Settings > Theme Switcha in the left sidebar, and select the Enable Theme Switching option:

Click the Save Changes button to save the changes.

Now you’ll see a list of your installed themes at the bottom of the page, so simply click the theme to preview it:

Activate The Theme

Now that you’ve tested everything and ensured it works properly – it’s time to activate your new theme. Head to Appearance > Themes in your WordPress Dashboard, hover your mouse over your new theme, and click the Activate button:

That’s it!

Post Installation Process

Now that everything is installed and up and running, we recommend performing a few steps to ensure the process went smoothly:

  1. Make sure that everything on your website loads correctly (plugins, widgets, contact and subscription forms, etc.)
  2. Insert tracking code and custom code snippets from the old theme
  3. Ensure that your website is cross-browser compatible and it looks identical in all the popular browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge)
  4. Turn off the maintenance mode
  5. Monitor your statistics and bounce rates to ensure that your SEO and traffic doesn’t decline after the change