July 1, 2015

How to Update Your WordPress Theme without Losing Customization

Most people usually paste the code snippets to the theme file to customize their WordPress themes. That works perfectly for beginners, but with only limited functionality. For instance, when a theme update is available, updating your applied theme will remove all the customization.


In other words, you’ll have to customize your theme every time you update it. That being said; it’s still possible to update your theme to the latest available versions and make sure that all customizations are intact and functioning. Follow this simple 5 step process to update your WordPress themes with all your customizations intact.

Step 1 – Connect To Your Website

The first thing to do is to connect your website using FTP client, like FileZilla for instance. An FTP client allows you to make changes to your website framework which, when you apply, becomes live. From the FTP client, choose your desktop files for your website and go to /wp-content/themes/. Download the theme folder on your computer.

Step 2 – Download the Latest Version

Visit the website of your theme provider and download the latest available version. Locate the zip file in your system and extract it. You now have the new theme version as well as the old customized version in your system. You can easily copy and paste the code snippets that you remember from your old theme to the new one. The FTP Client will issue a warning, so choose Overwrite to make the changes live on your WordPress site.

Step 3 – Compare Theme Directory

However, if you don’t recall the changes, you can always find them. A fast and easy way to do so is by comparing the theme files. For instance, WinMerge allows you to open theme directories and compare them. You can use other software like WinMerge to do so.

Step 4 – Update the Latest Theme Directory to Match Your Customizations

Open both the theme directories and compare them. This will allow you to view a list of files and determine which files are new and which files are not identical. You can also view the changes by right clicking on a file and selecting Compare. Once you have located all the customized files, you can simply copy and paste them in the latest theme directory.

Step 5 – Upload the New Theme to Your WordPress

After you have copied all the changes to the theme directory, you will now have to upload the theme to your WordPress site through FTP. The FTP client you’re using will warn you that same name files already exist. Click on Overwrite and make sure that all old theme files are now replaced with new files. You have now successfully updated your WordPress theme without losing any customizations. As a tip, whenever you’re working on customizations, practice first on child themes. Child themes are easier to customize and update than parent themes as the changes are not made live. This will help you improve your customizations and avoid any bugs or issues in your WordPress site.