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Tutorial: How To Update Your WordPress Theme

If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. This comprehensive article explains what themes are and how using themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for website owners.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to easily update a WordPress theme with just a few clicks inside the admin area.Upgrading Your WordPress Theme - Best Practices Checklist

Updating Themes - Best Practices Checklist

We recommend going through the checklist below before going through the upgrade process.

1. Back Up Everything

Backing up your website before making any changes to your site is vital. This way, if things don't go as planned, you can always restore your site to its previous settings.

If you don't want to perform manual backups, there are a number of plugins you can use. I tend to use Duplicator for my own purpose.

2. Check The Changelog

Changes made to the WordPress software can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you are using, there may be a changelog file included with an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new theme version.

If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it's best to update.

3. Test The Theme

If you can, it's a good idea to check the theme before installing it on your site.


Typically, web service providers will set up a test site where they can test the latest version of the theme, track any bugs and check if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before applying it to a live site.

If you're managing your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain using the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) and test new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your main site.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it's a good idea to search online to see if anyone has reported any issues with the new theme version.

You can enter the theme name and version into Google, and search the theme developer's support forum (many developers provide forums for premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Is Your Theme Customized? Use A Child Theme

If you have made extensive changes to your existing WordPress theme files, upgrading your theme could result in your custom modifications being overwritten. To prevent losing your theme modifications, therefore, we recommend you learn how to create "child themes".

A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme, and allows you to modify, or add to, the functionality of the parent theme. When you update the "parent theme", all customizations get preserved through the "child theme."

If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with using child themes, especially if you plan on using a theme that gets regularly updated. You can learn more about child themes by searching online, or just visit the official WordPress child theme page here: WordPress Codex: Child Themes

Useful Tip

As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is not complicated at all ... a few simple clicks and you're done! What can feel slightly bothersome is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.

Some people don't upgrade their themes regularly, while many upgrade without going through some or all of the steps listed in the section above. As mentioned earlier, the above are "best practice" methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is solely your responsibility to protect your digital properties.

Updating Themes In WordPress - Tutorial

Upgrading your WordPress themes from the WP dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area ...

Upgrading Themes In WordPress

Depending on what theme(s) you have installed on your website, you may receive an occasional alert in your dashboard that your theme(s) need updating ...

WordPress Theme Management: Updating WP Theme In Your Dashboard

Updating a WordPress theme in your dashboard is a very simple process. You can update your WordPress theme from the "Themes" feature, or the "Updates" area.

Updating Your Site's Theme Using The "Themes" Page

To see which themes need to be updated, go to your Themes page.

Choose Appearance > Themes from your WordPress dashboard menu ...

Updating Your WordPress Theme

This brings you to the "Themes" page ...

Theme Management: Upgrading Your WordPress Theme

WordPress Themes with new versions display an "Update Available" message over the theme's thumbnail image ...

WordPress Theme Management: How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

Locate the theme that needs to be updated and click on the "Update Available" alert.

When the theme details window opens up, click on update now ...

Upgrading Your Theme

WordPress will automatically update the theme in seconds ...

How To Update WP Theme In Your Dashboard

Your theme is now up-to-date ...

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your WordPress Theme

Repeat the above to update all of your out-of-date themes, or use the method below to bulk upgrade multiple themes at once.

Updating Your Site's Theme Via The "Updates" Section

Update your WordPress themes via the "Updates" area as shown below:

To view all themes in your site that require updating, click on Dashboard > Updates ...

How To Upgrade Your Theme

This brings up the Updates screen. Scroll down to the Themes section ...

Theme Management: How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

Check the box next to all the themes you want to update and click on Update Themes to complete the upgrade process ...

How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

WordPress will automatically update all of the selected themes ...

Upgrading A Theme In WordPress

Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your themes in your dashboard.

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