I have a couple questions related to the best strategy for changing a site's theme. I'll do my best to set the stage apologies ahead of time for the verbosity.
I setup a Genesis/Zigzag Press - Megalithe child theme based site at plancooltrips.com. I like the theme and have taken sometime to learn how it's put together. I really like that it's responsive but I've had a difficult time customizing it (mostly the home page) given that the home page is custom vs. a generic Genesis based loop that I can hook into. Rather than continue to try and customize this theme I thought perhaps I would be better served switching to a new theme now that I understand child themes a little better. I purchased and installed a different theme from Zigzag press that seemed to have most of what I was looking for called Mindfulness. This theme has some interesting custom post types (e.g. Portfolio) that I think will work nicely for some of the things we're wanting to do with the site. So here's where things get interesting.
I host the site with Bluehost. I downloaded a backup from Bluehost of my WP directory, and a backup of the MySQL DB. On my local PC I have XAMPP for Windows, WP, Genesis, and both of these child themes. I recreated the site locally, and I use the same domain name but leverage my \etc\hosts file to point my browser at either "production" at bluehost or "local development" on my PC. I've been tweaking, testing, etc. Mindfulness is pretty cool but not as responsive in design (different issue).
So now for the questions. After I installed and activated the new theme I had to do quite a bit of work just to get back to a quasi similar site. The work was mostly related to pictures in the media library, setup of slide shows, replacing "Lorum ipsum" text with our site's content, etc. This literally took me hours. We have very little traffic at this point (insert tireless plug from some SEO expert...) so performing this type of maintenance on the production site isn't a big concern but it seems to me there's got to be a better way to migrate in the following fashion: production -> local dev/config/test -> production. I came across the following post that gave me some good ideas - link. Before I sink some more money into tools like WP Migrate DB Pro, I was wondering 1.) What's this site's perspective is on the WP Migrate DB Pro Tool, worth $90.00? and 2.) If there are some alternative best practices to minimizing disruption for the production site.
PS - As I was installing, tweaking, etc. I screwed some things up and got the white screen of death which rattled me a little. I was cool with blowing away local directories and starting over from the backups locally but I'd hate to get into that situation on the production server. Thanks guys!