How to Change Your WordPress Theme: A Step-By-Step Guide

Change is exciting — but also a bit terrifying, right?! We know you work hard on your blog, and changing your WordPress theme is a big step, especially if you haven’t done it before. While the process is pretty straightforward, and we do our best to walk you through setup and how we’ve organized the different options, sometimes issues still arise and you may not know where to look for a solution. So today we’re sharing a step-by-step guide to changing your WordPress theme, complete with tips for fixing common errors (or avoiding them completely!), and getting your new theme to look just right. Let’s get started!

1. Put up a coming soon page.

While it’s tempting to set up your new theme in the Customizer and activate your changes when ready, we only recommend this in two instances: 1) for preview purposes only, when you want to see how a new theme looks on your site before you commit, or 2) when you want to make simple tweaks to your current theme. Instead of using the Customizer, we prefer to put up a coming soon page while setting up your new theme, which allows you to activate your new theme immediately and see exactly how it works on your site. So even before you install your new theme, we always recommend putting up a coming soon page first.

Why is this so important? For one thing, once you’ve installed your new theme, if something does go wrong, it’s much easier to troubleshoot when that  theme is actually active. The Customizer does a great job creating a preview for the front-end of your site, but it’s not great at showing you what’s happening in the WordPress admin area, nor does it give you an easy way to test for plugin conflicts. Furthermore, your new theme has to be active to properly resize thumbnails, which we’ll discuss later in this post! Finally, a coming soon page will give you peace of mind—you’ll feel a lot better about messing around with your new theme and admin area if you know your users can’t see all your tinkering! Keep reading “How to Change Your WordPress Theme: A Step-By-Step Guide”

Get ready for Gutenberg…

UPDATE: WordPress has officially announced that version 5.0—inclusive of Gutenberg—will be released on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. We love this post and this post from our friends at Yoast, explaining more about the release. Bottom line: if you’re worried about the update impacting your blog during the holidays, or you simply don’t have time to deal with it during this busy season, we recommend contacting your hosting provider and ensuring that automatic WordPress updates are turned off. That way, you can keep your existing version of WordPress, and update to 5.0 at a later date.

As always, we also recommend backing up your site, just in case you need to restore a previous version post 5.0 launch. Additionally, you can check with your host to see if they allow “rollbacks” to previous versions of WordPress (for example, this is a feature that Flywheel, one of our favorite hosting providers, does offer!).

After months of speculation and beta testing, the time has come—the new WordPress post editor, Gutenberg, will be released to all users in WordPress version 5.0, with a current target launch of November 27, 2018. If you’re a WordPress user, you may remember seeing prompts to try out Gutenberg earlier this summer when you logged into your Dashboard. The editor users were able to “try out” will now be the standard post editing environment for all WordPress users with the launch of WP 5.0.

If you’re an <em>press customer, here’s what you need to know about the release of WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg:

Theme updates are coming! 

Here at <em>press, we’ve been working behind the scenes to ready our themes and plugins for the release of Gutenberg. The good news is, everything is very compatible! Over the last few months, we’ve spent time writing a few new styles, so that all the fun new “blocks” you can use within Gutenberg will look great on our themes. We will be releasing theme updates later this week, in advance of the official 5.0 launch. Important note: Your theme license must be activated in order to receive our theme updates to your WordPress Dashboard. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to grab the license key from your purchase receipt, and activate it from your WordPress dashboard. Here’s more info on how to do it.

Maybe hold off on updating your WordPress…

You can definitely update your <em>press theme, and even upgrade to WordPress 5.0 in late November, but if your blog generates a lot of revenue during the holidays, we recommend holding off on your update/upgrade until after the holiday season, just in case. There’s nothing worse than a pre-holiday panic if anything were to not look right! If you want to be extra safe and see how Gutenberg will impact your blog, you can also upgrade on a staging site only. Playing around there takes all the pressure off, since any changes won’t impact your live site. Here are instructions on how to create a staging site:

1. Check with your host (Flywheel, Siteground, GoDaddy, etc.) to make sure you have staging functionality available. If you do, turn it on, and create a “staging” (or duplicate) version of your site. This will prevent any changes from impacting your live site! (Pro tip: Once enabled, many hosts will give you a staging address like staging(dot)yourblogname(dot)com. You can put /wp-admin at the end of the staging URL, then login as normal. Any changes you make to THIS Dashboard will not affect your live site.)

2. On the staging version of your site, install the Gutenberg plugin, found here.

3. Write a test post, using Gutenberg’s new features. Play around, and see what you love! Remember, Gutenberg should only affect your post editor page—it’s basically a new user interface for writing blog posts.

Check with your host if needed!

Don’t forget, many hosts include WordPress upgrades automatically, as a courtesy or “perk” of your hosting plan. If you DO NOT want to upgrade to WordPress 5.0 automatically, we recommend contacting your host as soon as possible to find out how you can disable this feature temporarily.

More resources about Gutenberg

How WordPress Gutenberg Will Impact Designers
Yoast: What IS Gutenberg?
Gutenberg 101: What the New WordPress Editor Means for Designers 
Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Pros and Cons)
From WordPress: Experience the Gutenberg demo!


Stay tuned! We’ll be sharing more info about Gutenberg as needed here on our blog, and via our newsletter! As always, if you have any questions, please send an email to, and we’re happy to help you there.

Q+A: Why is my site load time slow?

One of the questions we’re asked most often is: “Why is my blog site load time so slow?” After all, the longer it takes to load your site, the more likely a new reader will lose patience and click away, without reading anything. Plus, search engines love to recommend sites that load quickly — a site that loads too slow can definitely be penalized in search engine results. So today we’re sharing a few issues that can contribute to a slow-loading site. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Keep reading “Q+A: Why is my site load time slow?”