Choosing when to rebuild or start from scratch
Because WordPress is such a versatile platform, many people think that “choosing a new theme” is as easy as purchasing one one online and a one-click install from there. This couldn’t be further from the truth and can lead to some major issues with a website that is live on the internet.
When a theme is switched in WordPress, all of the customisation that is not handled by plugins is immediately lost. So while your info stored by plugins stays, e.g. WooCommerce products for example, the formatting and how things are displayed will change drastically in accordance with the new theme. You will have to tweak everything all over again, and depending on how old your theme was prior to the switch, you may not be able to carry over certain content from the previous site. In most cases, switching back to the old theme after changing it will restore most changes if nothing else has been altered – but not always! Needless to say, it can create a right mess, so it’s a good idea to at least debunk the myth that easy WordPress theme changes exist.
Choosing an option that best suits your needs
As we’ve established that refreshing your website can be tricky, the next step is determine if it is better to completely start from the ground up or take the existing data and clean it up with the new theme. Basically two options exist before moving forward:
- Create a brand new, fresh install of WordPress using the desired theme.
- Clone the current site and build on top of the existing database.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both (I’ve had my share of experience with each), and one isn’t necessarily “better” than the other. It all depends on what you need to do.
You will want to start from scratch if most of the following are true for the new site:
When to start from scratch
- Your old site isn’t built on WordPress (duh!)
- You don’t need old, cluttered databases from the older site
- You suspect the old site has dodgy code and/or content
- You want a redesign that is 100% fresh
- Most of the previous databases don’t need to be carried over (e.g. contact form entries, products, plugin data, etc.)
- You want to establish a clearer long-term timeline solution (as opposed to option 2)
When to rebuild your current website
- You have a large database of info from plugins, users, and/or custom dev work that needs to be carried over
- You have a lot of traffic on your old site (over 1000+ views a day)
- Your new site only really needs a visual overhaul
- If you only really need to transfer over data from one or two plugins
- You want a quicker, short term option