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Changing WordPress Themes Using StudioPress Automatic Set Up: Some important points

Please Note!
If you change WordPress themes using the auto install feature, WordPress and Genesis will add some new pages to your site. They will also add a new navbar, or add links to your old navbar. If you have an established site you might want to remove these. Watch the video for more details.

This is a long post about changing WordPress themes, in a nutshell…

To set up up a brand new empty WordPress site, use auto install.

When changing WordPress themes on an established site, build the home page by hand. StudioPress provide instructions in their documentation area after you buy the theme.

Some things I always do when changing WordPress themes…

  • Make and test a full website backup.
  • Back up any custom code, Google analytics code or anything else you think you might lose.
  • Note the content on the old front page and work out I’m going to recreate that content on the new front page.
  • Look in my old theme for any special features and shortcodes. Will these stop working when I activate my new theme?
  • Do I need new plugins? Check the new theme’s documentation and install if needed.

Page builders

Have I used Beaver Builder or Elementor to build any pages on my website. How will they look with my new theme. Do I need to make any changes?

If you do use auto set up on an existing site.

Will you need to remove any auto set up pages or menus to avoid duplicate content.

Please Note! In the future, the authors of third party themes will have the choice of including, or not including demo content in the themes they sell.

This is a guide for StudioPress users who are changing WordPress themes from a widgetized homepage to an Atomic Blocks based homepage.

Before changing WordPress themes ask yourself…

Would breaking your website be a big problem?

If you have a brand new site or a small website with just a few pages and posts, you might be able to recreate your entire site faster than go through all of the recommended safety procedures to safely change themes.

You have a well established website that took time and cost money to build, don’t risk having a real train wreck. Your site is important to you so take time and prepare before changing WordPress themes.

You need to ask yourself, how much would it matter if I get this badly wrong? And how much would I be willing to pay to fix it? You’ve got a lot to lose, err on the side of caution.

If it’s a brand new empty site use the auto install

When you set up a brand new empty WordPress website, you can safely click the auto install button. You see this button after activating a theme that has the auto install feature.

WordPress and Genesis will…

  • Install the necessary plugins
  • Automatically set up your homepage
  • Set up some basic pages for you so starting your website is easy


The Setup Your Website button
The Set up Your Website button


If you have a well established site, proceed with caution

Setting up your website took time and money so being worried about breaking it makes sense.

The StudioPress website says “None of your existing content will be lost” when you use the “Set Up Your Homepage” button after theme activation.

Is this as easy as StudioPress claim? I used the auto setup on several websites that already had content to find out.

StudioPress designed the set up your homepage feature to help you get your first website easily. Competent WordPress users should set up the homepage themselves. StudioPress provide all the instructions you need after purchase, just log into your StudioPress account and read them.

What I would do

When I change WordPress themes on a well established website with a lot of content, these are some of the things I do…

I always make a full backup of the site, and make sure that backup works, before I make any major changes to a site. This common sense advice has saved my skin on several occasions.

I would test the new theme in a test environment

You can test your backup on XAMPP or some other free local host before making changes to your live site. That way you get to spend some time actually testing the site with the new theme.

If you have a large site that you’ve invested time or money into, I would definitely test the new theme on the cloned site before making changes to the live site. It’s surprising how often you’ll find problems you never thought of.

XAMPP is a free localhost web server
XAMPP is a free localhost web server.

Widget areas

Check to see if the new theme has the sidebar, footer, after entry, and any other widget areas you need. You may find that your old theme has four footer widget areas and your new theme only has two footer widget areas for instance. If that happens you’ll have to rethink how you display your footer content.

Some themes have a lot of widget areas. Spend some time looking through the widget areas that your current theme has. Then think about how you will display that information in your new theme.

When you change themes WordPress will try work out where it should put the widgets used in your old theme, in your new theme. If your old theme had Footer Left and Footer Right widget areas. And your new theme has Footer 1 and Footer 2 widget areas. When you change themes, WordPress might put the widgets from your footers in to the inactive widgets section below the available widgets panel.

So always make a note of the widgets you’re using and their settings before changing themes.

There are plugins that can backup your widget settings for use on the same theme. This is NOT a magic way to transfer widget settings from one theme to another.

Does your new theme have as many widget areas as your old one?
Does your new theme have as many widget areas as your old one?

Does your old theme have any special features?

Hero headers with added text are becoming more and more common.

For instance, some themes have hero headers that automatically display…

  • The post title
  • And the text you type into the excerpt box
  • On top of the featured image you assign to that post

Some themes have this post title, excerpt and featured image, as a hero header for every post. Here’s an example…

This hero header also displays the post excerpt.
This hero header also displays the post excerpt.

If your old theme adds the excerpt text, but your new theme does not. Will you miss those hero headers? And will it matter that you no longer display the excerpt text in the header.

There are many other special features

Hero headers are an obvious example of a special feature. But there are many other special features that your theme could have.

  • Browse around your web site.
  • Look in your WordPress Dashboard.
  • And look through the Customiser options for your current theme.

Do you see any special features. If you do find special features, think about what will happen to your content, when you change themes and those special features disappear.


Shortcodes can add functionality to your website. For instance a shortcode could make an image gallery display on your page.

This is a WordPress shortcode.
This is a WordPress shortcode.

If you find shortcodes in your content, does that shortcode functionality come from your current theme or a plugin.

Check any shortcodes you’ve used. Do you get error messages and is any important content missing after you change themes?

Some plugins add shortcodes to your site, these work after you change themes. But make sure your new theme works with that plugin.

If you’ve used shortcodes that rely on your old theme for their functionality, those shortcodes will not work after you change themes.

Pages built with Beaver Builder or Elementor

These page builder pages should work OK after activating your new theme. But you might need to go through the pages and set the correct page template. You might also have to install a plugin such as Genesis Dambuster or Full Width page Templates For Any Theme & Page Builder, if you want your page builder pages to look as nice as before.

Beaver Builder helps you design your own homepages.
Beaver Builder helps you design your own homepages.

Duplicate pages and duplicate menus

The auto setup process automatically adds commonly used pages, and at least one menu to your site. On a brand new empty site, these pages are useful. But when your site already has, for instance, an about us page or a pricing page the new pages are duplicate content. Trash and then delete any duplicate pages that the auto set up adds to your site.

This is a screenshot of the navbar and the pages that the auto setup process adds to your site when you use Monochrome Pro theme.

Screenshot of the Monochrome Pro homepage and navbar after I used the set up your homepage button.
Screenshot of the Monochrome Pro homepage and navbar after I used the set up your homepage button.

When your current menu has the same name as the new auto installed menu, the setup process adds the new pages to existing menu. Find and delete the new links from your menu.

When your old menu and your new menu have unique names, reactivate the menu you were using before the auto install process. BUT first..!

Use the new menu, that links to the new pages, to find and bin or trash any automatically installed pages you don’t want to use. Using this new menu is the easiest way to do this.

The homepage content

Make sure you make a note of the content on your homepage before you run the auto install.

Copy the words and note which images you used on your old homepage. If you used the Genesis Featured Post or Genesis Featured Page widget on your old site, note of which categories you draw the posts from and how many posts you display. The Atomic Blocks plugin adds a block called he AB Post and Page Grid. The AB Post and Page Grid is very similar to the Genesis Featured Post widget.

A simple way to reuse the content from your current homepage, after changing themes.

  • I copy the text on the homepage as plain text, using Notepad etc.
  • Make a note of any photos used on my current theme homepage.
  • If my current homepage uses the Genesis Featured Page/Post plugin and widgets. I make a note of the posts or pages displayed and the categories used.

Google Analytics code etc

Back up any custom code you’ve added to your old theme! Custom code is expensive, don’t lose it when you switch themes.