In my post, I show you step by step how to change your WordPress theme safely so you don’t lose content.
WordPress makes it super easy to change themes. There is an option to live preview your site before you activate the theme. Once you decide on the theme you want to use, the change takes seconds.
I recommend choosing your theme early on your blogging journey when you don’t have much content. Changing themes is easy but the format, the way your website is displayed, changes with each theme. Features or styles you have with one theme might not be an option on your new theme. Therefore, content or images within those features will be lost. If you don’t have much content, then you won’t have too much work to do to correct those errors.
Let’s change the WordPress theme.
- Do this before you start
- The WordPress theme library
- Adding a new WordPress theme from the library
- How to live preview a theme before changing
- Activate and publish your new theme
- Check your content after changing themes
- Deleting unwanted WordPress themes
- Changing WordPress theme video tutorial
- Premium WordPress themes
- Frequently asked questions
Before you start – Run a backup
Before you make any changes to your site you should back up your site first. I have a step by step guide on how to back up your site for free.
The WordPress theme library
WordPress has excellent free themes in their theme library. You can access this library from your WordPress dashboard.
Let’s change a theme from the WordPress library. From your WordPress dashboard, hover your mouse over ‘Appearances’ on the left and a popup menu will appear.
Select ‘Themes’, the first option on this list. Then you come to your installed themes list.
In this screenshot, I have my current active theme and the default WordPress theme.
If you have a theme on this list that you don’t use, I recommend deleting it. Later in my post, I show you how to delete unwanted themes.
Adding a new WordPress theme from the library
To add a theme, select the plus sign on the right of your installed themes. Or, click on the ‘Add New’ button near the top of the screen. Now you have access to the WordPress theme library.
Any themes you have already installed will have a green tick above the theme. The first theme in the top left corner has a green tick and the word ‘installed’.
Using the theme feature filter
If you have a niche for your blog, I suggest using the ‘feature filter’ option or, type a keyword into the ‘search theme’ box.
I will show you the ‘feature filter’ so you get an idea of how you can reduce the number of themes.
Once you click on the ‘feature filter’ option. You get these extra options.
There are three main features; Subject, features, and layout.
As an example, I will select ‘Blog’ from the Subject section. ‘Accessibility ready’ from the Features section, and ‘Right sidebar’ from the Layout section.
Accessibility ready means that the theme is accessible to all devices. This is an important feature because people use many different devices to access the internet. Choosing a theme that is not accessible ready could result in your visitors having a poor user experience.
Once you have made your selection, select ‘Apply filters’.
Choosing a WordPress theme
The more filters you select the fewer themes you will get to browse through. This is good because it is difficult to settle on a theme when you first start. The fewer choices you have the easier it is.
Now I have clicked on ‘apply filters’. Let’s see what I get.
Now I have a selection of free themes I can use for my blog.
When you see a theme you like and want to know more about it, move your mouse over that theme and you will see an option for viewing details.
I hovered my mouse over the second theme from the top left. There is a popup with ‘Details & Preview’. You also have an option to ‘Install’ or ‘Preview’.
Theme details & preview
When I select ‘Details & Preview’ or ‘Preview’. I get more information about this theme. Viewing this information does not change your current theme.
Here is a theme preview example.
You can see a brief description of the theme on the left with a view of how this theme looks on the right.
If you decide that you don’t like this theme, click the cross on the top left. You go back to your original list of selected themes.
If you decide that you do like this theme. Then click on the blue ‘Install’ link.
When you click to install. This theme will appear on your list of installed themes. Installing does not mean your current theme will change.
Installing a WordPress theme
You can install as many or as few themes as you like. Once you decide on a theme you want to use, delete the other installed themes. I show you how to delete unwanted themes later in this post.
I will click install on this theme. After installation is complete, the link text changes to ‘Activate’.
Don’t select ‘Activate’ yet, if you do, you will change your current theme to this one. To get back to the previous screen without activating this theme, select the cross above the name of the theme on the top-left.
The theme I installed now has a green stripe running along the top to show me that I have installed this theme. Go through your theme list and install the themes you want to try.
How to live preview a WordPress theme before changing
Once you have finished selecting themes, go to your main menu on the left, hover your mouse over ‘Appearances’ and select ‘Themes’. This will take you to your installed themes list. You can only live preview themes you have installed. Here is my list.
From this screen, you can see my current active theme is on the left, the WordPress default theme and the theme I just installed, is on the right.
To see how the new theme will look with my content. I hover my mouse over the theme and a ‘Live Preview’ link appears. Like this.
Selecting ‘Live Preview’ does not change your current theme.
Now my screen looks like this.
On the left, you have options to customize this theme without activating it. If you try some customizations and decide that you don’t like this theme, select the cross in the top left to go back to the previous page. Don’t choose the blue ‘Activate & Publish’ link, that changes your current theme to this one.
Activate and publish your new theme
If you decide you like this theme, select the blue ‘Activate and Publish’ link. Once you click this link your theme will change. I had many occasions when I activated a theme and after a couple of days decided that I didn’t like it. If this happens to you, don’t worry. Go back to ‘Themes’ in your WordPress admin menu and activate your previous theme.
Check your content after changing themes
Changing themes will change the way your content is displayed. Therefore, I recommend you view your content and check the changes haven’t moved things too close together or altered the text size to something too small.
Another tip is to monitor your Google Search Console account if Google is having problems displaying your content on mobile devices, you will get a notification on your dashboard.
How to delete unwanted themes
To delete unwanted themes go to ‘Themes’. Hover your mouse over ‘Appearance’ in the menu on the left and click on ‘Themes’ in the popup menu. You come to your list of installed themes.
As an example, I’m going to delete the ‘Miniva’ theme. To start, I hover my mouse over the theme I want to delete and select the ‘Theme Details’ link.
Once you select that link, the theme opens up for you.
On the bottom right, there is a red ‘Delete’ link. Confirm your wish to delete and the theme will be removed.
Changing WordPress theme video tutorial
Follow my step by step video tutorial on how to change your WordPress theme.
How about premium themes?
With a premium theme, you have full control over how your site looks. With free themes, you have limited control over how your site looks.
There are a couple of premium themes that have some excellent reviews, the Divi and X-theme for example.
When I browse premium themes I go to Envato.com (*Paid link). They have an excellent selection of themes. The link to Envato is an affiliate link which means I get a commission if you buy a theme at no extra cost to you.
Follow my step by step guide to change your WordPress theme. There are many excellent free themes available on WordPress you shouldn’t have any problems finding something you like.
Paid WordPress themes can be quite expensive and some of them have so many features and extras. It takes a while to get used to how to customize everything.
If you do buy a paid theme and need to upload your theme to your WordPress admin, check out my ‘How to manually install a WordPress theme‘ post.
Frequently asked questions
Themes in WordPress have automatic updates. When there is an update for your theme, you will see a notification on your dashboard. The update process takes just a few seconds.
If you have added CSS code to the theme then those changes will be overwritten when your theme updates. If you have customized your theme through your WordPress admin, updates will not change your customizations.
Free WordPress themes can be accessed from your WordPress admin. Go to ‘Appearance’ on the menu on the left and click on ‘Themes.’
Yes, you can change your theme without losing content.
Yes, you should delete unused WordPress themes.
The WordPress themes in the WordPress theme library are free. To find out how to install and activate them. Follow my step by step guide above.
How often do you change your theme?
Do you use free themes or paid themes?
What themes do you recommend?
I look forward to reading your comments.