Re-Designing Your WordPress Site
This is the time year when people make changes to their website. People want to change things up a bit and maybe give some new life to their websites. So why not re-design your WordPress site.
If you have WordPress, a re-design can be as simple as changing your theme. There are literally thousands of WordPress themes out there, a lot are free, but also there are some really good paid ones. It just becomes a matter of re-designing your WordPress site.
Well, before you make any major changes to your site make sure you have a plan to follow. I am going to talk about developing a plan in this article.
1-Back Up Your Site
One of the most important things you want to do before making any major changes to your website is you want to do a full site backup. You never know what could happen when making these changes so it is good to know that you have a backup copy of your website if you need it.
You will never lose anything by creating a backup. Just make sure you do a full site backup, including all your theme files, plugins, and database.
There are different methods you can use to backup your site, and I talk about some of these ways in my article 4 Ways To Secure Your WordPress Website.
2-Take Notes On Your Current Theme
Now that you have a backup of your website, capture the look of your current theme somehow. Take notes on the colors, layout, sidebars, header, etc. You might even take screen shots of it to save somewhere that you can refer back to if you need it.
A lot of website users will make modifications to their current WordPress theme. If you have done that, then make note of the changes that you have made and if you have added any special plugins or code to make these changes happen.
If you have added code to your existing theme style sheet, then when you change to the new theme, that code will not longer be there.
Also you want to check your current themes load time. That way you can compare the two. You can go to a site like Pingdom Tools, to test the load time.
3-Don’t Loose Tracking
If you have Google Analytics tracking installed, which most of us all do, take note of the tracking code to put in your new theme.
A lot of website owners will add the tracking code manually into their theme, and then forget about it. This is commonly overlooked, because it is so simple.
4-Put Up the Under Construction Sign
You probably don’t want visitors to see you making changes to your site. As it may appear broken to them.
It would be best to put some type of maintainance sign up. You can even use a plugin for these. Under Construction is a plugin that I often use when I am working on a live site.
With the Under Construction plugin, you can put up a image or text letting your visitors know that your site is being worked on and even give them contact information, or even add an contact box, if they need to reach you with any questions.
5-Testing Functionallity and Plugins
Once you get your new theme installed, you will need to test that you still have all the functionally and the plugins still work. Remember those notes you took in step two. These notes will come in handy now.
Go back and add any of the functionally that you had in the previous theme if you have not done so already.
Try out all the features, including the commenting process, single post pages, search, 404 page, archive page, contact page, etc.
Make sure all of your widgets are still there and that they work. This is one of the most common areas that will need to be updated with a new theme.
Speaking of your plugins, make should the formatting is the same. A lot of plugins use your existing theme styles to display their output. So you want to make sure they still look good with the new theme.
Test your site in every browser that you have access to. Different browsers will render things differently. You want to make sure your site looks good in all the major browsers.
And if the majority of your audience is using a particular browser, say Internet Explorer, then you want to make sure your site is still working in that browser.
This is a good time to assess all the plugins you have on your site. Make sure you still need them all. Some themes come with functionally that you may have been using a plugin for.
If you find that you have plugins that are no longer needed, then get of them, as they are taking up resources from your site.
8-Take Small Steps
Make the changes to your site very carefully. Start with smaller elements and be sure they are compatable in all browsers. Once you are confortable with the small changes, then make the big ones.
9-Test Loading Speed
Take the numbers you had on the loading time of your old theme and compare them to the new theme. See if there’s anything you can do to improve the load time.
You can check out my article, How To Increase Your Website Speed With 5 Easy Steps, if you need help increasing your load time.
10-Check Bounce Rate
After switching themes, make sure you monitor the bounce rate. Some themes are just more friendlier than others when it comes to user experience.
If your bounce rate has increased, compared to your old theme, then you may need to work on this.
Adding some more features to your site could help with the bounce rate. Using a better call-to-action, adding a related post widget, or poplar post widgets, or just moving widgets around your site to see what readers like the most.If you have WordPress, a re-design can be as simple as changing your theme.Click To Tweet
11-Let Your Audience Know
After your finished, and turned off the maintanance mode, let your audience know. I know you think you’ve checked you new site out pretty good, but you still could have missed something.
When your new design comes out, readers are almost certainly going to have feedback on it. They may even love or hate the new features. Communicate with your audience and ask them what they think about your theme.
It’s bound to happen, you spent hours, days, maybe weeks on your new theme before you rolled it out, but you still didn’t catch everything. But, your readers are sure to notice anything that doesn’t work.
If your readers contact you with issues or suggestions with your site, then take this as constructive feedback. Thank them for their responses and if you make changes to your theme based on their suggestions, then be sure to let them know.
Making mistakes with our sites show that we are human and make mistakes. People love it when you praise them for their suggestions.
How Did Your Re-Design Go?
Well that’s it for the steps to help you with your re-design. If you have not re-designed your site yet, I hope these are helpful to you in planning and doing your site re-design.
If you have already done your re-design, then maybe this article will remind of something you forgot and can go back and fix. (Like that Google Anayltics code.)
How did you re-design go? Are you still wating to do yours? Not sure what you want to do with your site design?
If that’s the case I am here to help. Hit me up on my contact form, if you would like to hire me to re-design your site.
If you have already made a new design, say from a Photoshop mockup, and you just don’t know how to implement it, then I can develop the site for you from your design.
I would love to hear how your re-design went. Were you able to make all the changes you needed? Are you still tweaking the design? I would love to hear about these in the comments below.
— Rob McDonald (@RobsWebDesign) January 26, 2016