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What to Check When Changing Your WordPress Theme

What to Check When Changing Your WordPress Theme

Getting a new theme for your WordPress site is exciting. It’s like moving into a new house or having an older one renovated.

But like moving into a new house or doing a renovation, you can’t just snap your fingers and it’s done. There are a number of things to do and check to make sure everything is in order.

As different themes have different functionality and different coding, it’s not unusual for things to break when you change your themes.

In this post, we’ll go over the main areas you should check when changing a theme. There are really two phases: before changing the theme and after changing the theme. And so that’s how we’ll organize it below.

Before doing anything, however, you should make sure to BACKUP YOUR SITE.

Exclusive Content: Download Checklist for What to Check When Changing Your WordPress Theme for easy reference in the future.


Before you change your theme, you should really take some time to look at the differences between your old theme and your new theme.

It’s understandable to get excited about a new theme and want to get it up right away, but if you do that without any regard for how the two themes are different, there’s a good chance you’ll be breaking all sorts of things you might not even know about until you happen to stumble across them weeks or months or even years later.

What is Built-In to Your Current Theme?

The first thing you’ll want to do is go over your theme’s features very closely and determine what is “built in” to the theme.

Custom widgets in WPZOOM Themes have a blue color
Custom widgets in WPZOOM Themes have a blue background

For example, does it come with its own sliders?
Does it have integrated social media?
Does it come with any special widgets that you’re using?

Every single little thing like that goes up in smoke (for the most part) when you take your old theme away.

And while your new theme may have those same features to replace the old ones, there’s a good chance your new theme is not going to just automatically take over the job and put its own spin on things.

For example, if you use a slider that’s built into a theme, it most likely uses shortcodes to call that slider into the spot where you want it. Those shortcodes, however, are not going to be the same shortcodes required for the slider in the new theme.

Likewise, if your old theme uses special page templates, then you’ll need to recognize that.

With all that in mind, here are some things to check out in that regard:

  • Custom widgets
  • Social media
  • SEO
  • Page templates
  • Sliders
  • Galleries
  • Buttons
  • Pricing tables
  • Ad sections
  • Testimonials
  • Contact forms
  • Email optin forms
  • Portfolio sections (and other Custom Post Types)
  • Columns Shortcodes
  • Bar counters, number counters, etc.
Features like Sharing Buttons and Related Posts can be added quickly with Jetpack
Features like Sharing Buttons and Related Posts can be added quickly in themes with Jetpack

Any of the above and anything else like this should be noted. You will have to try to replicate them (if necessary) with either your new theme or a plugin of some type.

If you aren’t sure which functions are being controlled by your theme and which functions are native to WordPress, then take a look at your theme’s website. As part of their sales copy, they will probably list out everything their theme does.

TIP: You can use our Free Social Plugins (Social Icons widgets, Instagram Widget) with any theme that supports widgets!

Styling Options

If you want your site to keep the same colors and maybe even fonts, then make sure to check what those are before you switch out of the old theme.

If your theme has a styling section in Theme Options or Customizer, you can go there and get this info.

If it doesn’t, then you can either look up the styling of options such as the color and the font family by using the Google Chrome or Firefox browsers, right clicking on the thing you want inspect (a patch of color, for example), and then clicking “Inspect element” and then look for the color.

Check for Custom CSS and Added Functions


Something else to check for is custom CSS you’ve added at some time in the past. This is easy to forget. One day you find some CSS that helps you do what you want to do on your site, and so you add it. A year later, you may never remember that you did that.

Of course you may not need that custom CSS with your new theme, but it’s still something that should be checked. What is it doing, exactly? Do you still need it?

Adding Custom CSS code using Jetpack is simple and easy!
Adding Custom CSS code using Jetpack is simple and easy!

And where did you put it? Did you put it in the bottom of your Stylesheet? Or did you make a child theme and put it there? Or maybe you installed a custom CSS plugin or used your theme’s custom CSS section.

TIP: If you want to add custom CSS code to your theme, we recommend you to use the Custom CSS feature from Jetpack.

Custom Functions

Something else that’s fairly common is adding functions to your functions.php file.

Again, even if you’ve added functions in your old theme, it doesn’t mean that you’ll need them in your new one. But that should certainly be checked.

What are those functions doing? Does your new theme do that? Do you still need that function?

TIP: If you don’t remember what files you have edited in your current theme, download a copy of your modified theme from your website using the WP-clone-template plugin and another copy of your original theme without changes, and compare files from both folders using a special tool like WinMerge (Windows) or DiffFork (Mac).


As mentioned, there’s a lot that can be built into a theme. Whatever was built into your old theme but isn’t in your new theme, you’ll need to replace, probably with a plugin.

If there was a function in your old theme that’s also in your new theme, you’ll probably need to go about setting that up in the new theme.

Before activating your new theme,  take it for a test-drive and configure quickly  Menus, Widgets and more from the Customizer
TIP: Before activating your new theme, you can Live Preview it in the Customizer where you can pre-configure quickly things like Menus, Widgets and much more.

If you do the work mentioned above and find out what types of functionality your old theme was giving you, then getting all that back is just a matter of working through your list and checking each one off.

Still, even if your old theme offered you little in the way of functionality, and you’ve retained much of what you had from before through plugins and the like, you’ll still need to check through a number of things once your new theme is installed.

Setting Up New Theme

Of course you’ll need to go through your new theme’s settings and do all your basic configurations: adding a logo, setting your site’s fonts and colors, choosing among different layouts that are offered, etc.

And menus. Don’t forget that you’ll need to set up your menus to play with your new theme.

TIP: Using the WP Theme Test plugin you can activate a different theme for admin users only on your website.

Beyond that, here are some things to check.

Make Sure Your Plugins, Widgets, and Page Templates Play Nice

Occasionally you may find that WordPress plugins don’t work as they should with certain themes. So it would be a good idea to go through your list of installed plugins and make sure they’re doing what they should be doing, and that they all look right.

In a similar vein, check your widgets to make sure they are workings as they should.

These days many themes come with specialized widgets (as mentioned before), and so if your old theme was doing something through a special widget that you still want done, you may need to go in search of an independent plugin that will do that for you.

Our Venture theme includes a Page Template that shows all Testimonials on it.
Our Venture theme includes a Page Template that shows all Testimonials on it.

If your theme has special page templates, you may need to place your content in them. For example, if your theme has a special Testimonials Page template, in order for you to get the look that you saw in the demo, you’re going to have to take the time to learn how to set that up.

SEO & Analytics

Make sure that your SEO is in place in your new theme. Even if you were using an SEO plugin before and continue to use the same one, do some checking to make sure it’s doing what it should.

For example, is it outputting the correct page titles? Does it handle archive pages as it should? Is it actually following/nofollowing or indexing/noindexing the pages you want it to? Is it producing a site map as it should, etc.?

As page speed is also a big part of SEO, check your new theme’s speed. You can do that through sites like Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and Pingdom’s Website Speed Test.

As well, you may need to reinstall any stat-tracking code like Google Analytics if you didn’t use a plugin to do that with your old theme.

Save Yourself Future Headaches

New themes are great. New themes are exciting. But don’t shy away from putting in a little extra work to make transitioning to a new theme as smooth as it can be.

By taking this checklist and running through it both before and after you make the switch to a new theme, you will end up saving yourself all sorts of headaches in the future.

Exclusive Content: Download Checklist for What to Check When Changing Your WordPress Theme for easy reference in the future.

P.S. Buy a new WPZOOM Theme today and receive FREE installation and setup from our team!

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