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Should you update your theme?

Should you update your theme?

We all want to be on the latest, most updated versions of our software - for example; keeping your chrome browser up to date, keeping up with the latest iOS or Android versions, and running updates regularly on your computer. We’ve been taught that it’s important for security and functionality to keep everything as up to date as possible. 

Most technology is updated frequently, and themes from Shopify’s Theme Store are no exception. Depending on your theme, you’ll likely see periodic updates available that usually include bug fixes and/or new features. However, there are nuances to theme updates that make them different from updating your phone or browser. Before you go ahead with an update, let’s first dive into what a theme version update is and talk about the pros and cons to updating your theme to the newest version.

What is a theme update?

A theme update means updating your theme to the newest version, made available from your theme’s developers. Most themes from Shopify’s Theme Store will have regular updates. These updates can include anything from major or minor bug fixes to exciting new features and sections. 

Unlike a Chrome or software update, it is highly unlikely that using an old version of the theme would pose a security risk or greatly reduce functionality. It’s okay if your theme is using an older version as long as your store is working as expected for you and your customers.

Note: if your theme is still on Online Store 1.0 without sections in every template, we advise updating your theme right away  - even if that requires  a complete overhaul of your website. Please reach out to  us to chat more about upgrading to Online Store 2.0.

Should you update your theme?

Updating your theme is easy and advisable if you have never implemented custom code modifications. If you’re working with a theme in which you have only ever used the theme customizer and never clicked “edit code”, then the new version of your theme should keep most (if not all) of your customizations.

If you have implemented code customizations, the decision to update becomes more nuanced. 

Most times, your code customizations will not carry over into an updated version of the theme. Unless the theme update has added native features to replace your custom code updates, your developer or agency will need to reimplement the code customizations in your updated theme. Reimplementing these customizations will require time and resources. 

If your theme has significant code customizations and is working as expected, there’s no reason to jump at every opportunity to update your theme. Theme developers release new versions on a regular basis, and you could find yourself in an endless cycle of wasted development hours if you have to bring your code customizations over with each and every update.

Ask Kenna recommends:

  1. Each time your theme’s developers release a new version of your theme, read through the version release notes. Note any new features and bug fixes that may impact your site. If you don’t see any features you’re interested in and the bug fixes aren’t bugs that are impacting your website, it’s likely you can safely wait until the next version to consider updating your theme.
  2. If the new version of your theme does contain a feature or bug fix that would be advantageous for your business, download a new version of your theme and set it to “unpublished”. Then, go into the theme and test out the new features. Be sure to note any code customizations that are missing, and any other differences you see between the two themes. Be sure to check on mobile as well as on desktop.

    Tip: Open your current website in an incognito window and preview the new theme in a regular window, so you can run a side by side comparison.

If your theme has code customizations but you’re not sure how to bring them over to the new updated version, we can help! Please contact us below.

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

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