One of the best aspects of WordPress is its flexibility and customization options. Similarly, WordPress themes are another great features of WordPress that have the potential to completely change your website’s identity. Especially, If you are not satisfied with the preloaded features or the looks. WordPress gives you an option to customize it by adding snippets and style its CSS as per your requirements.
But the main concern associated with WordPress is to update the WordPress theme. There is always a risk of data loss or the website being damaged during Updating a WordPress theme. If the plugins which you have been using on your website are not compatible with the new version of the theme. You need to figure out the snippets or codes which will be working or which not. you need to be very cautious and take necessary precautionary measures to successfully update the WordPress theme.
Hence, in this article, we will try to bring you all steps, risks and precautionary measures on How to update the WordPress theme. Let us begin!
What do you mean by a WordPress theme?
As you have seen at the starting of this article, the WordPress theme is somewhat the skin of your website where you do all the make-ups to enhance its looks and appearance. Similarly, WordPress themes change the design and structure of your website and make it visually attractive to users when they visit your website.
There are plenty of WordPress themes are out there, from where you can download as per your website theme either it is for eCommerce sore or a fashion blog. Install it and you are easy to go!
It is highly important to update the WordPress theme from time to time. Not only themes, Plugins and even WordPress itself bring regular updates to their users. There will be a threat to your website if you ignore the updates and run your website as it is. Let us figure out, why you need to update the WordPress theme regularly.
Security is what should be on your priority list. After all, you do not want your website to be hacked or compromised. And all your hard work on your website will vanish. hence, it is important to ensure an updated WordPress theme with the latest codes and definitions.
Not just WordPress themes, but plugins and WordPress core also get regular updates that bring the latest security patches that define all the possible security risks and help to reduce them. WordPress is an Open source platform, the Forums and Community members actively monitoring all the bugs, and possible threats to WordPress core, plugins and themes. If found any issues or threats, they are openly discussed on Forums and members try to fix them ASAP.
But WordPress has its own problems, being an open-source platform, it increases the risk of Hackers’ attacks. Because the attackers can easily figure out loopholes with the latest version of the theme through community discussions. And it will become an opportunity for them to target websites that are running the same version.
So, it is better to be keep updated with the latest version as soon as you receive an Update option. To avoid being a victim of hackers attack.
For your safety, you can even install some WordPress security plugins, that will remind you to update, whenever there is the latest version of WordPress, Themes or Plugins are available. If you are really concern about your website security, I guess you will not forget to update your website regularly.
To ensure everything runs smoothly and flawlessly, your themes and plugins must sync with the latest version of WordPress. This comes to be an immediate effect as soon as the latest version of WordPress is released. For providing a better user experience, the popular theme authors or developers always bring you the latest updates, whenever the latest version of WordPress has been released.
However, it is less likely you find any theme compatiblity issues over time. But It is found that plugins show more compatibility issues rather than themes. It is because plugin developers do not show much more attention to bring updates than the theme developers.
But, one thing you must always keep in mind, that before installing any WordPress theme, Make sure you have the latest version of WordPress is installed.
Updating WordPress themes not just brings the latest security patches and resolves compatibility issues, but it also sometimes brings some extra unique features. From the reviews and on public demands, Developers bring the latest theme updates with some unique features.
These unique features help to enhance and bring out most of the WordPress hidden features. It helps developers to attract more users and increasing their user base.
If your website theme bring you some extra additonal features, that can enhance your website experience, then what is wrong in installing that.
Necessary measures to take before you update WordPress theme
Now, you have known the advantages of updating the WordPress theme, and why you should do that. But before proceeding to update the WordPress theme, you must take some necessary measures. Just follow the below checklist and mark them once you have gone through each process first.
Monitor regular updates
You must aware the fact that it is not necessary that, WordPress will notify the users via an email about the theme updates. However, if you are using WordPress themes you need to check any updates regularly. But with third-party WordPress themes or themes that have been manually uploaded, need to be checked regularly on their official website. Or in most cases, the third-party theme developers always send emails regarding any theme update release.
In this case, do not ignore any email alerts and do keep regular checking your email inbox.
Always check change logs
Developers usually mention or share all the data related to the changes they have been made and what bug they have fixed in their latest update. Since it will give you a brief idea of what the new update is all about and the changes they have made, it is important to be aware of what will you going to experience next.
Take Backup of your Website
It is highly recommended to avoid any data loss or damage to your website, You must take complete website backup. It is because sometimes while updating a theme an error can occur or due to some compatibility issues your website may get damaged.
Hence, it becomes a vital step to avoid any issue. You can also check out our review on WordPress Backup plugins, which can help you to choose the best suitable WordPress backup plugin for your website.
Check about User Reviews before installing a new update
Whenever a new theme update has been released, you should never run a hurry to update it unless or until it is a security patch update. You must check all the supporting forums and reviews on its official website, to get a better idea, how the new update is working, Do they find any issues after updating their theme? or Are there any compatibility issues with plugins?.
However, the developer tries their best to bring a stable update to their users. But sometimes, they can also do the mistake. So, it is better to wait for some time and check is there any issue? if yes, then let developers rectify them first.
Test on staging website first
Apart from taking necessary measures to update the WordPress theme, can help you to prevent website damage to some extent. It is also a better idea to test the new version of the theme on a staging platform before installing it on the live website. Staging platforms are the best option to test and perform all the necessary updates and check if it shows any issues or not.
WPOven customers can create a staging environment for their live website for development and testing purposes. They can sync all changes done on the staging environment with a live website with just one click. This helps the customer to make changes to the live website without affecting their live users and challenges like website downtime.
How to update WordPress theme?
WordPress has its own Updates tool, that keeps on checking the latest updates for its elements such as themes, plugins and even its WordPress Core files. Whenever the tool detects any latest version, it will display on the Updates menu button as shown in the picture below:
However, the Updates menu function on the dashboard will display all the recent updates available, either it is for WordPress latest version, plugin or theme updates. You can also see an update notification in the Appearance section.
These Updates play a vital role in your overall website performance and security. But not to forget, these updates also bring a lot of unique features and bug fixes along with them.
Just, simply click on the update button and viola! you are done. WordPress will automatically download the necessary files from its end, unzip them and update the old files with the new ones by replacing them completely.
However, updating a WordPress will erase or remove your old version completely, You will also lose all your custom codes or snippets, that you have added earlier to the theme file.
Let us figure out, what are the possible risks of theme updation and data loss.
Risks of data loss during WordPress theme update
Since WordPress is an open platform, it provides a lot of flexibility and customization options. Similarly, you can even customize the themes according to your requirements in different ways. Some of these customizations can be unaffected because the changes are saved in the WordPress database itself and some of them get totally erased because they are saved in WordPress theme files during a WordPress Theme Update.
Let us check out what are the WordPress theme customizations that will not be affected by a Theme update.
- When you customize your WordPress theme using the theme Customizer option. To customize a theme, you need to go to the Appearance > Customize section as shown below:
With the help of this powerful theme customizer tool, you can easily make some changes such as Background image, Widgets, colours, footer, header and many more, to your WordPress theme and all the changes will be saved in the WordPress database itself.
Even, whatever plugins you will install to enhance the features and functionality of some WordPress themes. The Theme updates will not affect them or erase the changes that plugins have made. Even, if you are customizing or redesigning your Website using third-party builders such as Elementor or block editor. Then the changes that you have made will not be impacted.
What custom data will be erased while updating WordPress Theme?
As you have seen, the changes made by either WordPress editor or WordPress plugins will not be affected by any WordPress theme, as the changes are saved in the WordPress directory. Whereas, if you made some changes or add code snippets to your theme’s function PHP file. All the data will be overwritten or the previous data will be completely wiped off. Even the custom codes or snippets you have added.
In addition, even you have done some styling of your website by making any changes in the CSS theme stylesheet file, the data will be completely lost or erased.
Since you have seen what are the risks and possible data that can be erased during updating a WordPress theme. Keep reading this article to know how to overcome this data loss risk in the later section of this article.
How to update WordPress theme Manually?
Updating the WordPress theme from the WordPress dashboard is a straightforward process. Especially if you have installed a WordPress theme from the WordPress directory itself. It is fast and easy to carry the whole theme updating task in a single click. But what if you have applied a third-party WordPress theme for your website.
This can only be done via manual process. Let us check out how to begin this process in simple steps:
1. Visit the Theme website and download the latest version file
For now, WordPress has not provided yet an option to automatically update third-party or premium themes, apps, or plugins. But you can update these premium tools by uploading the downloaded new version of the premium theme file.
First of all, you need to check your account on the theme website for any update notifications and download the latest version of the theme if available. In most cases, authors or theme developers usually notify their users via emails and ask them to update the WordPress theme.
2. Upload the latest version of theme Zip file
After downloading the updated theme. Zip file, Log in to your WordPress account, navigate through the appearance section present on the left side of the sidebar. Hover over, Appearance menu to reveal options. Click on themes to proceeds further.
Once you click on the Theme option, the page will loaded to theme page, where you will find a “Add New” button as shown in the picture below:
A theme page will appear showing Upload Theme button option at the top of the page, as shown in the picture below:
Click on Upload theme button to upload the updated theme . Zip file and click on Install Now button.
Once you have clicked on the Install Now button, the Theme installation process will start and it will take few minutes to complete the process. Once done, click on the Activate button to live the theme on your website.
After uploading, the old version and the new version will both present in the themes frame. Just check the version number to make out the latest theme version and activate it.
Please keep one thing in mind if you start uploading the theme .zip file with the same name as the previous name, it will show an error and the update of the WordPress theme will fail.
The above error message shows, the two files with the same name cannot be exist in the same directory.
Using FTP to update WordPress theme
This FTP access method is best suitable to upload and update complex and large theme files, that are either too big or a little difficult to upload manually. let us figure out what are the steps you need to follow.
1. Download and Install FTP client on your PC
First of all, you need an FTP client to be downloaded and installed on your PC. This software will let you access all the files present on your Web server.
We recommend Filezilla, which is the best FTP client with user friendly interface, will be best for you.
2. Connect your host with the FTP client
However, to connect your host with the FTP client to access the files on the webserver. You need to first set up an FTP user account with your Host. The setup process can vary from different web host service providers. Usually, they provide you with a username and password to create your FTP client account.
3. Download your Updated theme Zip File and extract it.
When you have selected the right theme for your website, complete the payment, and download the “.zip” file of that particular theme from the same theme directory. Please note that some theme providers put some extra files in the theme folder that is not required. So, you must make sure to only download the. Zip file.
After downloading the .zip file extract it by right clicking and selecting the Extract option.
4. Upload theme file to WordPress folder
- Navigate through the web server files of your website and search the wp-content folder to open it.
- When you open the wp-content folder, you will all your WordPress install files are present. Select the Themes folder to open it.
- Once you open the theme folder, you can see all your installed WordPress themes present. You have to upload your theme file to the exact location where you have other theme files listed. Now, let’s locate the template files you want to upload.
Note: Please Note while uploading the new updated theme file to the Theme folder, if the old and new theme files have the same name. An error message will appear, you can either choose the strong overwrite option or find the old theme folder and rename it.
4. Drag the theme folder and drop it into the theme directory of your web server.
5. After completing the uploading process, you can check whether the process is successful or not, by accessing the Appearance menu of your dashboard.
Now you are done, You have successfully updated your WordPress theme via FTP. Visit the website to check if everything is working well.
In the above three common methods, we have simply followed the straightforward method to update the WordPress theme without making any theme customization and losing data. But what if you have already made some changes or alterations in your WordPress theme file and you do not want to lose them?
It seems pretty tough, right! But it is not. It depends all on your memory, on what changes you have made in the theme file or you have added some custom codes.
One of the best solution to avoid any data loss during WordPress theme update is to create a child theme. It is the best way to add your custom codes or snippets and avoid them being erased. But creating a WordPress child theme is not a straightforward process. Beginners will find it tough, but there are some plugins available, that will make this easy for you.
Code Snippets plugins will help you out to add or change custom codes without creating a child theme. It will let you easily and cautiously adding your custom codes without affecting your website. Also, the changes or custom codes will not disappear after you update the WordPress theme.
If you are planning to add some CSS code, it is better to open the Additional CSS tab in the customization menu of the WordPress dashboard.
Following the above method to update WordPress theme without loosing any data will work effectively work out without creating a child theme.
As you have seen earlier, that updating a WordPress theme, without taking preventive measures can lead to vanishing your custom codes, that you have added. But, if you have not yet customized your theme, but want to make some changes or customize it for your convenience in near future. IT is highly recommended to add your custom codes or snippets to a child theme instead of the parent theme file.
But the things are not that easy as it sounds, directly editing a theme from the vendors or any alterations that have been made to the theme can be wiped off during updating the WordPress theme. The latest version of the theme will strongly overwrite the existing one and all your changes will be lost.
Hence, you are strictly warned not to make any changes or edit any theme from the vendors directly. Only the most suitable way to edit or make changes in your theme is to create a child theme file or use WordPress Code snippets plugins.
To know how child theme works and how you can implement them to carry away update WordPress theme safely. Read our next section below:
If you are not satisfied with the WordPress code snippet plugin, you can always go for a child theme. After all, it is one of the most effective methods used by professionals. But first, you must know what is a Child theme?
You can understand the child theme simply and most comprehensively as it works as a companion with your parent theme. It holds all the extra codes, features or code snippets that you want to make some necessary changes in your website design and its features, Without overwriting the existing codes in the parent theme.
Actually, you are providing a piece of additional information to WordPress, to update only the specific files that match with the same name of the parent theme files.
Let’s find out how it works?
If you are interested to know how things work inside a theme file and how WordPress updates without erasing any data in the parent theme, let us understand with a simple example.
For any theme , you will find three most common files present for showing archive pages, according to their Highest order they are:
- Category.php file
- Archive.php file
- Index.php file
WordPress follows the above hierarchy to display an archive and selects files whichever comes first. For example, if WordPress is showing a category archive, WordPress will choose the category.php file. But, if you are displaying a tag archive, WordPress will choose archive.php, it is because tag.php does not exist in the theme file.
However, when you create a Child theme and started to update the WordPress theme, WordPress will select the file with the higher order in the hierarchy list of the child theme, instead of the files in the parent theme.
To better understand this, let us suppose you created a child theme with an archive.php file, if your parent theme has a category.php file, WordPress will use the category.php file first from the parent theme itself. And if you are intended to use tags, WordPress will use archive.php file from the child theme instead of using from the parent. It is so because archive.php is in our 2nd position on the hierarchy list.
Hence, it is clearly shown that, if you want to make any customizations by adding code snippets or do some editing, you need to create a child theme first. Copy all the files from the parent theme to the child theme and make changes to it.
All the customizations or editing work will be done in child theme files without making any changes in the parent theme. Now, when you try to update the WordPress theme, the custom codes or any additional work you have done will not get wiped off. And instead of using the updated archive.php file of the parent theme, WordPress will use the archive.php file of the child theme.
Now after reading the above-detailed article on How to Update WordPress theme, you must have known all the facts why it is so important to update your WordPress theme from time to time. Most importantly how to update WordPress theme with different methods.
A WordPress theme updated with the latest version has its own benefits, it makes your website bug-free, secure, adding more features and most importantly it will be compatible with the latest version of WordPress available. However, simply updating can be hazardous to your website. So, it is better to take some preventive essential measures such as taking a complete backup of your website before proceeding to update. Always try to run the test on starting platform first and if found everything ok, then push the update to your live website.
Also, another most important thing you must note that, updating the WordPress theme, may result in losing your all customizations or edits in theme files. So, it is better either you use code snippet wordPress tool or create a Child theme instead and make your edits in them. In this way, the changes or edits you have made in themes won’t be wiped off completely and the data will be retained.
If you liked this article on How to update WordPress theme or you would like to add some valuable points that we have missed, please do write them down in the comments section below. We will love to hear from you.
Frequently asked Questions
Do I need to update my WordPress theme?
In simple words, Yes!! you are highly recommended to update the WordPress theme regularly. It makes your website bug-free, secure, adding more features and most importantly it will be compatible with the latest version of WordPress available. However, simply updating can be hazardous to your website. So, it is better to take some preventive essential measures such as taking a complete backup of your website before proceeding to update. Always try to run the test on starting platform first and if found everything ok, then push the update to your live website.
What happens when I update themes in WordPress?
A WordPress update is not just limited to fixing bugs, enhance security, enhance performance or ensure WordPress compatibility. But the authors or Theme developers also try to bring new features to their users with these updates.
How do I install a theme update?
There are three ways from which you can update WordPress theme.
1. Go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes
2. Uploading updated third-party theme file to WordPress. Dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Add new
3. Using FTP client.