Was it easy to switch WordPress themes? Yes!


Over the last few days I've been working on a series focused on building your Platform, using WordPress. It's for solopreneurs, small business folks, freelancers, authors, musicians, speakers and more – so that they can make the most from WordPress and all that is available to them.

But in that same period of time, I've been in the process of switching my theme from a wonderful Genesis child theme from StudioPress, to a new one by the Theme Foundry, called Make.

And when someone noticed it the other day, they sent me an email asking about it, and wondered if it was hard.

Here was my reply – which I think may be helpful to you as well (I cut out the initial salutation).

Was it easy to switch WordPress themes?

Thanks for asking. It's a great question and one that I think comes often with a lot of fear. I know several people who have changed themes, only to see most of their content disappear.

Here's the good news – in all of those cases (at least the ones I know), the content just didn't make it to the page, but it wasn't missing. WordPress is powered by a database that stores all of a site's content and you don't have to worry that a theme change will delete content.

But when it goes missing, it can be a really stressful event, especially if it's for your business site.

First let me tell you why it happens, and then let me tell you how to go about mitigating that risk.

Your site content goes missing after a theme change for one of two main reasons:

  • Your old theme was using a lot of shortcodes to display certain content and your new theme doesn't recognize them.
  • Your old theme used a lot of custom post types to store your content and your new theme doesn't recognize them.

This happens a lot if you buy one of those “our theme can do everything and comes with 62 sliders and 3 page builders” themes out there. You get used to using their shortcodes and some of the custom post types they provide, and when you switch over, your new theme doesn't know what to do with all of that.

But you can move past that. I promise.

I'll tell you how I switched my theme in a second, but let me explain why my move was so easy. On my particular site, I don't use any theme-based shortcodes (and almost no shortcodes at all) and I don't use any theme-based custom post types.

So the short answer to your question is that it was very easy for me to switch because all of my content stayed in place and was, for the most part, pretty happy.

I will note that there were three things I had to pay attention to.

Header and Footer scripts. Genesis gave me a simple place to put header and footer scripts that many themes aren't doing much these days anymore. And it makes sense, since those scripts aren't really theme specific. But I was able to use this plugin to make everything better.

Image Sizes. My new theme had slightly different dimensions, which meant that my old images weren't going to work perfectly. So I changed the default sizes of all my thumbnails using this plugin. And now I've turned on Photon (free with JetPack) to make sizing less of an issue going forward.

Custom CSS. If you put your custom CSS in a child theme file for the theme you're using, it will disappear when you change themes. Likewise, if you use JetPack's custom CSS feature, you'll no longer see it after a theme change. I like this plugin for storing simple CSS tweaks, but whichever way you choose, you'll need to copy it before the change, in case you want to re-use any of it (like I did with my subscriber form in the sidebar and all the CSS I needed for that Gravity Form).

Now, to close, let me simply say that you can use shortcodes or custom post types that aren't tied to your theme. To do that, you'd register them via a plugin (which you don't even have to write yourself). I often let people know about this snippets plugin, which stores snippets of code, along with this site that helps you generate custom post types. Together you can get past theme lock-in.

They didn't ask why I switched, but let me tell you

Their question was focused on how hard it was to switch WordPress themes, and my sense is that when most people ask it, they ask out of a fear that they're locked in.

But there's another question they didn't ask: Why did I change? Was I unhappy with Genesis?

I still love the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. I still use it on sites I help others with. The child themes are beautiful and the framework is really powerful (when you learn it).

When I'm sitting in the developer seat, I like using it because I can move quickly and do things I already know how to do.

However, over the last year I've also noticed that I get a lot of questions from you – because not all of you are developers. And even when I point you to non-developer solutions to customize your look and feel, you don't grab them.

In the end, I get a lot of emails and requests about how I did something on my own site, and my answers can sometimes fly above the heads of my own audience.

So I went looking for theme that I could not only use, that I could really enjoy, but that also wouldn't require you to drop code into your functions.php file.

And I discovered Make, by the Theme Foundry.

Make is really easy to use

It is easy to customize pages. It is easy to tweak with CSS if you want. But you likely don't need to, given how much they make available in the Theme Customizer.

My about page took no time to set up, because of their page builder.

My list of posts looks sharp and it took a couple of lines of CSS to make it do what I wanted with those full bleed photos.

And I'll soon reMake (get it?) some of my other pages to take advantage of all its power.

But most of all, I can easily recommend it to you, non-developers, because you can use it without writing any code.