Changing Your WordPress Theme

One of the great things about redesigning a WordPress website is that you can change the design completely without disturbing the content.

When a traditional website gets a redesign, you will usually have to move all the content — the words, the pictures, all that — from the old website to the new one. This can be an enormous job. We know, because we’ve done it many times.

But a WordPress design can be changed without losing any content. It will usually have to be reconfigured, and that can be time-consuming, but it will be a fraction of the time and effort involved in migrating content from an old site to a new one.

Here are some options:

  • Create the new design and build the new theme on a development server and upload it to the old site all at once. We’re doing this with a site we’re working on right now. If you have lots of traffic and don’t want any disruption, this is the least obtrusive way to go.
  • Treat the project as a Live Refresh. We often redo content while a site is live. Working page by page, we can make the changes without disrupting the experience. Most visitors will never notice. Switching themes and reconfiguring may not go unnoticed by visitors, but planning everything ahead and doing the work at low traffic times limits the effects.
  • Put an “under construction” notice up. With WordPress, you can choose a “coming soon” plugin (we’re currently using Anticipate from Elegant Themes on one of the sites we’re working on) and visitors will  see a tidy notice rather than a work in progress.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, unless you have a very simple blog, you can’t just change themes and expect all your content to end up where you want it. You will have to make changes after installing your new theme, whether it’s purchased or custom made.

Second, your “under construction” or “coming soon” notice should be seen by an average visitor once, or not at all. Check your analytics to see how much time you have. For most business websites, you don’t have a month. If you need a month to build the new theme, you should do it somewhere else. If you need a month to configure a new theme, you probably need some professional help in order to avoid losing customers at your business website.

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