If you’ve been around WordPress for a while you’ve probably heard the term child theme. What is a WordPress child theme anyway, and how can it make your web design life easier? Child themes aren’t as complicated as they might seem! They are useful tools that help you code less and build amazing WordPress websites. They are a valuable tool that you can use to create a custom designed site or tweak an existing theme.
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Disclaimer: The following contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase by using the links I will recieve monetary compensation. kararajchel.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. *Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. This does not impact my opion of the products or services I share with you. I only share products/services that I believe in. Read my full disclosure statement here.
What are WordPress Child Themes?
Child themes are really a theme based off of another theme. Child themes use the styles and functions of the theme they are based on and add their own unique styles and functions. One of the more famous examples of child themes is the Genesis Framework and Genesis themes. Other than the Genesis Framework all of the other themes are child themes that use the Genesis master theme. If you’ve ever used a Genesis theme you’ll have noticed when you install it, WordPress gives you a message saying that theme requires the Genesis theme. Child themes need their master theme in order to work. If you were to delete the Genesis theme, even though it’s not active, your Genesis child theme would no longer work.
What are the Benefits of Child Themes?
The biggest benefit of child themes is the ability to make changes to a site and never lose them when the theme is updated. Say you have a theme you really love, but it would be better if it had a few little changes. You could go into the theme’s files and make those changes, but then when you updated that theme (and you know why that’s important, right?) all those changes would be lost! That’s no good, you don’t want to have to redo those changes every time your theme updates!
Child themes fix that problem. If you create a child theme for your theme you can make all the changes you want and they will never be overwritten by updates to the master theme. This keeps your own code safe from unintended deletions, and the need to redo your work after every theme update!
Child Themes Aren’t Just for Developers
Child themes are also a great tool for web designers and developers, especially the ones running their business solo. Time is of the essence and child themes represent an opportunity to take advantage of a theme that offers a solid foundation from which you can build. You can create a custom website based off of a master theme and not have to build everything from scratch. Essential functions and styles that you use in every site will stay, and all you need to do is make the changes you need for that particular site. This works well with Genesis, or even a custom theme designed and developed by yourself.
You could create your own ideal WordPress theme as a starting point and use that as your master theme, then every site you develop after that could be a child theme re-using your master theme time after time. You save time and greatly cut down on the time it takes to develop a website as well as streamlining your process. No need to re-code code that is repetitive for every project.
Even if you aren’t a developer or are new to WordPress development a child theme is a very valuable tool. It saves you from having to do a lot of extra coding. You can start out with your child theme by making custom changes like switching colors or fonts. If you are using a framework like Genesis they even provide you with code snippets you can copy and paste to make many common changes to your themes. This allows you to optimize a theme for your clients without having to a lot of coding.
Child themes are a shortcut to help you create powerful WordPress sites. They are a valuable tool in your WordPress web design toolkit, and even if you don’t ever plan on making one yourself, knowing what they are and why they are so useful will help you understand more about your WordPress site and themes.