If you’re redesigning your BigCommerce store, you or your designer may set up a staging website on which to build and customize your new theme. This allows you to see how the theme looks before activating it on your live website.
Typically, you or your designer will import some of your products, categories and page content into the staging website to use for reference when customizing the new theme’s layouts. However, the staging website is not an actual copy of your live website, which can be confusing and lead to lots of questions about what happens when the new theme is applied to your live website.
Here are answers to questions I most frequently get from my clients when I’m building custom Stencil themes on a staging website. I hope they answer some of your questions, too!
Do I need to re-add all my products, pages, payment gateway, shipping rules, etc when switching themes?
No, you are not migrating to a new store. You’re just applying a new “skin” to the front-end of the store. Everything you’ve added via the control panel remains intact.
Is my control panel going to change with the new theme?
No, your control panel will look exactly the same with a few small exceptions (only if upgrading from Blueprint to Stencil). Those exceptions include the removal of the Template Files link in the Storefront area, the additional of two links related to scripts in the Storefront area and some settings will disappear from Store Setup > Store Settings > Display because they are now part of the theme’s Customize menu.
Why aren’t I seeing all of my categories?
You designer probably didn’t set up all your categories on the staging website to save time. When the theme is imported to your live website, all your categories will be there.
Why are my categories in the wrong order?
If your designer imported your products and categories into the staging website, the display order of your categories was reset to alphabetical. Don’t worry, when the theme is imported to your live website, your category order will be the same as you’ve set it in the control panel.
Where are all my category descriptions / meta tags / banners?
Category descriptions, meta tags and banners cannot be imported to the staging website. However, they will all still be there when the new theme is applied to your live website.
Where are my product options? / Why aren’t my option rules working?
To save time, your designer may have imported your products into the staging website without options. Or, your rules may be applied at the option level instead of at the product level – in that case, they can’t be exported and imported into the staging website. When the new theme is applied to your live website, all your option rules will still be in place.
I tried signing into my account and it doesn’t work – are all my customer accounts gone?
Customer accounts are not typically imported to a staging website because customers will never actually shop there. When the new theme is applied to your live website, all your customer accounts and past order history will still be there.
What happened to my coupons and discounts? They don’t work.
Coupons and discounts cannot be imported to the staging website. Any coupons and discount rules you have set up will continue to work with your new theme.
Why are the payment options wrong?
It’s not possible to set up payment gateways on a staging website, so you’re probably just seeing the default payment gateway (currently Braintree Powered by Paypal). Rest assured that only payment options that you’ve set up will appear in checkout when the new theme is launched.
When I test checkout, I get Free Shipping as an option but I don’t offer that?
Your designer probably just set up free shipping so that you could test the checkout process on the staging website. Only shipping rules that you have configured in your live website will be available to customers when the new theme is applied.
I’ve customized text or created custom layouts for my content pages, like About Us, FAQs, etc. Will those still work with the new theme?
It depends. The HTML you entered in the WYSIWYG editor will remain intact when the new theme is imported. However, any custom CSS you added to the old theme files will not be transferred to the new theme. Therefore, you may need to recreate that CSS. Keep in mind that if you’re upgrading from Blueprint (or earlier) to Stencil, the element names will be different, so you won’t be able to simply copy and paste your old CSS into the new theme and expect it to work.
If your old theme wasn’t responsive and your new theme is, you may also need to recode your custom layouts so they work with a responsive theme. For example, if you have a large image with lots of text in it or a wide table on one of your pages, those likely won’t scale down well when viewed on a mobile device.
Even if you haven’t created custom layouts, you should revisit your content pages after launching a new theme. You may find that the spacing between paragraphs or font sizes need to be adjusted if you used the WYSIWYG editor to manually change fonts, font sizes, spacing between paragraphs, etc.
What about 3rd party apps, scripts and verification tags? Will those still work with the new theme?
It depends. If you installed 3rd party apps in the Apps area of the control panel, they will continue to work in most cases. However, some 3rd party apps require that you add a snippet of code to certain template files – in those cases, you may need to replace that code with a new version, especially if you’re upgrading from Blueprint to Stencil. Check the app’s website or contact the app developer to find out if you’ll need to do this.
If the apps, scripts or verification tags were added in the Advanced > Google Analytics or Advanced > Affiliate Conversion Tracking areas of the control panel, they will continue to work with the new theme. However, like with the 3rd party apps, there’s a chance you may have to update the scripts to use new variables if you’re upgrading from Blueprint to Stencil. Check the app’s website or contact the app developer to find out if you’ll need to do this.
For any scripts or tags added directly to your old theme’s template files, such as in the HTMLHead.html or Footer.html panels, your designer should copy those over to the new theme as part of the redesign process. It’s always a good idea to remind them to do this if you know you have scripts or tags in your old template.
Will my website go down when the new theme is added to my store?
In most cases, your website will only be down for a few minutes. Most designers will take your store “down for maintenance” before applying the new theme just to make sure that everything looks correct once it has been applied. Sometimes they’ll need to adjust a few of your store settings or update your logo to match the new theme. If you’ve decided to change how your categories or pages are displayed, some updates may need to be made in those areas as well. On average, applying a new theme shouldn’t take more than an hour, and likely will take much less time than that.
Will I need to set up 301 redirects?
No, the new theme will not affect any of your store’s URLs.
Do I need to resubmit my website to Google Console or Bing Console?
Not unless you are changing from a non-responsive theme (which has a separate mobile template) to a new Stencil theme. In that case, it’s a good idea to resubmit your store’s sitemap so that Google and Bing come see that you now have a responsive design, which may improve your store’s search engine rankings.