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A New Theme, Part 1: 11 Ways to Prepare for Your Blog Theme Upgrade

This guest post is by Ayelet Weisz of All Colores.

You’ve been reading all about the importance of a good blog design while struggling with your basic WordPress theme.

You’ve been frustrated with the limitations of this basic theme, yet you don’t have enough tech knowledge to create a new theme—or the budget to hire someone to create your dream design for you.

You drool over other blogs’ themes, and you search online for alternatives. Are you even ready for a change?

You are?

Well, maybe it’s time to tackle a theme upgrade! Today and tomorrow, I’ll share some tips from my own experience doing this to help you avoid the pitfalls—and the panic when something goes wrong.

First up, it’s important to get prepared. Once you find a premium theme you love at an affordable price, follow these guidelines before upgrading your blog’s design.

1. Verify the theme you’re purchasing is blog-friendly

Not every spectacular premium theme you fall in love with will be a good fit for your blog. Some themes are created specifically with online stores or static websites in mind. While those can sometimes be adjusted to blog format, the end result could be very different than the vision for which you pulled out your credit card or PayPal account.

Check to make sure that the theme is blog-friendly, perhaps by looking at implementations of it on other blogs before you buy.

2. Make sure it has a full refund policy

Some premium theme purchases can be canceled within 30 days (or more), and their makers offer a full refund—no questions asked.

If you’ve never upgraded your blog to a premium theme before, or even if you have, it’s a great idea to make sure you can change your mind later on. The fact that the purchase is almost risk-free might just give you the courage to finally take this step.

3. Read the terms and conditions

Some companies offer premium themes that you pay for once and keep for a lifetime. Some let you use that same theme on as many websites as you like.

Others offer premiums themes that you pay for once and can only use on one website, or you pay for once a year and can use on one or limitless number of websites. Some offer multiple themes for the same price as a single theme in a different company.

These are some of the considerations you’ll face when you’re upgrading a to a premium blog theme. Read what the deal includes and what it doesn’t, and life will be easier after you type in your credit card information and make the purchase.

4. Know what you want in advance—or at least have an idea

Build a list of features you love on other blogs’ designs. Brainstorm colors. Read blog design tutorials.

All this will help you choose your premium design, and make tweaking the theme after installation faster and easier.

5. Know when to switch themes

Traffic to many blogs decreases on weekends, holidays, and at night. If you’re willing to work when others are asleep or vacationing, you can make sure as small a number of readers as possible will be annoyed from the constant changes that take place while you’re working on improving your blog’s design.

If you need to take a long break and you’re not done tweaking, sometimes it’s best to save your changes and temporarily switch back to your previous theme. You’re upgrading your blog to a premium theme so that readers’ experience will be improved—make sure not to bug them on the way to that improvement.

6. Make time

Blog themes, especially premium ones, are made to suit different types of blogs and bloggers. They offer all kinds of options, and it will take you time to tweak the theme you choose so that it looks exactly as you want it to. It might also take time to adjust to the interface or respond to any surprises that might come up. You may even want to make changes you never imagined before.

Make sure you set aside time for this process in your calendar, and make sure you allow a bit more time than you think you need.

7. Take tech support into consideration

Before making your purchase, realize that you may need to use the blog theme company’s tech support team. Learn in advance how you can access this team and when, as well whether tech support is included in the price you pay for the theme.

Will the team be available 24/7, or does it only work during office hours? Is its time zone completely different than yours? Will you have to skip sleep to talk to them? Will the call be expensive? Does the company offer tech support via chat, email, or message boards? How fast can you expect a reply in these forms? If the tech support is given on a message board, can you stay anonymous if you want to, and still get help?

Make sure you know what you can expect in the way of support before you start switching themes.

8. Be willing to play with code—or get help

Some tech support teams prefer to guide you through the process; others take your information, log in and make the changes themselves. At times, it will be a combination of both, with a tech representative taking over only when guiding you through the process isn’t helping.

This, of course, can be an opportunity. Usually, tech representatives won’t ask you to do something too complex, and you’ll have good reason to acknowledge yourself for overcoming your fear of technology.

If you are not willing to play with code, or if you want to make sure there’ll be someone who’ll take over and help you out if you get in tech trouble, find out the company’s policies in advance by sending it an email or calling their customer service department.

9. Be willing to ask questions

The only way to get answers and to eliminate some of the unknowns is to ask questions. Don’t worry about looking silly or as if you have no clue. Tech support representatives get hundreds of strange and silly questions a day, and it’s very unlikely they’ll remember yours as the strangest or silliest one of all.

Remember, this isn’t about what they think, anyway. It’s about you giving your blog the best you’ve got—and expanding your comfort zone at the same time.

10. Get a recommendation

If you can find blogs that use your desired premium theme, email their owners and ask about their experiences with that theme. Some will give you the pros and cons of their experience, others will simply reassure you that the theme creation company exists and maybe even fulfills its promises of service or refunds.

If you don’t know anyone who’s purchased a premium theme where you want to buy one, look up reviews online or find Facebook groups dedicated to blogging, either in your niche or in general. Surely someone there will be able to share her or his experience with you, or refer you to someone who can.

11. Know that things will go wrong

Tweaking your blog’s new theme will take longer than you expect, or will take more work than you expect. You might find yourself dealing with tech challenges, or with a frustrated reader or two. The end result might not be as you pleased. Mostly, you might miss your writing and want to get this tech stuff done with already.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you started this part of your journey. Remind yourself of the benefits. Let go of perfectionism. Embrace your time in the uncomfortable zone. You’ll have a better blog once you’re finished.

Do you have additional suggestions for surviving a blog theme upgrade? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow, when we’ll look at what you can do if something goes wrong with your theme upgrade.

Ayelet Weisz is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter. She celebrates the everyday and extraordinaire joys of life on her travel blog, All Colores. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, and connect with her on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. I generally don’t like messing with themes on any property that has an established following unless I am handing everything over to a professional who will give me a guarantee that things won’t go south (at least to the extent of annoying my audience). I believe it is best to do all the tweaking and testing in the early days of a blog. And, yes, I agree with you that we should look for very low traffic periods (for those who insist on playing with their themes on more established blogs).

    One more thing: It’s a good idea to inform your readers that you are planning a change at a given point in time.

    • I agree that it’s best to make changes like that when your blog is new, and sometimes you learn more as you proceed and as your blog grows, and you realize a change will benefit your blog and readers. Having a professional do it for you, if you have the budget for it, could certainly be another option. I like your extra tip of informing readers that you’re planning an upcoming change.

  2. rahul says:

    how to find whether a theme is required by my blog or not…?

    • Good question! Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer that fits everybody. Perhaps think of what your biggest goals for your blog are and see if the current design/theme you have supports these goals. For example, I liked my previous theme, yet it was great for either focusing on photos or focusing on text and hardly displaying any photos. I changed to a theme which I feel supports the combination, which in turn, supports my travel blog.

      You can go through ProBloggers’ recent archives for posts on blog design and you’ll be able to stat brainstorming ideas, as well assessing what would work best for your blog and audience.

  3. Samuel says:

    Changing your blog’s theme can definitely be challenging.

    I would make sure to have a person who can deal with the technical stuff if have to.

    I have had times where things don’t go right.

    Don’t want it to happen again and to the others.

    • I had times when things didn’t work out too (you can read about one scary moment like that in part 2), so I understand the wish to have a pro take care of it. It would sure make things easier. I like to challenge myself and to learn new things about the platform I’m using to build my blog, and I think these guidelines can support others who might want to do the same, or don’t have the budget to hire a pro.

  4. Eric says:

    This is solid and practical advice whenever your looking to swtich themes. I really appreciate #9 And #10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make speak up for what your looking for and wanting. Great idea to contact others with that theme for recommendation and experiences.

    Very nice and informational,

    Eric

    • Thanks, Eric! Asking for others’ experience could be incredibly beneficial, while taking into consideration their tech knowledge (or lack there of) vs. yours. Asking questions and speaking up are such great tools everywhere in life, and they can really come in handy when you’re tackling a project like this.

  5. I honestly think it is best to get a pro to do this, especially if you do a following already. I am about to have a major theme upgrade and revamp on one of my main websites, but I have hired a pro to take care of this for me. For someone new, to many things will go wrong so I would not even suggest they try it.

    All The Best

    Johnny G

    • I can understand that, because the more content you have and/or the bigger your audience is, the more assurance you want that nothing will go wrong. There are people who don’t yet have the budget to hire a pro and/or do have the desire to do it themselves, and I think it’s important they take some things under consideration.

      Plus, many or all of these guidelines can probably come in handy for working with a designer, too.

      Change is exciting – good luck with your theme upgrade :)

  6. Dean Saliba says:

    I’ve always wondered about online products that offer a refund policy, what is to stop me from obtaining a refund and keeping the product? It sounds horrible but I bet it happens.

    I’m writing a book which I will be promoting heavily online so this “obtaining a refund but keeping the product” is worrying me.

    • Good question. I started writing my theory on this here, having spent years in customer service, but I haven’t sold a product myself yet. Therefore, maybe it’d be better to reach out to people who have and see if they’d be willing to share their take on it.

  7. Hey,

    After reading this article i can easily make a different and unique theme for my blog which will surely attract the readers.

    Regards,
    Jenifer Taylor

  8. Alex says:

    Do you discourage the use of free themes? There are quite a few of them out there. The support may be questionable though.

    • I had a free theme for a long time and saw some other great ones that were free. I don’t discourage it at all. I think each blogger needs to make the decision that’s best for her/his blog and budget. You can always change your mind later.

  9. Syed Balkhi says:

    While all these steps are great, I want to point users to an article we did that is a checklist of 15 technical things you need to do when changing themes. This includes some crucial elements like remembering to put the Google Analytics back in and such. This will be a great additional resource for those reading this post.

    http://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/checklist-15-things-you-must-do-before-changing-wordpress-themes/

  10. Javed Ahmed says:

    Informative:) Thanks Ayelet for this post.
    I believe Upgrading to a new theme to get some more traffic is always a good decision but changing to new theme itself is a challenging job.