What Is a WordPress Child Theme, and Why Should I Use One?

Published: September 7, 2021

Author
Jessica Miracle

Categories:

Themes are the heart of WordPress websites, and many allow a web developer a wide range of customization options. But there are many instances where a professional website build needs more than what a theme will allow.

Website developers can choose to edit the theme’s core files, but there is an easier and more effective way to make those edits. All themes, excluding WordPress child themes, are called parent themes.

So, a child theme is essentially a blank theme that inherits the code and functionality from its parent. Any edits or customization added to the child theme will overwrite the styling from the parent. This keeps the edits separate from the site’s core files.

The big question is: why should you use a child theme? Let’s discuss.

Why should I use a WordPress child theme?

A web design agency benefits from using a WordPress child theme more often than not. For most web developers, the pros vastly outweigh the cons. Let’s dive into some of the many reasons to use child themes:

Update protection

When a web developer works on a child theme, they can do so without fear that the next theme update will erase all their hard work and customization. The parent theme updates all the necessary core functionality, while the child theme’s styling and custom code remain untouched.

If you edit a parent theme directly, there’s a high risk that the incoming update will overwrite all that new code. Keeping it in the child theme not only protects the custom code but also saves a web developer time and frustration. Utilizing additional WordPress plugins will help with further security measures on your site.

Ease of use

A child theme allows a web developer to quickly build a website while using the parent theme as a backbone for development, rather than building the entire site from scratch.

Using a child theme in a professional website build also limits the amount of times a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is used. Once the child theme is created, most (if not all) editing can be done straight through WordPress. There’s no need to search through the site’s root files.

Preserving the original

Knowing that a site’s core files will remain untouched is another huge benefit to making child theme edits. If the site breaks, or a web developer wants to scratch an idea, deleting the custom code is simple. The parent theme will remain as a reliable fallback.

Are child themes worth it?

While there are several advantages to download WordPress child themes, they are not without their faults. There is a learning curve when using a new parent theme that requires a web developer to have basic knowledge of the theme files.

While most themes use similar file layouts, there could be some variation, and it may require a little time to locate specific files. Not all themes will make great parent themes.

What are a parent theme and child theme’s goals? A parent presents a good framework, while the child should only play off of that framework rather than recreate it. If the child theme requires a lot of editing, the parent theme is not a sufficient framework.

A professional web build may make use of a child theme, or it may not. It depends on the needs and whether the parent theme is a good fit.

If the parent theme works as desired, there’s no need to create a child theme. If a website developer wants to further customize the theme, then a child theme is worth it.

Conclusion

Child themes allow a web developer to make core edits to a theme without having to worry about future theme updates erasing their hard work. Using a WordPress child theme is highly recommended if a web developer wants to make further edits outside a parent theme’s capabilities.

However, if you need to make several edits to the theme, it’s best to find a new parent with greater capabilities.

Want to save yourself time and have an experienced web design agency take care of your site for you? BrandCraft is currently accepting new projects. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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