Changing Your WordPress Theme – 39 Point Checklist

Yes here is another checklist but this one is about changing your WordPress theme. Installing a WordPress theme is as easy as pressing a button, however there is a huge amount of work in the details. Many people go ahead and press the button only to find that important customizations are now missing from your website.

You could call me a serial website theme changer because I change my themes when I think the grass is greener on the other side. for example, recently I ditched Thesis for Genesis and the change worked out, but the customizations needed replacing. I would have saved so much time if I had a checklist for changing themes.

Changing Your WordPress Website Theme Checklist

This is a big job and you will be surprised to see how many items are in this list.

Before Changing Your WordPress Theme

1. Do you really need to change your theme? Is it causing problems.
2. What are the benefits for change?
3. Choose the right theme. Is your new theme responsive, modern, fast?
4. Test your new theme on a dummy site along with all your plugins.

changing a wordpress theme

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5. Backup your site. Export your files and test to make sure the files are valid.
6. Copy any customised code you need from your CSS file or custom functions.
7. Copy your optin form code and options.
8. Ask yourself if you have edits on individual templates like the single.php.
9. Copy down or export any special settings for your plugins, just in case.
10. Move widgets out of sidebar so you can place them in when the new theme is up.
11. Have your social media profile links is ready.
12. Have your RSS feed Link ready.
13. Have your logo and favicon stored and ready to install.
14. Put your site in maintenance mode. Sometimes automatic.
15. Disable plugins, especially caching.

Take The Plunge

16. Press the button. Install the new WordPress theme.
17. Adjust columns and sidebars to suit. Most premium WordPress themes require this.
18. Set up your WordPress menus. Assign a top and bottom menu.
19. Customise your header and site description.
20. Reorganise your sidebar.
21. Fill in SEO details for your new theme.

Image Customization

22. Add your logo in.
23. Set up your CDN if you have one.
24. Check images are fitting within posts.
25. Add your favicon.
26. Add in your default commenting avatar.
27. Upload header image if required.

Edit Code

28. Add in your Google analytics tracking code.
29. Add in your customised code.
30. Add your advertsing code.
31. Install your search box.
32. Enable sharing buttons. I am using RTsocial as it is coded for speed.
33. Edit your CSS file for fine tuning.
34. Edit your footer links.


35. Test your site in all browsers and devices.
36. Test your links.
37. Make sure your plug-ins are running and compatible.
38. Check on your sharing buttons.
39. Check loading times and scores on Google developers site.

Once you have changed your WordPress theme you really should go through it with a fine tooth comb checking all pages and some posts for hidden errors.

Here are some items that have caused me problems in the past when changing themes:

  • My Adsense ads did not like the move. Earnings dropped out considerably. You should not make drastic changes when using Adsense.
  • I forgot to add in sharing buttons after having them manually coded in on the previous theme.
  • I did not add the @twittername.
  • I did not import all meta descriptions and they could not be imported so I had to edit every post individually.
  • Images were overlapping onto to the sidebar as my post area was smaller on the new theme.
  • I didn’t know how to customize a certain theme as it was different from others I had worked on. Themes like Elegant Themes are pretty easy to customise, but Genesis and Thesis are harder to learn for a newbie.
  • I forgot to put in an optin box and people were emailing me asking where to signup?

Image credit: Lets Build Websites

Comments: 3

  • Jacobus says:

    Wow Mitz, this is a very extensive checklist and I saw some things on it I had never thought about. I wanted to change a theme on one of my websites but what especially worries me is that the new theme I want to use has functionality that operates differently then the plugins that take care of these things right now. So I think that is another thing to keep an eye on. It might mean you have to change short codes in the post and pages itself and that is too much work for a bigger website actually. But your list really helps. Thanks!

  • Gad says:

    As for sidebars, things get worse when you had custom sidebars on your previous site. For that end we’ve came up with a solution which not only takes care of customization but also allows you to import your settings from your old one to the new one
    Check – power widgets

  • Carl says:

    Great article, excellent instructions and checklist – this will save me a lot of time and frustrations on my next install – have bookmarked your page!

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