How to Create a Checklist For Switching Themes
Most modern content management systems use a "theme" based system, which is basically a series of web templates. It does not matter if you're using WordPress, Joomla, OS Commerce, Drupal, Mambo, Postnuke, or even a forum – they all use "themes".
In the beginning when you're building your site, you try to find the best theme you can, maybe you looked for a free one, maybe you even paid a designer to create one for you. Inevitably what happens is, you get tired of the design you have, and you want a new one. You search and search, and finally you found the perfect new theme for your blog or web site and you're ready to make the switch. Are you really ready? Do you know what will happen when you "flip the switch" to the new design? What you need is a little checklist so you can make sure you know well in advance exactly what's going to happen.
First of all – once you get your new theme, you should test it for awhile to make sure everything is ok. If you use WordPress you can test it without anyone knowing by simply using the Theme Test Drive Plugin. On other systems you can search for a plugin like this, but if you do not find out maybe you will have to install a test version of your site to try the time out on first. You want to make sure you work out all the bugs before you make your new theme live!
Make a list of all the things your old theme has and make sure your new theme does as well. If it does not, consider creating the pages you need based on your new index (home) page.
– Do you have a search page?
– Do you have a 404 Error (page not found) page?
– Do you have archives pages?
– Do you have category and / or tag pages?
– Do you need to customize your comments section?
– Do you have any page templates you need to create (from the old theme)?
– Is anything hardcoded into your old theme (AdSense, special plugins or modules, style code)?
– Are all your plugins up to date?
This is also a great time to look over the plugin or modules repository for your CMS system and see if there's something new available you can take advantage of. Maybe you can add something to help manage your feed, create a calendar, manage a mailing list, or better categorize your posts and pages.
If you're launching a new theme, my advice to you is to first backup everything, make a list of work to be done, and make sure you have at least a few sets of eyes (enclosed yours) test your entire blog before you put it live! Consider asking friends with a Mac or an older computer to view it, and have a few people try it out at work too. This way you can not only get multiple eyes on it, you can get it viewed in as many versions of Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer as possible!