How to Update Your Shopify Theme - The Easy Way

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Updating your Shopify theme can be pretty confusing and frustrating. Spending a lot of time updating your sections, brand colors, text, and images can be frustrating to have to start from scratch just to get the newest version.

Turns out, thanks to the tireless efforts of some amazing folks over at Shopify, there is now a super easy way to update your theme!



Didn't realize until the other day that folks weren't totally aware of a new option that's available to update your theme in Shopify. So not really new. It's been around for a while. It initially rolled out with just Shopify themes specifically, but now it's also available for themes that are available in the Theme Store. So whether you're working with something from Archetype themes or Maestro or a bunch of the other options here and then I'm like, "Oh no, I'm blanking on a bunch of really good folks here." Those are just ones that I work with a lot. So they'll be on the theme store and so they actually are able to provide options to let Shopify know, hey, a new updated theme is available. Let's go ahead and make this available to merchants as well. Cause if you purchase something on a theme store, you have free updates for life.

So x to support and updates just for the time that it's on there. So that's why buying from the theme stores are really good option for you. But I want to show you here real quick what this looks like. So you can see over here, I'm in the just Shopify here and you can see that there's an option underneath here, studio version 4.0 0.0 is available. So this is actually, the theme is actually called Studio. It is a version of Dawn. So you can see studio version available here. If you scroll down, you can see a whole bunch of these other options, Colorblock version's available and you can even see here, Expanse, this is by archetype Themes. Did this on a free trial cause I was showcasing something to someone I was going to be working with. And you can see here that they were previously on 2.5.2 when I downloaded this, and now they're updated to 3.0 is their most currently available.

Shopify Docs on How it Works

So I want to show you what that looks like here to update real fast. But real quick trip to the docs. You can see here how this works specifically. So there's actually a reference here in the docs. I'll link it here in the video. But you can see here where it talks about the parameters around being able to update your theme specifically. So one of those though, I'll showcase what this looks like here, that you have to worry about is if you've made code changes. You're still going to see the ability to update aka my store theme, but it's not actually going to work the way that it's supposed to. Code changes in this instance, this links out to this page here, talks about extending your theme. Basically adding custom HTML or Liquid. You're messing with settings, you're adding some additional Liquid variables maybe or something like that.

So in that instance, it's not going to be able to update automatically because it carries everything over like settings, layout changes, all this other stuff. The JSON template architecture here with online Store 2.0, that's another caveat. Has the online store 2.0 available is the only way that they can do this. But it carries all that stuff over. It made it so much more flexible. So kind of scrolling down here, just talks a little bit about editing your theme code. So basically if you hired a dev to make custom theme changes to the code, you're going to have to get a dev's help in order to update that. Unless you understand that yourself, maybe not at this point.

So as far as customizations that it will carry over, you can see here modified theme settings. They actually called this out twice. So Shopify a little typo there. Maybe it'll be fixed by the time this video gets called out here. But things like layouts, moving stuff around, changing things, new templates, all that stuff gets moved over into the new theme that's updated with the newest version. And your safe to do this even on a live theme, it just makes an unpublished copy so it'll just make a backup essentially. So I'm going to show you what I'm talking about what this looks like here. I'm going to use a version that isn't one that I've customized with code here, just so that way you can see what this looks like.

Update a Shopify Theme Automatically

So Colorblock, in this instance, 3.0 version available. Let's go ahead and add the theme library. Now if you did this to the live, to me, we do the same thing. It would just drop it in, it's a duplicated theme or something like that and then it would move everything over. However, in the instance that I'm going to show you here in a moment, it's not going to work in the sense of we have a theme that we've done code on, we're going to get an error. So it's going to try to do it, but it's not actually going to work for us. Copying over all those customizations. And there you go. So there's an updated copy of Colorblock with a new version. So there you go. You can see here, just to showcase this one's 2.0.1, this one's 3.0.

Updating a Trial Shopify Theme with Customizations

Okay, scrolling down here to the bottom here, this is a theme trial, so I haven't even purchased this. Just got it in the store to showcase some stuff to someone I was going to be working with. And you can see here that there's an update available. Let's see if this would work. Nice. So even on a theme that we haven't even purchased yet, we've just maybe done it to test it out, play around with it or whatever. We're able to even update that. So all those customizations maybe you were working with before you decided to purchase that theme. Again, something you get to do when it's on a theme that's available on Shopify. That theme trial is super old. This was a long time ago that I was showcasing something to someone. So you can use these for a really long time. And there you go. Like new copy.

Updating a Theme with Custom Code Updates

So again, huge benefit to being in the theme store. So yeah, there you go. All right. So it'll even tell you, Great, it made the customizations. Yay. Okay, so let's try the one that has some custom code updates. Your code changes can't be included. So we've got a new issue there showing up. Let's go ahead and try to add it to the theme library. You can see that it tries really hard here, but what's going to happen is it's basically just going to go away and then we're going to get an error message that it didn't work. Okay. So we're back to Expanse being the very top. And you can see here, this didn't work. We're investigating the issue. Not investigating the issue. I'm sorry if someone actually is, because I've done this a couple times while I'm trying to take cuts for this video here.

But so basically, like it notes in the docs that if you made custom code changes like that, I've made quite a few custom code changes, it's not going to be able to update natively like this. Another point of reference here, you're not going to see this message or this ability to update if you got a theme from off the theme store. So if you bought a theme from Theme Forest, please don't do that. Or if you bought something from out of the sandbox, like Flex or Turbo themes are pretty popular, you're not going to get this option directly here in the editor Out of the Sandbox offers a theme updater app, so you can try that in order to get that kind of experience.

Wrap Up

But stores directly from the theme store, you should have this available, it's going to work great for you. Again, it'll do it if the code has not been edited, I guess I don't need to have that screen. So it'll do it if the code has not been edited for the themes on the theme store automatically for you. So what I would also do, just in general then, because it can't copy all that stuff over, even with the anytime the custom code edit, it's just not going to happen at all. So what I would recommend doing is having just a plain base theme of the theme that you've purchased from the theme store or the backup theme. And then you can always compare and then move over that custom code as well as needed. So that'll depend on the developer you work with, maybe the strategy that they use to update and they'll be able to help move those custom code updates over.

So if you're working with somebody or this is your store, again, super easy to update. Would really recommend getting themes from the theme store just because of how smooth this works for you. And hopefully in the future, that'll just continue to get better and better. Who knows? Maybe eventually they'll be able to call out specific code changes or something. Or maybe for partners and stuff, there's going to be an option for us to somehow flag those to get ported over. That would be amazing. But for now, this is what we've got. It works great. I think it's awesome and hopefully you do too. All right, thanks.


How updating your theme works (What it can, cannot do)

What sort of code customizations will cause this to break

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