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With hundreds of options at your fingertips, it might be tempting to change WordPress themes on a whim. However, switching themes takes more than just clicking “activate.” Here are a few important steps to take before overhauling your website.
Take note of what you want to keep
Before deciding to change your WordPress theme, go through your website and take note of any features you want to keep. For example, do you have a sidebar that you’ve spent time crafting? Does your website contain portfolios of your photography? Does your current theme allow you to show excerpts of your blog on the homepage? Each theme comes enabled with different features, so make sure that your new theme also supports the features that are important to you.
Back up your files
One of the greatest benefits of using WordPress.com to build your website is automatic site backups. However, as an added precaution, consider backing up and exporting it yourself. To do this, click on My Site, then Settings, and Export. This will export your posts, pages, comments, categories, and tags. Images, however, may need to be manually transferred; one option is installing WordPress.org to import your downloaded files.
Put your site in maintenance mode
If you have a WordPress.com Business plan, you can use a maintenance mode plugin when you change your website theme. This announces to visitors that your website is undergoing some changes without getting an error message or seeing some wonky design elements as you work out any kinks. Some maintenance mode plugins even allow you to customize the colors and messaging so you can align it with your branding. For example, if you have a dog walking business, you could include an image of someone walking a group of dogs with the words, “We’re out for a walk but we’ll be back soon,” instead of the usual “Coming soon” or “Maintenance mode” wording.
Test the theme
Once you’ve applied a new theme, it’s time to verify that everything is functioning and that your website looks great. Examine your sidebars and footers, menu bar, contact form, images, and formatting to make sure they appear how you want them to. Check that your website is accessible on mobile devices and across the most popular browsers. Take note whether any pages are loading slowly (or not at all) or if any information is missing. This will help ensure that your visitors have good user experiences with your new theme.
Let people know about the update
Finally, let people know that you will be changing the look of your website. You can do this through a blog post, a newsletter, or posting on social media. To help drum up excitement, share screenshots of your website’s new theme.
A new theme might become part of your long-term rebranding strategy; remember that it’s important to maintain your brand voice so you don’t alienate your core audience with a new look and tone.
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