What’s a child theme & should I use one?

Back in the day I had no idea what a child-theme was. When I wanted to change my theme I’d dig straight into the style.css file and do my editing. This was a recipe for disaster.

The next time I updated my theme all my customisations disappeared and I was back to square one.

By adding my customisations to a child-theme I could have saved myself a world of hurt, not to mention the extra time I had to spend to make my site look like I wanted again.

Why should you use a child-theme?

In simple terms a child-theme is a theme that requires another (called a parent theme) for the bulk of its functionality and appearance.

The whole point of using a child-theme is so that you can make changes to the parent-theme—add functionality or change the look—without running the risk of breaking it, or having your changes overwritten in the next update.

Here’s the thing, if you’re not planning to make many changes to your theme you might not need a child-theme. Many major WordPress themes allow you to make changes to things like fonts and colours via WordPress’s built-in Customizer (Appearance > Customise). These changes will be safe when you upgrade.

Premade child-themes

Many popular themes have a community of developers/designers creating beautiful child-themes that you can purchase and use on your own site without needing to make any (or many) customisations.

These themes aren’t exclusive to you, but they can provide you with a good looking site at a lower price point than a custom design. In many cases, they may also be more attractive than something a complete beginner could create on their own.

Major points

  • Child-themes require a parent-theme to work.
  • Child-themes make it easy to update your theme even when you’ve customised it heavily.
  • Pre-made child-themes are a good option for a pretty site without much DIY work.

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