If you have had the news that your site needs a reboot and there is no way around it, the root cause of such a sad eventuality probably lies with your theme. Of course, you might well be thinking “great! We were definitely due for an update!” However, there is a good chance that the expiration of your theme has left you feeling a little bereft and wondering what comes next. It is a tough reality that sometimes a site gets old and requires reinvention. While we might begrudge it, there are some exceptionally good reasons why this crossroads is arrived upon; namely, protecting your site visitors, their data, and of course your brand’s reputation. With all of that in mind, let’s break down why your site might be past its use-by date, and what to do about it!
What Is a Theme, Anyway?
Whether you are using WordPress or PrestaShop, the thing that makes your site, well, yours is the theme that you use. Whether you built your website yourself or enlisted the help of pro-developers to manifest something marvellous, the site’s theme is what gives it its distinctive personality, aesthetic, and functionality. You can think of it as the visual layer of the website, and the part that people enjoy seeing and interacting with. Of course, some functionality can be added to themes with the use of plugins or addons. These can be considered as tools that modify elements of the theme, but the theme serves as the core structure that makes your site itself.
Why Do Themes Get Old?
The internet is a wondrous and evolving thing—what can be achieved is always transforming and, sadly, so too are the threats that we must guard against. This means that the software developers that create the themes that run our websites, the platforms they run on, and all the plugins and trinkets that we use to make our brands stand out, need to stay on top of creating and distributing updates to their users. Some updates are to do with compatibility, such as making sure that our sites are ready to be viewed on different devices or in different browsers. Some offer jazzy new functionality, while others provide invaluable security patches that act as armour for our digital activities.
While the vast majority of theme developers strive to provide long-term support for their themes, from time to time the odd theme will enter retirement. When those updates stop coming, and the rest of the digital realm keeps storming ahead, a site running the now-defunct theme will become vulnerable to getting hacked or breaking all together. In fact, unsupported themes are the number-one route by which your site might be maliciously infiltrated. Updates are important for this very reason, they are ultimately, crucial. But when there are no updates to be found, what action is called for?
How Can I Spot When My Theme Is Unsupported?
Updates are not a constant, so not seeing one pending isn’t necessarily cause for concern, however making a health-inspection of your theme from time to time is always a good idea. You will likely have noticed that when you log into the back end of your site there are sometimes updates waiting to be installed. If you have had nothing but radio silence for a while in relation to your theme, touching base with its provider is a strong strategy. Your theme may be from the WordPress library, elsewhere on the net, or even a custom-build from your trusty web developers. In the case of the former two, a visit to the theme’s homepage will let you know if all is still chugging along nicely. In the case of the latter, you can trust in your developers to keep you up to date if any shifts in theme support are coming your way.
What To Do When Your Theme Is Retired
There are a few options to consider if your theme has, unfortunately, become redundant. Taking action is a must, for the security of your customers, and for the continued health of your site, no matter how fond you are of what the theme has done for your business.
A theme is an extraordinarily complex thing, with swathes of coded functions interacting with one another. This means that simply switching themes yourself is a potentially perilous course of action. Any stylesheet modifications or plugins may be lost or cease to be compatible, and the structure of your webpages may shift entirely, resulting in a wonky site that is missing parts and no longer ties together. If your website is incredibly simple, you may choose to change the theme yourself, however, if this is something you’re considering, don’t neglect making a full site backup before you begin, just in case things don’t go to plan!
Unquestionably the safest option to opt for in the unfortunate situation of an expired theme is to enlist the help of a professional. While the cost may feel prohibitive, putting your beloved site in trusted hands to get it over this hump will likely save you both time and money in the long run. A web developer with experience in PHP and theme development will be able to assess whether your current theme can be salvaged and maintained, and how much that might cost. Alternatively, they will be able to deftly navigate through reinventing your website with a different theme, while maintaining all of the great assets that your audience relies upon, or perhaps making them even better!
A website that is up-to-date, super secure, and on-point in terms of design is always good for business. So, sometimes a forced change is a cloaked opportunity in the making. If you would like a hand with a health-check for your site, or to address an SOS theme situation, do keep in mind that the Teapot Creative team are always here to help. Get in touch to discover how we can assist!