Updating your theme can be daunting for those new to the world of WordPress, and can occasionally catch out even experienced users. With a major recent update of Avada hot off the presses, now is a great time to review best practices for keeping your site’s look and feel up to date – without tearing your hair out in the process.
In this article, we’ll start with simple preparatory steps you should take prior to updating any WordPress theme. We’ll then move on to the three main options available for updating Avada.
Before we even think about doing anything on a live site, let’s start with some sensible research.
Assess the Update First
You should get into the habit of formally reviewing the details of any theme update before biting the bullet and actually trying to install it. The 3.8.5 release of Avada contains a number of significant improvements and – as with all of our releases – the individual changes are described in detail in a number of places. There are three main areas to start your research:
1. Overview of changes: Our what’s new page provides a visually compelling breakdown of the main features. It’s a great way of getting a quick feel for the new options you are potentially taking on board.
2. Online release notes: Each time a new version of Avada is released, an accompanying important update information page is created with details of items to take particular note of. The details of previous releases are also archived.
3. Changelog of the theme: You can always check the online changelog file for each new release. This file is also included in the Avada theme folder and provides a summary of the major changes contained therein.
In the case of Avada 3.8.5, a quick look at the what’s new page indicates there is a pretty major slew of additional design options bundled in with the theme that should be reviewed.
An initial read of the important update information page also points out a few potential stumbling blocks, such as the removal of the icon flip option.
It also highlights a very useful list of general points to bear in mind, including remembering to clear your caches and not to rename the main theme folder when updating.
Local Testing Eases the Stress
Updating a theme is a classic example of when it’s incredibly handy to have a local development version of your site set up. It gives you the luxury of safely testing the new theme at your leisure prior to actually updating.
Make Sure You Have Backups Prior to Updating
Assuming you’ve done your basic due diligence in assessing the update, the next step to take care of is backing up your current live work.
It’s unlikely that anything disastrous will happen when updating your theme but making a backup remains an obviously good idea. It gives you peace of mind going into the update and a fixed point to revert from if anything gets messy along the way.
We’ve already covered the subject of backups in a little more detail here on the blog, including info on powerful solutions such as BackupBuddy and VaultPress. The BackWPup Free plugin is another option that, as its name suggests, could be a good solution for those on a budget.
We’ve now looked at the list of changes and made sure our current set up is adequately backed up. That’s an excellent start. Let’s now briefly consider the subject of child themes before we get into the specifics of updating.
A Note on Child Themes
Any decent theme developer will naturally try and make updates of their theme as low-impact as possible for users. Site owners, however, can also help keep the process painless by using child themes on their sites.
For those new to the subject, child themes are the recommended WordPress way of keeping your own local theme modifications manageable and in one place. There’s a great overview of how to create a child theme in the WordPress Codex if you need a refresher on the basics.
Avada also ships with a sample child theme to give you an example to work from – Avada-Child-Theme.zip. Note: You’ll need to download the Main Files option from ThemeForest to see this file.
Depending on how highly customized your site needs to be, a child theme may or may not be overkill but it’s a useful option to be aware of. If you already have one in place, bear in mind that you may need to make some adjustments to your child theme files as part of your update.
Most of our preparatory work is out of the way by this stage. Let’s move on to the actual options for updating your theme. There are three to choose from.
Option 1: Use the Auto Updater
The built-in Auto Updater is the simplest option for taking care of everything all at once. You’ll only be able to take advantage of this if you are running Avada 3.5 or higher and have registered your product.
Once your theme is registered, WordPress will check every twelve hours for updates and notify you of their presence via the backend.
It’s then simply a matter of following the onscreen prompts to get the latest theme installed. Once the new version of the theme is in, you’ll then be prompted to update the plugins.
Getting these up to date is, again, simply a matter of following the on-screen instructions. You can also get straight to the plugin update options by going to Appearance > Install Plugins.
Option 2: Update Via FTP
The second option for updating is the traditional one of updating via FTP. This is typically suitable for those who need a little more fine-grained control over the process.
There are a large number of reliable free and commercial FTP clients to choose from these days, and you can find a useful breakdown of options for various platforms over at WPBeginner.
The first item on the agenda here is naturally getting your hands on the relevant files. This involves downloading the latest version of the theme from your ThemeForest account. Again, bear in mind that there are two options for download here: the main files and the installable WordPress file. If you choose to download the full package, you’ll need to locate Avada.zip in the main folder and extract the files.
Assuming you have your existing theme folder backed up – and that you do not have theme customizations stored in the main theme folder – it’s now simply a question of dragging your new Avada theme folder into wp-content/themes via FTP to override the existing content.
Your alternative here is deleting the existing folder and uploading the new folder. Whichever option you take, it’s important that the Avada theme folder is not renamed, as the file path to it is stored at various points in the system.
Once you’ve got your files uploaded, the final step is then popping back into WordPress to update the plugins. You should be prompted to do this but, if you’re not, you can always just navigate directly to Appearance > Install Plugins.
Option 3: Update via WordPress
Our final option is updating via WordPress itself. The initial step here is the same as for the FTP variation – log in to ThemeForest and get your hands on the updated files. In this instance however, you will be using the Avada.zip file rather than its extracted contents.
Once you have Avada.zip located, it’s time to go into the WordPress backend and carry out the following steps:
There are two common issues we’ve seen come up with updates via WordPress that are worth pointing out up front:
As we mentioned at the top, your first port of call for a particular update should of course be the Important Update Information page.
The main Avada documentation pages also contain a wealth of information including detailed outlines of the three theme update options we outlined above. The Theme Fusion Knowledgebase is a further excellent resource with detailed articles broken out by release. This is often the best place to get a quick solution to a common gotcha associated with a particular release.
If you’re still experiencing difficulties having consulted the resources above, then filing a ticket with Theme Fusion support is the next step.
As we’ve hopefully made clear, updating your theme is not a process to be feared. It’s simply a question of taking some sensible precautionary steps and then selecting the update option that suits you best. You’ll have access to full support regardless of which option you take.
Check the following prior to updating:
You’re then ready to perform your update in one of three ways:
Let us know if you feel there is any crucial information missing when it comes to updating your theme by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Credit: Photo credit: GotCredit/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)