Your theme is the overall appearance of your site: the header and footer, the navigation, typography, basic layout and more. EWU currently has three themes available: the Blogs theme, the Sites theme and the Faculty theme (available by request). If you want to change your theme, there are a few ways you can do this.

The Themes Page

One way to change your theme is with the Themes page. You can reach this page from the front end of your site by hovering over the site title in the admin toolbar and selecting Themes from the drop down. Or you can navigate to the dashboard of your site, hover over Appearance in the sidebar, and select Themes from the options provided.

Themes page

Once you are on the Themes page, you can see all the themes that are available across EWU sites. The first theme listed will be the theme currently active on your site. To customize your active theme, you can press the Customize button.

The other themes listed are available but inactive. When you hover over a theme, three options will appear: Theme Details, Activate and Live Preview.

Theme on hover


If you select Activate, the new theme will automatically be activated on your site. You have successfully changed your theme.

Live Preview

If you select Live Preview, you will enable preview mode. In this view, there is a sidebar with customization options on the left and a preview of your site on the right.

WordPress customizer

This is the same view you would see if you pressed the Customize button on your current theme, but Live Preview displays your site with the new theme instead. This way you can preview a new theme without actually activating it. You can even navigate your site in preview mode to see what different pages will look like.

If you do not like the new theme, you can discard changes and exit preview mode by selecting the X at the top left corner of the sidebar. If you like the theme, you can save your changes by selecting Save & Activate at the top of the sidebar. When that button changes to Saved, you can exit preview mode with the X. This will direct you back to the Themes page. When you refresh the page, you will see that your new theme is active.

Theme Details

If you select Theme Details, a modal will pop up with information about the theme. You’ll see a preview image, the name of the theme, the creator of the theme, a description, and tags. At the bottom of the window are the same two buttons that are visible when you hover over a theme: Activate and Live Preview. As before, you can select either of these options to activate the theme. You can click the X in the upper right corner to exit Theme Details.

Theme details

The Customizer

The other way to change your theme is with the Customize screen—the same preview mode that you are directed to when you click Live Preview on the Themes page. You can reach the Customize screen from your website by selecting Customize in the Admin toolbar. Or you can navigate to the dashboard of your site, hover over Appearance in the sidebar, and select Customize from the options.

This will activate preview mode. As before, the sidebar with customization options is on the left and a preview of your site is on the right. Near the top of the sidebar, there is a section that says Active Theme. It shows the name of the theme currently active on your site.

Active theme in customizer

To see other available themes, press the Change button, and they will show up in the sidebar. Like before, you can select Theme details to see more information about a theme. When you hover over a theme, a Live Preview button will appear. Clicking this will give you a preview of what your site looks like with that theme.

Change theme in customizer

To change your theme, select Live Preview. Your sidebar will return to normal. Then press Save & Activate. If you do not want to save the new theme, you can either press the X in the upper left corner to exit, or you can use the theme section in the sidebar to change your theme again.

Potential Issues

Different themes have different default settings. What this means for you is that when you change your theme, your site will revert to the new theme's default settings and may not look like you expect it to look. So whenever you change your site to a new theme, it is good practice to look through your site to find and resolve any discrepancies.

Fortunately, this only seems to be an issue with themes you have never used before. Once you change settings on a theme, it should save those changes—that is, if you change your theme to another and then change it back later, your customized settings will remain.

The most common issues you will find in new themes are with layouts and widget areas.

Layout Issues

A layout is the structure of your post or page. For example, the default layout on EWU's themes has a content area and a sidebar for widgets. You can change the layout individually for each post or page, or you can change the default layout of your entire site by hovering over Genesis in the sidebar, selecting Theme Settings, and then changing the layout in the Default Layout section.

Theme settings in the Genesis tab

When you change your theme, pages will reset to the default layout of that theme. For example, if you changed your default layout on the Blogs theme to full width, and then changed your theme to the Sites theme, your pages might show a sidebar where there was none before because Sites' default layout is a content area and sidebar. To resolve this, you would need to return to the Theme Settings page under Genesis and set the default layout back to Full Width, or whichever layout you prefer.

Widget Issues

Widget areas are closely tied with layouts. Sidebars are the most common kind of widget area, but EWU themes have other widget areas available as well. When you change your site to a theme you have not used before, widget areas will reset to the theme's defaults. To restore your widgets back to the way you want them to be displayed, you will need to go to your Widgets page to rebuild your widget areas and choose which ones you want to display. All widgets you had displayed before the theme change can be found with their saved settings under Inactive Widgets.

For more about widgets and how to use them, see our article: Using Widgets.