Want to enjoy more control over your WordPress site and wish to learn how themes actually work? WordPress child theme is the answer!
Use of WordPress child themes to modify any of your themes is a safe and recommended way. WordPress is a smart choice and magnet for all those who are keen on keeping full control of their websites in their hands and want to keep running them independently.
WordPress can make customizing websites completely easy and with just a little decent knowledge of CSS, HTML, and PHP, there are a lot of things that can be changed.
WordPress child theme further gives you little more comfort in handling websites to which you can make multiple changes without having to touch any original theme files through the process.
What is a theme in WordPress?
Essentially, a WordPress theme is a collection of templates, styles, and other files that work together to present content on your website in a certain way. It can be used to help you build almost any kind of website much faster – from simple websites and eCommerce stores to more complex ones like membership sites or directory websites.
Any theme becomes a parent theme only when someone builds child themes for them.
Till then it is just a theme, something that you already find in the WordPress directory.
Child themes completely depend on their parent themes for working accurately.
If the parent theme is missing, it will not perform even a single task and it’s not even possible to activate it.
It is possible to change, add and manage things from the WordPress admin area. Luckily, you are spoilt for choices when it comes to choosing your favorite or suitable WordPress themes online.
WordPress themes are responsible for changing the overall design and appearance of your website and it often includes its layout and various other features that demand change.
If you want to change the overall appearance of your website on the front-end, switching over to themes can largely help.
It is possible to pick from more than a thousand free themes from the theme directory on WordPress.
For better results, you can also invest in paid and premium themes.
If you are fond of a particular theme used on some sites, online detectors and tools can help you recognize the same theme and install it on your website.
What is a Child theme?
A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality from the parent theme but allows you to safely extend and modify the parent theme while making sure that your changes won’t be lost after the updates.
In the case of tweaking an existing WordPress theme, a child theme can let you customize without having to upgrade the existing one.
This can often seem like a tough choice when you want to update your theme without losing all the existing custom styles that you have prepared for your WordPress site and you can’t – this scenario was a tough thing in the past.
However, now when you wish to update your site quickly to prevent it from getting hacked, you can do it without submitting to major changes.
The concept of parent and child theme was introduced to meet this purpose at large.
There are a few parent themes that rely on limited functionalities or features and hence they are not recommended in most cases.
Not all parent themes contain necessary action filters and hooks limiting the amount of extensibility that the developer can provide.
As a result, developers and designers can create a robust WordPress website by utilizing child themes in just a few moments.
What is the purpose of using a Child theme in WordPress?
Developers and designers from top web designing companies commonly put child themes to use for speeding up their development.
When you are using a good parent theme, you can be sure about less time utilized for creating a WordPress website.
It is not required to get everything coded simply because most of the good parent themes also known as the theme frameworks offer multiple options in customization and functionality.
Creating a WordPress child theme is easy and simple just like creating a new style.css file in the root folder of the child theme.
Child themes in WordPress can have multiple template files, as many as you have in the parent theme. Also, child themes can contain template files that may not even be available in WordPress parent themes.
Using a child theme can depend on your own requirements.
Most of the websites built for ourselves or the clients are child themes from theme frameworks.
Users must opt for child themes only in case they find themselves updating brand new features or functions or modifying styles more often than not.
In such cases, the use of child themes is highly recommended.
Now a question that usually arises in these cases is whether it is best to use custom CSS plugin or child themes and what is the purpose of child themes if you are into adding and altering custom styles only?
The answers to these questions are not complicated. It really depends on how comfortably one can put technology into use.
When there is a need to modify just a few styles in elements then you can simply use a built-in feature that is called a theme customizer.
If you are among those who keep changing color schemes constantly or shifting features around CSS is your cup of tea then utilizing child themes for your work can be great.
It should be noted here that many beginners commit the mistake of creating child themes of parent themes that can’t offer a lot of functionality.
If you are stuck into creating child themes where you have to replace plenty of parent theme files in a go, then it becomes important to consider your choice again.
It is rather advisable to put your selected theme as starter themes can further turn into custom themes later.
When you are inclined to utilizing functionality and features of a good parent theme without putting in the effort for writing plenty of code, it is advisable to use child themes for best results.
Advantages of using a WordPress child theme
There are many other advantages of using WordPress child themes and here are some of them.
Safe updates: Child themes automatically adapt to the features, templates, and styles of parent themes. You can then easily make changes to the site with child themes and without having to modify the parent theme.
With the introduction of a new parent theme version, it is possible to safely update with all modifications already saved in the existing child theme with no downtime. The last thing you want is your site to be down for some time-this can negatively impact your SEO ranking and progress if your site is ‘down’ for too long and Google might even deindex it.
Easily extendable: If you have a child theme set on some powerful and reliable theme framework, it is possible to enjoy the advantage of added flexibility without taking the trouble of writing plenty of codes.
You can select and modify particular functions and template files required by you without having to go through various other template files involved in the process. It is also possible to go for more added functionality for better results.
Safe fallback: While you are trying to create a new theme, think, and analyze various other possible scenarios and codes to be written for them.
There can be instances when you forget to write a code for something while working on a child theme. In that case, the functionality of the parent theme is always available as a reliable and convincing fallback option.
If you are not happy with the customization work, you can easily disable the child theme and the results are going to be similar to what it was before.
All in all, with WordPress child themes, you can start learning more about how WordPress themes actually work. You can speed up your development time and reduce the over price of the website by building on something that already exists without having to start things from scratch.
Disadvantages of using a WordPress child theme
Apart from many advantages of using a child theme in WordPress, there are also multiple disadvantages that shouldn’t be overlooked.
One of the major disadvantages in this regard is the time required to invest in learning about parent themes.
If you are working with the robust theme frameworks, you must know that they already have their own set of filters and hooks and you must try to know more about them to fetch maximum potential out of them.
Just the first few child themes created should take a long time but post that, it becomes easy to create custom websites within a few moments. It will boost your overall performance too.
Another disadvantage of using WordPress child themes is that the developers of your parent themes might begin losing interest, drop an essential feature that was already being used in a child theme, or even make a change that might just destroy the child theme of your website completely.
Most of the WordPress themes being used in the present time are GPL and open source. With the developer of the parent theme abandoning the project, chances are that you will have to stop using it.
Even though many folks from the same community can go-ahead to take over the entire project, you can still face little issues that are ultimately tough to ignore and you will probably need to hire a new developer.
If the original developers of a particular theme remove a particular feature, you can still get it added in your child theme. You should be having the code for making the changes. However, if you find them making a huge change that you are not comfortable inheriting, then what you can do is, simply avoid the update.
WordPress theme updates are extremely vital in case of a security exploit.
However, it is always required to keep updating themes since it can ensure good compatibility with multiple plugins and scripts for the future.
In case, you are using some commercial WordPress theme framework, then you can take help from the support options that can further assist you in upgrading themes or facing troubleshoot issues.
Such stable platforms should continue offering you the service you demand and they are here to stay because they are counted among top stable business organizations offering services to more than thousands of customers from all over the world.
In a few cases, it was seen that when such platforms suddenly removed typical built-in widgets or other functionalities, they instantly made them available for all, encouraging them to use plugins they wanted to stick to.
Even though any developer or designer can create a child theme on just any WordPress theme, it should be added that at times you might not just require any child theme at all.
Make sure that you have analyzed the number of changes you need to make to a child theme that you have selected and if you feel that the changes you have planned are minor then you can consider switching over to custom-style.css file in theme or simply start using the custom CSS plugin that meets your requirements. You must think about creating a custom theme if the changes you have planned are extreme.
With this article, you must have gained a fair knowledge of whether the WordPress child theme is a good choice for you and fits your requirements well. Building child themes in WordPress isn’t a complicated task and all you need is one folder and two files to start with.
A child theme is simple yet a lot more powerful which allows you to safely customize a website without having to edit core files.
Learning about creating WordPress child themes can prove to be an important step in the career of any WordPress developer or designer.
About the autor: Andriy Haydash is a WordPress Developer & Consultant who helps thought leaders and organizations build and launch successful membership sites.