What Is A Child Theme And Why Should I Care?

Child Themes: Why Should I Care?

This may be a question that you have asked yourself at some point when a WordPress enthusiast has been going on at you about how great they are!

baby in a monkey onesie
Designed by Freepik

Well, they are great and here’s why. (Warning: To get the most out of a Child Theme it’s a good idea to at least be familiar with HTML, CSS, PHP & JavaScript. Some coding or tweaking of code is required!)

Non-Destructive Editing!

If you install a Theme on your site and you’re a bit of a coder then you’ll probably spend days tweaking it and making it look and feel and behave in a way that’s just so; the last thing you want to do is lose all of that when you Upgrade your Theme.

Using a Child Theme helps to avoid this and bundles in a bunch of other things you can do too.

It gives you the option of overriding the site’s CSS; you can change how pretty much anything looks on your site with CSS so this is a very, very powerful tool to have.
 

Template Files

Using a Child Theme you can create unique looks for your site; if you have different sections that may need a unique feel or look, you can create Category, Page or Post Templates that cater specifically for them.

We’re talking about Colour Schemes, Images, Fonts and Layouts. Using a Child Theme you can totally own how your site looks and feels to your visitors.

See sheqsite.com to see the an example of this in action.
 

Custom Functionality

WordPress Themes use a lot of PHP and JavaScript to make them do stuff, using a Child Theme you can create a file called functions.php and add in your own magic sauce.

Bear in mind: this is not for the faint hearted, with a missed comma, semi-colon or bracket here or there you can break your entire site!

Any tweaks to this file or any code you want to implement should be tested on a local server before they go live!
 

Custom Post Types

With a Child Theme you can create Template Files or Parts for your site that make use of the WordPress Custom Post Type functionality.

If you have a site that handles Paper, Digital and Audio Books you may want to create a Post Type for for each type of Book.

You can style each section using the Templating System and then you can be really specific with the Type of information that you display using a Custom Query that only calls for certain information from the database.

They are very powerful things and you’ve almost certainly been on a site that uses them. WooCommerce for example is just leveraging Custom Post Types but in a very powerful way.

Again, these are not for the faint hearted as they take a lot of planning and coding to implement effectively. They are pretty cool though 🙂
 

Are There Any Drawbacks To Using Them?

In real terms, no. The only issue that you may find is that you might have to create the Child Theme yourself.

Some Theme Developers are kind and generous and create a Child Theme of their main Theme that you can install and customise as they appreciate that that is what you, the end user, might want to do.

Sadly this is not always the case.
 

Good News, Everyone!

In their simplest form they’re pretty easy to make. If you’re making it yourself then take a look at WordPress‘ own information on how to create a Child Theme.

It gets a bit technical towards the end with talk of enqueueing scripts and styles but stick with it.

If you get stuck then drop me a line: sos@ikarra.com, get me on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll do what I can to help. 😀

What Is A Child Theme And Why Should I Care?