How to Change A WordPress Theme

How to Change A WordPress Theme

Your WordPress site is up and running, then one day you take a look… and wonder how to change it.  The fastest way is to change your theme… so how do you do that?

Ask yourself this first…

Why do I want to change this WordPress theme?

  • Do I want a slide show?
  • Maybe a different header graphic?
  • Am I wanting an opt-in form?
  • Does this theme load too slowly?
  • Maybe I want to display ads?
  • Etc…
This list can go on for a while.  If any of these seem like good reasons to change your theme… think again.  All of the above can be taken care of with simple plugins or even widgets in a sidebar.  Why make drastic design changes if a plugin will do the trick?

What if I need to make more drastic changes to my theme?

  • Maybe a move from 2 columns to 3 columns?
  • A completely different layout (ex. from columns to Magazine)?
  • Adjust how and where images are displayed?
  • Etc…

The examples on this list can go on for a while as well.  They are slightly harder than a simple plugin will offer (in most cases) and sometimes giving up on your current theme is the right move.  Before you decide to change your theme, check and see if it’s a simple fix.

Adding a column may not be in your current coding expertise, but it may surprise you to find out there are people for who this is the simplest of tasks.  In most cases, this won’t cost as much as you think.  Dig around and show a willingness to learn and you may find someone to help you make the changes for free.

How long have I been using this theme?

If you have an established site and have been using the same theme for a while.  Consider this…

You may need a change, but do your visitors?  (No… they don’t.)

People tend to shy away from change.  If your visitors are familiar with your site, it because they “know where the bathrooms are.”  It’s like home.  They don’t need someone tearing down the place and rebuilding unless there is an incredible reason to do so.


I’m going to change my WordPress theme… how do I do it?

If none of the above applies, and you are going to change your theme, here’s how:

  1. Backup Your Site.  This mean databases, plugins, EVERYTHING.  It would really be horrible if something went wrong mid-install and you had to rebuild your site from scratch.  Will it happen?  Probably not.  Could it happen?  Absolutely.  Backing up takes a few minutes… it’s cheap insurance.
  2. Install Your New Theme.  We prefer to install through WordPress (Appearance->Themes) but you could just as easily use FTP.
  3. Activate Your Theme.  This step does 2 things.  It deactivates your initial theme and replaces it with your new one.
  4. Test & Tweak.  Take a look at your new creation.  Does everything look right?  Make sure things came out as planned and adjust what needs it (some themes will require basic customization).  If something looks horribly wrong and you need to go back, try Activating your previous theme (it should put everything back the way it was).
  5. Delete Your Old Theme.  Everything looks good?  You like the new look?  You’re committed?  Done!   Now it’s time to delete your old theme.  This is a security precaution.  For every inactive theme and plugin you have, you open yourself to hackers.  If you aren’t using them, delete them.
That should do it!  If your site is new, it’s a simple process to switch themes.  But if you’ve got any sort of history… make sure you consider all the options (including plugins/customizing the code) before you change a WordPress theme.


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