Last updated on January 3, 2018

What is a Child Theme (and should I be using one)?

What if all the hard work and changes you've made to your website disappeared with your next theme update? Want to make sure that doesn't happen? Read on…

There are some technical aspects of developing websites which, although easy, are too often ignored – with perilous results.

 

Child themes is one example.

 

If you don't know what about child themes, you may be setting yourself up for a disaster.

In a nutshell (not sure what that means 🙂 ) a Child Theme is a Theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, known as the Parent Theme. Child Themes are a “best practice” in developing websites.

Why use a Child Theme?

According to WordPress.org,

“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 modification 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.”
Although it's not necessary to get into all the details, using a child theme is really an “all gain/no loss” proposition. In fact, virtually all well-written themes, such as Astra, Beaver Builder, Genesis, etc., either have child themes readily available or have a child theme generator. 

Not sure about your website? Just go to the WordPress Admin panel, and click on “Appearance” “Theme.” The first theme is your active theme. Is it a child theme? If not, continue reading.
 
Here's a screenshot of the back end of WordPress:
 
 
Child theme
 
 
In those situations where the theme developer doesn't provide a specific child theme or child theme generator, you can use a WordPress plugin which will create a Child Theme for you. (Discussed later.)
 
 

How to Install a Child Theme

 Let me make this really simple. There are essentially three scenarios:
 

ONE:  If the theme provides a separate child theme, (for example, Beaver Builder provides a Parent Beaver Builder Theme and a Child theme,) do the following:

  1. Load the Parent theme but don't activate it.
  2. Then, load the Child theme, and activate the child theme.

That's it. The back end, admin, panel of WordPress will look the same and provide the same functionality.

TWO:  If the theme provides a theme generator, (for example, Astra provides a Child Theme Generator,) do the following:
 
  1. Create a copy of your Child Theme from the Child Theme Generator.
    1. You can make it very simple by clicking “Generate,” or more complex by adding an image and details (this is more applicable to developers and is not really necessary.)
  2. Follow the same steps as in scenario number one above.
THREE:  If the theme neither provides a separate child theme or child theme generator, use one of the WordPress Plugins which will generate a Child Theme, such as “Child Theme Configurator by Lilaea Media.
Caution:  I've only played with this generator and although it seems to be safe and effective, I can't fully recommend, as I use themes which either have a child theme or generator.
 
It is important to note, however, that this plugin is current (updated recently and tested on the latest version of WordPress,) has over 100K active installations and (at the time of this post) had 153 5 star ratings.
 
(This, by the way, is the criteria, you should use with any plugin you are considering installing.)
  1. Create a copy of your Child Theme using the Child Theme Configurator above.
    1. Again, you don't need to get into all the bells and whistles, just create a simple Child Theme.
  2. Once more, follow the same steps as in scenario number one above.

the look of no child theme

 Summary

Using a Child Theme is simply a best practice that can save all kinds of aggravation and frustration later on. It is a straightforward, fundamental setup that should be used on all websites you develop.
 

What about your site, do you have a child theme? Does this post answer what you need to do to protect yourself? Let me know below.

Thanks, 

Thad 

thad @ resolute blogger
Thad is a former executive with several multibillion-dollar investment advisory firms, who has developed a series of strategies that captivates interest, conveys confidence, and converts alliances for website ventures. For a free PDF on How to Structure Facebook Ads Successfully, download here.

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