If you are an Elegant Themes subscriber and have been for a while, I have some news that you may not want to hear: your theme is probably out of date, and there is no way to update it automatically. How out of date is your theme? To give you an idea, I have been running the excellent InReview theme on one of my websites since it was released. I was running version 1.0 of the theme and recently thought I’d take a look at the changelog. In the time since I have installed InReview, I had missed ten major updates that brought the current version all the way up to 2.0. These updates included numerous enhancements for speed, stability and security, and getting them installed was imperative for the well-being of the website. If you have been an Elegant Themes subscriber for a while, your situation is probably similar. Being unable to find a good article online that explained how to update Elegant Themes, I thought I’d write one of my own. I hope it makes the process a little easier for you.
Select Themes under the Appearance heading after logging in to your website. At the top of the screen, under Current Theme, you will see the version number of the theme currently installed.
Log in to your Elegant Themes account and click the Changelog button next to your theme’s name. This displays the theme’s current version number as well as a list of the items that have been changed. If you see nothing on the list but new features, you may be able to hold off on updating if you like. If you see security or performance enhancements, it’s time to update your theme.
Performing a full backup ensures that if the Elegant Themes update doesn’t go as it should, you can easily revert your website to its previous state and avoid a disruption. You can back up your WordPress database easily using the Export function under the Tools menu, and performing a full backup of your Web server is a good idea as well. I wrote an article describing how to perform a HostGator backup recently.
If you have ever made moficiations to your website’s current theme — removing the WordPress link from the footer, for example — those modifications won’t carry over automatically when you update Elegant Themes. I almost always perform extensive modifications to the php and css files included with my themes and didn’t have the foresight in the beginning to log the changes. If you’re in the same boat, downloading your current theme will allow you to use these source files as a reference and carry your changes over to the new theme. Trust me, it won’t be as hard as you think. Connect to your server with an FTP client and navigate to the /wp-content/themes/ directory. Transfer the whole theme folder to your computer. Keep your FTP client open, as you’ll be using it again. Rename the folder after downloading it to prevent a conflict when you extract the new version of the theme.
If you are running an outdated version of WordPress, updating Elegant Themes may have unintended consequences. Update WordPress to ensure that you are running the version for which your theme is designed. If you have closed out the automatic update notification at the top of the WordPress Dashboard, select Update under the Tools menu to update WordPress. This option will have the label Upgrade if you are running anything older than WordPress 3. Next, click the Installed Plugins option under the Plugins menu and update all installed plugins.
Log in to your Elegant Themes account, click the Download button next to the name of your theme and select Theme Package. Save the theme to your desktop and extract it to a folder.
If you’ve made any modifications to the php and css files for your theme, you’ll need to repeat those changes in the updated Elegant Theme before uploading it to your server. If — like me — you didn’t maintain a changelog, use Diffchecker to compare the old and new versions of each php file as well as the style.css file. If you’re using one of your theme’s alternate color schemes — such as blue.css — check that as well. You may not need to check every php file included with the theme; if you made any modifications, some of the most likely files you might have modified are header.php, footer.php and single.php. When you plug the old and new versions of the file into Diff Checker, it highlights the portions that differ between the two. When you migrate the changes in the new files, I recommend using Notepad++ to preserve line breaks.
You can do this inside your FTP client; simply change the folder name from “InReview,” for example, to “InReviewBackup.” This keeps the old theme on your server in case you need to quickly revert back to it. This will effectively bring your website down for a few minutes. If this is a problem, install the Anticipate plugin from Elegant Themes to display a maintenance screen for visitors. Alternatively, update Elegant Themes late during the evening or simply work as quickly as possible.
Upload the new theme to your server via your FTP client. Because the Elegant Themes update will be stored under the same folder name as the old version, your website will be live and ready to go as soon as the upload is finished.
Make sure that your website looks and functions as it should; try everything and go everywhere. Remember that your browser may have the old style.css file as well as other odds and ends cached, so clear your cache or open an Incognito window. If everything looks as it should, you’re done. If it doesn’t, you can quickly switch back to the old theme by selecting the Themes menu in WordPress under the Appearance heading until you find the cause of the problem.