One of the biggest questions I always hear from a lot of beginners is what happens to their content when they change their theme. For example, there posts, pages, etc. In an earlier post I addressed that very issue.
In reality, your products are similar to content, kind of. Let me explain. Typically your eCommerce side of things are going to be a plugin. We will use WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) for examples.
Custom Post Types
Without getting too technical, when you use a plugin to create a product in either of those that I mentioned, you create it using a custom post type, in one case it’s a product, it the other it’s a download. This information is all stored in your database, same place your posts and pages are stored. So as long as you keep using that plugin, not matter what theme you use, it’s going to still be there.
Your Plugin and Theme Relationship
Now the other piece to consider. Will your new theme play well with your eCommerce plugin. From experience, I have found that with both WooCommerce and EDD, most themes work very well out-of-the-box together. I am a huge Genesis framework fan, and you will need to add a plugin for WooCommerce and Genesis to work on most all themes. (But I have word that will be changing soon in the near future.) So there could be a small chance you might have something go wonky there.
Now with WooCommerce, as I explained regarding Genesis, you will get a message if your theme doesn’t support WooCommerce. This can be a slight or major problem, depending on the theme. But even then, as long as you still have that eCommerce plugin installed, all of your products will rest nicely in the database and return once you have things straightened out.
But Your Products May Not Look the Same
What I mean here is that your product or download page may look different. Why? Same reason as a lot of other things that happen when you change your theme. The style of the new theme will now kick in and things might look a bit off.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Changing the Theme with WooCommerce
Here is a product page using the Storefront theme for WooCommerce. Since this is a theme from Woo, of course we are good to go.
Now here it is after installing the Genesis WooCommerce connect plugin with the Genesis child theme Smart Passive Income Pro. As you can see, things still look good, just the styling is a bit different (fonts, size, etc).
And lastly, here is what it looks like when I changed to the default Twenty Seventeen theme.
As I mentioned before, your products didn’t go anywhere. And the bit of change you see in your styling will also been seen on the product archive page and other WooCommerce related pages.
Changing the Theme with Easy Digital Downloads
Let’s look at EDD downloadable products with the same themes. You will find that EDD does play even more friendly with a variety of themes and you will not likely get an error message, in most cases. As with WooCommerce, EDD also uses the themes styles so the look to that may change as well. In fact, they have a document here that explains EDD’s friendliness with most themes and what you can do to get the most out of it.
Here is what the download page looks like using Storefront.
But now you see that if we switch over to the Genesis child theme Smart Passive Income Pro that we have a bit on an issue here with the text. But really, that is a simple fix. Currently we are using the Featured Image and if we were to remove it, and place the image directly into the post, that would solve this. In fact, there may be even other solutions, but for the sake of this post, that is what I would do.
Lastly, we switch over to the Twenty Seventeen theme.
As you can see, none of my products disappeared.
Two More Thoughts About Themes and Your Products
This is only an example using two of the more popular eCommerce plugins so if you are using another one, your styling may be different.
The first thing to be aware of beyond what I have talked about so far is there could be other issues. For example, if your theme already has some kind of product feature built into it, and it doesn’t require that you install an eCommerce plugin, well, likely that info would be stored inside of the themes database, and if you were to change, all of that would disappear with your theme. I cannot give you an example of a theme that does this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did not exist.
Secondly, how your products are display could also be partly due to the theme’s homepage or if you are using a page builder. The layout and presentation will be theme centric and by changing themes, you could lose this. But to explain further. Say you have this cool theme and it let’s you display your WooCommerce products on the homepage in a unique way. You set that up. But if you do change themes, you lose that option to display. But since you are using WooCommerce, you don’t lose your products. You will just need to setup the homepage with your existing products with your new theme.
Same goes for page builders. They will allow to to create custom product pages and if you choose to no longer use the page builder, you will lose that custom page. But any content you created for your product via WooCommerce, that will still be there.
What If I Change My Theme and eCommerce Plugin?
This is another question you may have. And as you can guess, if you were to just deactivate one eCommerce plugin and install another, well, yes, you products will go away. But be rest assured that many eCommerce plugin will allow you to export and import products. And often this can work between plugins. But since each plugin is different and there are so many variables around products such as how the descriptions are set up, plus the kind of product it is and other options you may have attached to that product, well, make sure and do your homework before you make that switch. It may be a lot more work than you anticipated or choose to do.
What About My Product Images?
As far as your actual image, likely it will have been uploaded and stored in your media library. So there are no worries about those going away. But you would always want to double-check. How and where you images are displayed, will likely change with the new theme. If your theme has theme-specific galleries, that may be another matter and the images may not be stored in the media library. So you will want to make sure you know what is in your library and what isn’t.
The most important thing to remember is whenever you do change themes, and this does not only matter with product images, but all of your images, run a plugin like Regenerate Thumbnails. This will help your images in your new theme not to become blurry or distorted.
And Always Backup
Hopefully this post has set your mind at ease or has given you a better idea of what to expect when changing your theme on your eCommerce site. If your host has staging, or you use a service like WPStagecoach, that’s even better as you can move your site there and test out your new theme. But whatever direction you choose to go, always make sure you backup everything before you starting poking around on your site to make a change like this.