WordPress is the perfect option for your affordable website, and is very capable in adapting to the changing needs of your growing business. However, like all websites, it needs maintenance from time to time.

If it’s been a few years since you last did a design refresh on your website then it’s quite likely you’re overdue to update your WordPress theme (themes are also called templates) – and in some cases this may mean a new theme, if the old one hasn’t kept up.

Here’s why WordPress themes need updating

A WordPress theme is just one part of your WordPress website’s ecosystem – other parts include the WordPress software (or CMS), the programming languages used (a mix of JavaScript, MYSQL and PHP in most cases), and any plugins used.

These other parts are often updating frequently and if your theme isn’t then it can end up being left behind.

Outdated themes can cause a number of problems including:

  • Security risk / slowdown – The software behind a WordPress website is regularly being updated to fix security holes or make websites with databases more efficient. Newer WordPress themes take advantage of this more secure, faster software, so it’s a good idea to be running newer versions (e.g PHP 7.4 or later, MYSQL 8 etc.) where possible.
  • Displaying design errors – Old themes may use functions that are no longer used (referred to as deprecated), which are no longer supported. This can then cause the theme to show error messages on the website. Error messages can also show on the admin pages, often referring to outdated theme files, which are no longer compatible with the current version of WordPress.
  • Can stop working altogether – If a WordPress theme hasn’t been updated for many years, there can be a critical error that prevents the website from working at all. This is especially likely if you’re running an e-commerce website using WordPress.
  • Outdated design – Even if the website is still functional, it’s possible the design that was fine a couple of years ago is now looking tired. It’s like interior design in your home. Styles come and go. It’s also possible your branding has changed, and the website needs to be refreshed to match. If you’d like us to update your website to a more modern design, just get in touch.
  • New website functionality – Advancements in web browsers make new functionality possible for websites. Things that used to require specialised apps or server-side processing are now possible with a modern web browser and an updated WordPress website.

Fortunately, WordPress websites are built to be flexible enough to make updates straightforward. Options are also available to build a brand new design offline so the new website can be tested and reviewed through several iterations before being launched.

So, what steps are involved in bringing your WordPress website up-to-date?

What’s involved in updating your WordPress theme?

The first step is to think about what needs to change. Make a list of any problems you might be experiencing, error messages as well as any new features you’d like to add to your website. If you’re not happy with the current look, then add a style refresh to the list. Sometimes replacing the theme can resolve a number of different issues in one go.

In addition to replacing outdated files and giving your website a makeover, it’s also an ideal time to add any new functionality you’ve been thinking about. This might include:

  • Sell online – Add e-commerce options, including buy now buttons or booking calendars.
  • Better reporting – Add Google Analytics tracking (including conversion tracking to understand how successful your website is in converting visitors into buyers).
  • Online payments – Even if you don’t sell your products or services online (yet) you can still offer customers the option of paying online using a credit card.
  • Secure content – Put content (files, photos or videos) on your website that only registered members can access.
  • Embedding third-party content – Want to offer directions to your business direct from your website? Embed a Google Map. Looking to share available time slots for your consulting business, which gets updated in real time? Add a Google Calendar. Let visitors play videos from YouTube or Vimeo, without leaving your website. There are plenty of options for including dynamic content on your website to make it more interactive and interesting.
  • Calculators – Allow visitors to automatically calculate things like shipping costs, or quotes for work (e.g carpet cleaning depending on the number of rooms and other features) or how much they can save on their website costs.

As you can see, updating your WordPress theme can be part of a wider upgrade to your whole website, so make sure you take this into consideration when thinking about what things you’d like to change.

The basic steps for updating your WordPress theme are:

  1. The list – Write up a list of everything you’d like changed, fixed or upgraded.
  2. Get in touchContact a WordPress website agency for assistance – they can provide you with an estimate of costs and an expected time frame. You will need to provide any new (updated) content, including text and photos (the agency can assist to format and copyedit as needed).
  3. Cost estimate – Depending on the extent of the changes needed, a staging site can be created (extra costs may apply) to allow the current website to continue without any disruption – this is particularly useful for e-commerce websites. For non e-commerce websites a simple holding page may be sufficient. The holding page can let visitors know a new website is coming soon and that it’s otherwise business as usual (your email is not affected).
  4. Take a backup – Do a full backup of the website.
  5. Theme updated or replaced – If the theme author has not provided any updates, or the current theme is not suitable for the other website upgrades needed, it can be replaced with a more modern theme.
  6. New plugins/functionality added – This may include adding new plugins (or removing old ones that are no longer supported, or pose a security risk). It may also mean adding a new page builder plugin that allows for more advanced features.
  7. Content reformatted/added – With the new theme and page builder, and new plugins, it’s possible existing website content may need to be reworked to be compatible. This is done page by page. Any new content or features can be added at this time.
  8. Test – The updated website is reviewed and checked, including responsiveness for smaller screens (e.g mobile phones or tablets).
  9. Review – You can then review the updated website before it is launched and request final changes. In cases where there is a staging site, we can review the current site to make sure any new additions (e.g blog posts) and all the e-commerce shop orders are integrated into the new website.
  10. Launch – The new website is launched – either the holding page is removed, or the staging website replaces the current live site. For e-commerce sites we schedule this work for the early hours of the morning to minimise any disruption, and check immediately after to make sure everything has updated correctly and the new site is working correctly.
  11. Monitor – Monitor the new website for any issues and report them for fixing.

It’s important you use an agency with experience in upgrading WordPress themes. Done wrong you can lose valuable data and end up with a very broken website, or, at a minimum, a very messy site that will cost extra to fix.

Make 2022 the year you refresh your WordPress website

Let’s make 2022 all about fresh starts and new horizons. Check your WordPress website and if it looks like it’s stuck in the past, having problems or just needs a breath of fresh air, make a list and get in touch.

We can help make your WordPress website flash as, secure, reliable and compatible with all the latest website software, browsers and devices. Let’s do this!

Is it time to update your WordPress theme?