Previously, we have written about WordPress Theme Frameworks (Parent Theme). In this blog, we will talk all about WordPress Child Theme.
What is a WordPress Child Theme?
A WordPress Child Theme is a WordPress Theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, called the parent theme. If you want to modify the existing themes of WordPress then creating Child themes is the recommended option. In the older days of WordPress there was no option to update the theme without losing the custom CSS or the changes made on the theme.
So, the problem was solved by introducing the concept of Parent Theme and Child Theme. A WordPress Child Theme can adapt all the functionality, features, and the code of the parent theme. You can change the code of child theme without making any changes to the parent theme itself. This allowed users to change the styling of the parent theme and add/modify features without losing the ability to update the parent theme.
You might be thinking that avoiding these updates is more easy than creating a Child theme. But, you can’t avoid these updates. Assume that, the widely used script in your theme suddenly has a major issue and you need to update your theme. But updating it can lead to losing all the changes you have made. And not updating it can risk the security of your website. And your website might get hacked.
Use of WordPress Child Theme
Child Themes are mainly used by developers to enhance their development speed. There are a few reasons why you would want to use a child theme:
- If you modify a theme directly and it is updated, then your modifications may be lost. By using a child theme you will ensure that your modifications are preserved.
- Using a child theme can speed up development time.
- Using a child theme is a great way to learn about WordPress theme development.
When Should You Use a Child Theme?
It totally depends on you and your website’s needs. For example you constantly need to add new functions in your theme’s functions.php file and/or constantly need to add or modify the style.css file of your theme. In these cases, we highly recommend that you should use a child theme.
Importance of picking a good Parent Theme
Although all themes can be the Parent theme but not all of them are meant to become theme framework. Also all WordPress frameworks are parent themes, but not all parent themes are frameworks. So, picking a Parent Theme is as much important as creating a Child Theme.
You should choose such a powerful theme whose functionality, features, and awesomeness you want keep in child theme. So, you have to write minimal code.
Creating Child Theme
Creating a child theme of a WordPress theme is as simple as creating a new style.css file in a new folder. All you have to do is to add one line in your new style.css header which defines the template (visit here for more details). A strong child theme can have as many or even more template files as the parent theme have. A child theme can even have template files that are not present in the parent theme.
- Safer Updates : The main purpose of this concept is to easily and safely update the theme without losing any changes. This is automatically done as the child theme inherits the parent theme’s all styles, features and templates. Thus, whenever there is a new version of the parent theme, you can safely update it as all your modifications are saved in the child theme.
- Easy to Modify : A child theme of a powerful theme framework is super flexible. You can easily modify only selected template files and functions without having to go through other template files. You can also add new functionality and much more.
- Fallback Safe : Whenever you are creating a completely different theme you need to cover the possible scenarios and write code for them. Whereas, while working on a child theme and if you forget to code for something, then we have the parent theme’s functionality available as the fallback option.
- Learning Curve : The biggest disadvantage is the time you spent in learning the WordPress theme development. But in our opinion this is a one time investment. Once you have created the child themes of most popular frameworks your performance will be improved. And then you will be able to create the child theme in a short span of time.
- Reliability on Parent Theme : The another disadvantage is the reliability of child theme on its parent theme. Suppose a functionality of Parent theme is dropped but your child theme needs that functionality. This might completely destroy your child theme. But there is a option to deal with it. As all good WordPress themes are open source. Often times, other developers of the community take over the project. If the original theme developers remove a certain feature, then you can simply add it in your child theme. You have the code for it.
Although we recommend for creating the child theme but before creating it think about if you actually need it. If you find yourself changing the functions.php or style.css file multiple time. Then creating a child theme is the best option.