Finding a responsive theme for WordPress can be tricky; there are many factors to consider when choosing a theme, including speed, design, and user experience.
However, two factors that may be overlooked are the updates and support. A regularly updated theme is crucial for fixing bugs, introducing new features, and protecting you (and your users) from security breaches.
Meanwhile, support is crucial, too. Many themes are available for WordPress online, but not all offer support if something goes wrong. Running a website that is responsive on any device is tricky, and being able to access help and guidance is vital.
In this article, we’ll explore how support and updates play an essential role in responsive themes, taking a deeper look at the benefits of updates and why it’s worth keeping on top of them.
What Is a Responsive Theme?
A responsive theme is essential for WordPress users. A responsive theme is designed to look good on any-sized screen; users should be able to switch between desktop, mobile, and tablet, zooming in and out, clicking on menus, and navigating with no issues.
This approach centers the user experience, meaning website visitors can enjoy using your website on any device. It also prioritizes speed, which is super important: site speed is vital in user retention, and users will leave if a page takes too long to load on mobile.
We have plenty of resources on responsive theme design, including how to test the responsiveness of a WordPress theme and the key features that make a theme responsive.
However, a good, responsive theme should include regular updates and support. This is important for several reasons, which we’ll discuss in the section below.
Why Are Regular Theme Updates Important for Responsive Themes?
Regularly updated themes, with helpful support, are vital in choosing a theme for WordPress. Here’s why:
We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next section, but one of the main factors to consider is safety. A regularly updated site is key for avoiding security breaches, including malware or site downtime.
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This could be a huge problem. Hackers can gain personal information, leak passwords, and even spread malware to your customers or clients. While WordPress has some excellent security features, outdated plugins and themes create vulnerable spots which hackers can exploit.
This means that regular updates are super crucial for security purposes.
Some theme updates come with new or improved features. Some of these improvements may be small, but others may make a massive difference in functionality and customer experience.
As well as updated security features, good themes should be tweaked and improved over time. For example, you might find an improved gallery feature or more options for customization.
Updating a theme regularly ensures you’ll get the most from it: you may just stumble upon a new feature that makes your website run smoothly.
Regular theme updates should solve any issues raised by users and will eliminate any glitches or bugs that have been reported. For example, sometimes a WordPress update (or even a mobile browser update) can cause minor problems, and regular updates will help to iron out these issues.
Compatibility with WordPress
WordPress itself is updated regularly, and if you choose to update, you may find that your theme is no longer compatible.
Luckily, there are plugins for this: for example, Theme-Check runs a quick check to see if your theme is compatible with the latest standards set by WordPress.
Updating your theme means it will (hopefully!) fall in line with the latest updates from WordPress itself. These updates are done for a good reason and may improve functionality and site speed.
Speed is essential for responsive themes, and theme updates may boost speed and performance optimization.
For example, it may reduce the resources required to load pages, making your website much faster to browse from a visitor’s perspective.
The last point – and one of the most important – is the impact on mobile users.
Regular theme updates should improve the browsing experience for mobile visitors; updates may include compatibility fixes for mobile browsers, so when a browser gets a big update, your website will still look good.
Improved speed plays a part here too. Speed is essential for mobile users. According to a study by Google, mobile pages that load one second faster saw up to a 27% increase in conversion rates.
At the other end of the scale, longer load times had a negative impact, with the bounce rate increasing to just under 60% when a page takes 9 seconds or longer to load.
It’s always worth updating your theme to improve speed, even if it takes a little time to install the update from your perspective. So any investment in this area is worth it. (You can also check out our guide on the best WordPress caching plugins to improve your site’s speed.)
Why Is Theme Support So Important for Responsive Themes?
We’ve discussed the importance of updates, but now let’s look at why good support and documentation are so important.
Installing a new mobile-friendly theme should be fairly straightforward, but it’s much easier with clear support and guidance.
A good theme should include step-by-step instructions outlining the installation process and the option to contact customer support for further advice and guidance.
It’s also essential to access help and support if something goes wrong after the installation stage. For example, the extremely popular Astra theme for WordPress offers support via:
- A ticketing system
- Community support
You’ll have multiple ways of seeking help and guidance if something goes wrong. In a crisis, that’s going to be extremely useful.
A more popular theme (we can use the Astra theme as an example again) should offer community support. This means you can connect with other Astra users to iron out small issues with functionality and customization and gain inspiration and ideas.
Some themes offer private Facebook groups, forums, or similar groups for theme users to meet. Discussing the theme with real users can be useful, especially regarding troubleshooting.
The Safety Impact of Updates
Let’s look at the security impact of using particular themes and why it’s essential to update your theme regularly to avoid attacks.
Even the best themes will eventually develop vulnerabilities if not regularly updated. For example, WordPress says out-of-date WordPress themes create 6% of vulnerabilities, with hackers explicitly targeting outdated themes.
(As a side note, updating plugins is vital for the same reason: outdated plugins cause a whopping 90% of known security breaches.)
How do hackers manage to identify these weaknesses? WordPress suggests that developers use a GNU General Public License to distribute their themes, which means these themes are open source. Therefore, the code is accessible by anyone at any time, including hackers.
That’s why regular updates are so important. The latest version of your theme shouldn’t have any vulnerabilities and should be following best practices regarding security in coding.
There are a few issues that may be presented by hackers targeting old, outdated themes:
- Leaking of personal information – if your website deals with sensitive information like card details, addresses, or passwords, hackers could gain access to and release this information
- Installation of malware – hackers could install malicious software onto your website, potentially passing this on to customers or visitors
- Site downtime – hackers can take down a site completely, flooding servers with traffic to slow it down or shut it down completely
This sounds scary, but in reality, the chances of it happening are low. However, the potential ramifications are so huge that it is crucial to stop these attacks from happening, and a simple way to do this is to keep your theme and plugins updated.
So, how can you install theme updates? There are a few ways to do this, but the easiest way is to use a plugin.
You can visit your theme’s website to see a breakdown of new updates; they’ll usually explain in detail the fixes the latest update provides. This is important, because if a theme has a significant update, it may impact certain areas of your website (and may require some customization).
You may also be able to subscribe to email alerts, letting you know the details of any new fixes or major updates.
Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrade
You can make managing updates much more manageable by downloading a plugin, the Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrade. This plugin detects and automatically updates themes or plugins. It automatically creates a backup of the old theme, too, so if something breaks or goes wrong, you can restore it from that backup.
We’d recommend looking into this; it’s simple to use and may save you time and effort, which is always worthwhile!
Update Using WordPress
Important note: ensure you have a recent WordPress site backup in case something goes wrong. You should take frequent backups as a regular habit!
You can install a theme update manually on the WordPress dashboard. First, click Dashboard > Updates, then scroll down to ‘Themes,’ and click the Update Themes button. This will start the update process for you.
Simple, right? It may be slightly more complex if you have heavily customized your theme. If you run into trouble, it’s worth seeking support from the theme support team or chatting with other theme users for advice.
The Importance of Support and Updates: Our Final Thoughts
When it comes to a responsive theme, support and updates are vital.
We’ve looked at the importance of regular theme updates, which include:
- Improved security and removing the risk of vulnerabilities from outdated themes
- New and better design features
- Bug fixes
- Compatibility with the latest version of WordPress
- Faster speed
- Improved mobile experience for users
Regular updates are super important from a security perspective. Plus, updates usually iron out some problems that users are experiencing, no matter how small. So it’s useful to install updates to ensure your website runs as smoothly as possible.
Support, meanwhile, is also vital. A good theme should offer support and documentation, including a step-by-step guide to installation, as well as the option to contact a support team for troubleshooting.
It’s not just the act of choosing a responsive theme that is important; maintenance is equally vital to keep your customers or visitors happy (and safe). Installing updates may not always be straightforward, but it’s worth doing.
As a final note, just remember to take regular backups of your website: updating a theme should be straightforward, but if something goes wrong, you’ll want a recent backup to restore. This means you can figure out where you went wrong with less disruption for your users.