Are you thinking of trying out a new design theme for your WordPress site or WooCommerce store? Worried about losing some of the web data?
Don’t worry. It is possible to test a WordPress theme without making any interruptions on your live site.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s ok to be careless when switching to a different theme.
Some WordPress themes might not cause any changes or losses to a website. But in a few instances, a new theme might alter some elements on a WordPress site causing it to malfunction.
So before switching to a new theme, let’s say a hair salon WordPress theme, it is important to keep the following steps in mind. They help prevent unwanted site changes and outline how to change a WordPress theme without going live.
Important Steps Before Changing WordPress Themes
It won’t take long to change your WordPress theme as the steps are quite easy. But it is important to make sure your WordPress site doesn’t lose any data and still runs smoothly.
For those reasons, it is best to take the following precautions:
Decide on the New WordPress Theme
There is a wide variety of WordPress themes available online. Some are simple, while some come with lots of enhancing elements such as author boxes.
This can make choosing a new theme overwhelming and challenging.
To decide which WordPress theme to use, create a small selection of WordPress themes that would work best for your site. Choose from the selection and customize it after installation.
WordPress has its own directory of themes. Users can also look for the newest ones by going to ‘Administration’ then ‘Appearance’.
Select ‘Themes’ and click the ‘Add New’ option.
Copy Code Snippets from the Current Theme
When switching to a new WordPress theme, there’s no need to re-type source codes. WordPress offers different snippets options.
Copy the code snippets of the current theme and put them in Notepad. Then insert the snippets in the functions.php file or use a plugin.
Check Page Load Time
One of the best ways to optimize a WordPress site is to reduce the loading time. The faster a website loads, the better.
Thus, test the current load time of your website before changing the WordPress theme. Then compare the page load time in the new theme.
Save Your Analytics Tracking Code
A common problem when changing to a new theme is losing the analytics tracking code.
WordPress doesn’t have built-in analytics. So users need to install Google Analytics onto their WordPress site.
To customize the WordPress theme, users can add code snippets for Google Analytics, Adsense, Sitemap, and Google Search Console.
Do this by copying your analytics tracking code. Next, insert it in the functions.php file, or use plugins.
Have a Full Backup of the Website
The most recommended step before making any changes to a website and to all programs is to have a full backup. Make sure to back up all your pages, posts, plugins, media, and database if any.
Having a backup makes it easier and faster to customize new themes and optimize them.
Copy Sidebar Widgets
Sidebars hold and display various widgets on a website. These can include social media links, ads, subscription,s and contact forms. When you build a website, these are important elements that will come in handy in the future.
Make sure to copy all the custom code of your widgets to use them again on the new WordPress theme.
Activate Maintenance Mode
WordPress features Maintenance Mode. It tells site visitors that the website is temporarily unavailable due to ongoing updates and changes.
It enables website owners to run a user-friendly page rather than a broken site. This builds a positive brand image.
It also allows site owners to inform visitors that the site will be back in service soon.
How to Change a WordPress Theme without Going Live
There are three ways to change a WordPress theme without going live:
- using the live demo option
- a plugin
- a WordPress staging site
WordPress features a live demo option when users change their WordPress theme. Every WordPress theme offers a live demo before installing it.
- From the WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Appearance’.
- Select the ‘Theme’ option and look for a new theme using the search bar.
- Having chosen a theme, click the ‘Live Demo’ option to test it out.
- If satisfied with the chosen theme, click ‘Install’. Users can now customize their new WordPress theme.
Follow these steps to try out different themes.
An important reminder, do not click the ‘Activate’ and ‘Publish’ buttons. This will prevent any changes from being applied on your live site.
Use the Theme Switcha Plugin
Another way to change WordPress themes without going live is to use the Theme Switcha Plugin.
Switcha Plugin is a free WordPress plugin. It generates a private preview of WordPress themes.
To install the plugin:
- From your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Plugins’ then click ‘Add New’.
- Users can either search for the plugin on the search bar or upload it.
- Upload the plugin and activate it.
- On the admin panel, click ‘Settings’ then go to ‘Theme Switcha’.
- Select ‘Enable Switching’ then click ‘Save Changes’ at the bottom of the page.
Now, one may switch privately to different themes by clicking on the theme thumbnails. Once you’ve chosen a WordPress theme, click ‘Activate’.
WordPress Staging Site
Making any changes to a WordPress site runs the risk of losing data and affecting user experience. Especially for WooCommerce shops where sales, orders, and other business transactions take place.
Many WordPress web hosting services offer to clone WordPress sites in a staging environment. This allows site owners to try out a new theme before going live.
A staging environment enables website owners to edit web content, plugins, and test out WordPress themes before publishing them.
It does so by creating a staging site which is an offline cloned copy of their WordPress site. Here, users can basically make any changes without applying them on a live site.
A staging environment means users can keep their site running. At the same time, they can customize their website and fix any errors behind the scenes.
Once all editing of the WordPress theme is complete, they can publish it to apply the changes online.
Push Changes in Staging Site Live
After customizing the new theme and fixing any bugs in the staging site, it is now ready to go live. It means replacing your current live site with the customized staging site.
This step is very simple and easy if using the staging service of the web host.
NOTE: Any new content on the live site will be overwritten if the editing in the staging site is ongoing. So it is important to make sure that all new content is already placed in the staging site before going live.
If trying a new theme on a local WordPress site, make sure to backup your website before uploading it to the server. Once finished, the new theme will now apply to the live site.
Ending thoughts on changing a WordPress theme without going live
Changing website themes is a common practice. It helps to improve branding and user experience, especially for business websites.
Anyone can change WordPress themes without breaking a sweat. This guide shows different ways to change a WordPress theme without going live.
Remember to follow a few important steps before switching to a new theme.
Always have a full backup of your website. Save your analytics tracking code, widgets, and code snippets.
It may also be prudent to activate maintenance mode, thus running an active page instead of a broken site.
These steps and information will help website owners to revamp their site without having any errors.
If you enjoyed reading this article on how to change a WordPress theme without going live, you should check out this one on how to edit categories in WordPress.
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