To-Do List Before Updating a WordPress Theme

There’s a few days to a web developer that are like Christmas. Usually it’s when they get a new computer, new software, or sometimes, when a new theme gets released.

But, new themes are not without danger. Occasionally there’s a conflict with installed plugins, custom programming, or just CSS changes and often the only way to determine if there will be an issue is to install the update on a live site. FYI, this is NOT the recommended situation, but sometimes it’s all you have in a small business.

So it’s important to do some pre and post-work on themes to make sure it’s OK to move to a new, or update your current theme. Below is a checklist you or your website developer should be following before throwing the switch.

  1. Document Current Known Custom Programming – Make sure you have a list (documented or in your head) of everything that’s been added as custom programming to a site. Many times simply doing a small .x update to a theme can overwrite files that have been edited to your needs or likes.
  2. Check the Footer! – Adsense codes, Google Analytics, custom footer text and more often get added to the theme’s footer file. This is one of the files often moved to a child theme for just this reason, so make sure you know what’s there.
  3. Research Known Theme Testing Stats – Most of the time the theme will have been tested against several versions of WordPress prior to launch but make sure your version gets a green light prior to installation.
  4. Back Everything Up – Back up your files, the database and everything the site has so it’s relatively easy to go back if this update goes sideways. You’ll be happy you did!
  5. Notify Clients – Prior to updating, notify your clients and tell them when and WHY you are updating, especially if it will change how the user interacts with the admin page, has to edit current page data, or even log in.
  6. Delete Unused Plugins and Themes – Not only will this make the site easier to edit when you do have to find a solution to a problem, extra code causes longer load times and can even be a security risk if the plugins are not being updated.

Now, you’re ready to install the update. Run it, wait for it to finish, and then…

  1. Log Back In – Make sure the admin comes back up. If you use a plugin to “move” the login page, make sure it still works and you can still log in there.
  2. Test Several Browsers –  Most of us have our default browsers, but make sure it works across as many as possible to identify potential issues.
  3. Test Several Devices – If you have them, it’s great to test across several computers, phones, tablets and other devices to make sure your site looks as it should.
  4. Request User Feedback – Publish a blog post, Facebook message or Tweet stating that you have updated the site and to notify you of any issues that pop up. Then address them as quickly as possible, as you most likely will hear from far less people than actually have seen or experienced the errors.

Not an all-inclusive list on what you can and should do in the event of a theme or WordPress upgrade, but it’s a start. I’m looking forward to a major Divi upgrade sometime today, so I’ll be, or have already, following this list to ensure a smooth update for my sites, and for my clients.

Have a suggestion I left our or a comment on this list? Leave it in the comments below, or drop me a not @BeBizzy on Twitter.