Content Developer at PressMate May 10, 2018

What are WordPress child themes and why should you use them ?

The biggest advantage one can have with WordPress is that it allows you to build, modify and scale up the websites beyond just blogs. WordPress is no more a blogging tool but can also be used to do tons of different things like setting up an E Commerce Website or course selling website through plugins like SenSei , and Learndash. Just a few years back, you needed to hire developers to design your website well. However, now due to the ever increasing choice of themes and plugins, you can create and develop your website. But this approach can be a bit restricting and at times you may want to customize it to suit your needs. What if you want to edit your current WordPress themes ? Well, this is where child themes come into the picture.

In the early days of the WordPress, there was nothing like themes as we know today. If you wanted to create something in certain way, you would edit default templates with your own HTML and CSS. Later on, things like stand alone themes, child themes were added. This was done to allows more WordPress functionality at its core. Child theme was added few years after the theme system was added. So it is important to understand what is child themes and its power.

What is child themes ?

A child theme is WordPress theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, the parent theme, with the ability to override or customise how the parent theme works. They are often used when you want to customize your existing WordPress theme without changing anything in the parent theme.

In other words, a child theme in WordPress would inherit all the functionality, codes, and features without changing its parent theme. Such technique allows you to modify or add the functionality of the parent theme in a much safer way.

Now a days, any WordPress themes can have child themes. However, not all themes are good parent theme because some have limited features and functionality and a parent theme with such limitations are not acceptable as an ideal parent theme candidate.

Why you should use child themes ?

  • It allows you to safely update the parent theme
  • Speeds up your development time to make changes
  • Good way to start WordPress development
  • Offers productive template files
  • Gives you added value in the form of better work organization
  • Modifications can much better organized

Creating a WordPress child theme can be as simple as creating a new style.css file.  For a newbie, using a child theme is a good move to start WordPress website. DIY users often use child themes to customize an existing theme of their website without losing ability to update the parent theme. Check out our blog about How to create a child theme to be able to create a child theme on your own. 

Advantages of using child themes ?

1. Harmless updates

A child theme inherits the parent theme’s features, templates and styles. This allows you to make changes to your site without modifying your parent theme. As any of the modifications stay in your child theme, you can carry out any update that appear in parent theme, without worrying about losing them.

2. Safe fallback

WordPress has tons of things that you need to take care while coding a WordPress theme. There may be single post, pages, tags, author and many different template files that you need to code. There is a high probability that you may at times miss them. However, when it comes to child theme’s, if you forget to code something, then don’t worry, you always get parent theme’s functionality as the fallback option.

3. Easy to extend

A powerful theme framework comes with a lot of flexibility. Creating child theme that uses such a theme framework as parent theme that allows a great deal of extendibility without writing a lot of code. You can selectively modify the files and functions you want to modify , all in the child theme. 

So, if you are worried about updating themes but also want to customize a readymade theme to a great deal, then child themes is the way to go for.

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