As design trends come and go quickly, your website can take on an old-fashioned look if you don’t update the design every couple of years. WordPress gives you the ability to easily switch to a new topic, which will not affect the content of your site. In other words, you no longer have to spend days making detailed changes.
However, it is a good idea to plan your redesign properly, especially if you have a high-traffic site. If you have a plan to follow step by step, it will reduce the number of potential problems and ensure a smooth re-launch, with minimal downtime.
Make a Backup Copy of the Old Site
Before you do anything, it is important to back up your files and WordPress database in case something goes wrong and you will not be able to restore the original design. Make a copy of all the files by connecting to your site via FTP, and downloading all the files from the site to your local computer.
If you have difficulty, there are also some WordPress plugins that can help you. We recommend Duplicator because it makes it easier to create a copy of the site for testing purposes (this will be explained in more detail later). Another backup plugin that is worth checking out is BackupBuddy.
If you don’t want to do this yourself, then consider ‘hiring’ an online service to do it for you. VaultPress charges $5 per month ($ 4.77 to be more precise) and performs automatic daily backups via a plugin. These backup services can also be useful when your site is hacked or when you want to move to a new server.
Clear Your Site
Launching a redesign is a great opportunity to clean up the site by fixing invalid links, deleting spam comments, and old plugins and themes. Start by deleting plugins and themes that you no longer use. Every plugin you install is a potential weak point of your site. To ensure maximum protection against hackers, you should use as few plugins as possible and make sure you update new versions as soon as they become available. You should also use the latest version of WordPress. Optimize your database to get rid of unused data and speed up your site. The WP-DBManager plugin is best suited for this.
Akismet is a good anti-spam plugin, but if you have been so lazy and tolerant of spam, it may take a little longer to delete old comments. You can speed up this process by changing the screen settings so that more comments are displayed per page, or manually, by accessing the database and running the PHP command to delete a large number of comments. The Broken Link Checker plugin makes it simple to fix broken links.
Consider installing several security plugins to ensure WordPress installation. The Sucuri SiteCheck plugin is useful for scanning your site for malware, and because it alerts you if your site is compromised. After cleaning your site, back it up again.
Install a New Theme on the Test Site
It is always best to install a new WordPress testing site before moving on to a new theme or making any major changes to your site. Test sites are also useful if you want to try plugins and widgets, without exposing the website to risk.
To create a website, you can either install WordPress locally, on your computer (which requires a bit more technical skills and effort) or simply install a new example of WordPress in a sub-folder of your domain on your hosting account. If you decide to do the latter, make sure you choose the option to prevent browsers from visiting the site, which you can find in “Settings” > “Reading”. You can further protect the site by using the WP Maintenance Mode plugin to prevent unauthorized visitors from accessing the site.
Ideally, your test site should be identical to the live site – the theme on a new WordPress installation may work well, but if you install it on your real site, there is a possibility of a conflict with the plugin or some other problem.
If you wondered where employing the new email template of your WordPress website fits in, you can do that regardless of the stage of your redesign. Just as other types of websites have VerticalResponse as an option to change templates for sending emails/newsletters, WordPress websites have the Email Templates plugin to customize emails. How can this be done? The Email Templates plugin should be installed and activated first. Simply navigate to “Appearance” > “Email Templates” after activation to create and alter your email templates. The WordPress customizer is used by the Email Templates plugin, which allows you to create your own attractive templates with live preview.
Check the Test Site
Once you have created a test site, make sure all the plugins you use are installed and activated before activating the new theme. Then you should methodically go through all the sections of the site to make sure that everything works as expected.
If you use featured images in your posts, chances are your new design will not use the image size used by the previous one. You can use the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin to restore thumbnails.
Activate a New Theme on the Live Site
If your new design works perfectly on the test site, or if you only have a few changes left to complete, continue and activate it on the live site as well. Don’t forget to import or change the settings you changed on the test site. Then review the site again and see if everything works on the live version.
If you are making major changes, or the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin takes a few hours to perform its function because you have a lot of images, then it is probably best to temporarily block access to the site. Use the WP Maintenance Mode plugin to notify users that the site is unavailable due to an upgrade. You can even set a countdown to the time the site will be operational again. Remember to deactivate the plugin when you have finished editing and testing.
Post About Your Redesign
Congratulations! You have successfully launched a redesign. Notify your readers of the change and attach a screenshot to show them what it should look like.
Sometimes the browser cache partially loads the new design or disables it completely. In that case, you can solve the problem by advising readers to refresh the page or clear the cache.
Changing the WordPress theme may seem like a big hassle, but in fact, most pieces of the advice we have given you are a precaution in case something goes wrong. In a huge number of cases, you can easily choose a theme on the control panel.