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Do you need to break up with your blog theme?!

OK, I have a confession to make. I am actually quite the pathological blog theme “refresher”.

I will give my blog’s theme and layout a complete overhaul usually about once a year… occasionally a bit more often than that.

Sometimes it’s just for fun (or when I’ve found an AH-MAZING theme or new layout idea… you know what it’s like… don’t judge me…), other times it’s because I am just sick of the sight of my current blog, and then there are also the times when the Internet hates me and I have no choice.

This week was a case of the latter. 

But rather then get too “woe is me”, I thought I’d try and flip my last 48-hours of pain into something useful and share some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way about how to know when it’s time to break things off (with your theme that is) and what to look for in your next one!

You should break up with your theme if…

1 – It’s slow or crashing a lot!

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Slow blogs and unstable blogs are annoying to run, and worse to visit. Although, sometimes, it’s not always super clear what is causing your problems.  The easiest way to check is to get something like the Chrome extension Page Speed Monitor installed in your browser, then load a few pages of your site and write down the “speed” for each (it’s good to load and then refresh each page a few times, and take the average of that number).

Then deactivate your theme and activate the default theme (like twenty sixteen), and quickly test those same pages again. If the page load speed is vastly faster, then yep, your theme is slowing you down (or a conflict with your theme and a plugin) and it’s probably time to go (you want to aim for 10 seconds or less at the most).

If your problem is that your blog crashes a lot, you’ll need to contact your host and see if they can tell you why it’s happening (it’s normally either a theme, a plugin, or a combo of the two).

2 – It doesn’t let you do what you need it to do

Themes are getting smarter and smarter now, but not that long ago most were created with fairly limited capabilities. So maybe you want to add a slider to your homepage, or an opt-in offer on your category pages. If your theme pretty much just lets you change your logo, colours and font styles, it might be time to look at a theme with more inbuilt functionality.

Personally, I love any theme built with Visual Composer included because then it will let you get as creative as you like (without knowing any code!)

3 – It’s not mobile friendly

In nerd speak, this is the equivalent of your theme messing around behind your back, with your mum.

It’s just NOT OK.

With around 70%+ of all web traffic now coming from mobiles, if your site looks rubbish, or just looks “the same” (aka it doesn’t reconfigure and resize to be easy to read and use on a mobile phone, so people have to zoom and scroll to read your content), then it is NOT mobile friendly.

blog theme

You’ve found “the one” if…

So you know you need to find a new blog them, and you’ve located a few possibilities, how do you know if that theme you’re crushing on is THE ONE!

1 – Check the comments & ratings 

Firstly, try and buy it from some sort of marketplace like Creative Market, Theme Forest or even Etsy (or through a referral), that way you should be able to see ratings and comments before you buy.

2 – Check the demo site

Never buy a theme that doesn’t have a demo site! And if yours does, I highly recommend viewing the theme demo in different browsers, on mobile, or even just resize your browser window and see how it looks. Plus it’s a good idea to check the speed here too. For a demo site, it should be 5 seconds or less (because it won’t have a lot of plugins or ads slowing it down). Anything slower than that, forget it!

3 – Does it have good support?

You know how I said check the comments and ratings before? Well, it’s also a good idea to check to see if the owner is replying and actually being helpful (in a timely manner too).

How to break up with your theme (without things getting messy!)

1 – Back up, back up, back up!

Never start switching themes without doing a full back up first. This includes going into any “custom code” or “custom CSS” boxes in your old theme and copying out anything in there into a notepad file (because you’ll probably need some of it in your new theme too).

It can also be helpful to screenshot your homepage and any other key pages as a reference. Save this all in a folder somewhere safe.

2- If you can, test it on a staging site first

If you have a premium host, like WP-engine or Media Temple, they should allow you to create a “staging site” (this is a copy of your site/blog that you can test things out on).

If you can do that, then definitely do. It is a much safer way to do any changes to your blog.

3 – Test, test, test (and be prepared to walk away)

No matter if you are using a staging site or not, before you start prettying up your new theme, or spending any time on it, you should check it first.

So upload it, activate it (it will look messy and gross, don’t worry), then check some pages and post for speed (like above). And just make sure no big errors pop up or anything like that.

I personally am all about the first impressions with a theme. If you turn it on, and it’s faster and error free, then you are good to go. If it causes any problems off the bat, then that’s a big red flag and I would just walk away (you should be able to get your money back from the developer if you tell them it clashed with something on your site too).

4 – Better yet, maybe get someone to install if you can?

The easiest and most failsafe way to get your theme up and running, fuss-free, is to actually get the developer to install it for you. Most themes in the marketplaces I mentioned below offer this for around $50-100 (which is worth every penny if you ask me!)

Is it time to trade-in your blog theme for a younger, shinier model? Share your theme-related disaster stories with me below!


  1. Elainea S

    February 3rd, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    These were super helpful tips, thanks! I didn’t know about WordPress’s staging areas which seems like a game changer. I love my theme right now but it’s definitely on the slower side and I’m sure one day I’ll fall in love with the look of something else.

    toast the girl almighty

  2. Kate McKibbin

    February 4th, 2016 at 11:43 am

    It’s very hard to stay loyal to a theme, there are just so many beautiful new ones being launched all the time. And yes, staging is awesome! xx

  3. Matilda

    February 3rd, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Hahaha.. So handy! I was just thinking I need to do that website revamp so I can start applying for UX designer jobs and not feel ashamed of my current free blog theme (when I do know how to code and make it look good!). I needed this post – and I can so related!

    I have mainly been annoyed by my blog not being mobile friendly when all I do is reading blogs on mobile myself! You did kick my butt a bit with this post. Thank you!

  4. Kate McKibbin

    February 4th, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Always happy to dish out a good butt kicking xx

  5. Lorraine P.

    February 9th, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Glad to know I’m not the only serial theme changer. I changed my theme a few times last year for various reasons, if I had known about the staging area’s I would have changed it a lot less. I don’t plan to change my theme again for a while now as it is such a pain, but will try the staging area for one of my other sites. Thanks for this post, very useful stuff.

  6. Kate McKibbin

    February 17th, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    They just keep bringing out newer, better ones, it’s so hard!

  7. Maya

    May 12th, 2016 at 5:44 am

    I thought this would be the first comment here but I guess I’m the first to ask: what theme are you using now?

  8. Jennie

    August 22nd, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Any favorites that are user friendly for a newbie? B2B site? I look at them and get overwhelmed and stop. And stay here, stalled out at the starting line.

  9. Kate McKibbin

    August 23rd, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Hey hun, if you are getting overwhelmed with the blog themes, it might be best to pay someone to help you? You can get very inexpensive help these days. Have a look on the Envato studio marketplace? Usually if you find a theme you like, you can just pay someone to help you set it up (the first time at least, then you’ll learn bit by bit and it wont seem so overwhelming next time)

  10. Pamela Gabbert

    May 2nd, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Hi Kate,

    I’m curious myself and would like to know what theme you are using, too. TIA

  11. Rebekah

    July 11th, 2017 at 11:37 am

    I’ve been wading through them forvdats now. I’m getting really frustrated. I have an idea of what I want but im so indecisive!

  12. Veronica Bareman

    May 26th, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Thank you for this post! I am going to change my theme for the first time and have no idea how it’s done or what to look for in a new theme. After reading this post, I have selected a theme and am now chatting with my SiteGround tech support to get it set up in a staging theme to begin working on it. Your post was perfect for getting me started and I can’t thank you enough! I have pinned your post and will happily share it for others who are looking for the info!


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