Why You Should be Using Child Themes for WordPress

child themes for wordpress imageWith the right WordPress theme in place, the sky is the limit. Your website can now look and function like you’ve always dreamed. Yet, even with a great WordPress theme, sometimes there’s a need for customization. You want to tweak something slightly compared to how it was when it came out of the box, or, your theme didn’t come with support and you need to figure out a solution to an issue.

Whatever the case may be, with child theme functionality, you’ll be able to perform those customizations with great peace of mind. That’s because child themes enable you to customize your website without altering the actual base theme template.

That means that when you make updates to your child theme’s files, they’ll remain in place even when you make updates to the core theme itself. Otherwise, what happens is that when you update your theme, the new files from the update write over those customizations you made. All of that hard work you put in has now vanished.

Wordpress themes often release updates, of course. Sometimes, they’re to add new features and functions, and perhaps these could be ignored depending on what you do or do not need. Otherwise, they’re crucial to maintain site security or mobile usability. In these cases, you have to be updating your theme, and customizations you made without a child theme in place are either gone to the wind, if you forgot about them, or need to be implemented a second time.

So, how do you get started with a child theme? Any “child” theme needs a “parent” theme, and that’s whatever theme you’re currently using or about to switch to. As much of the child theme as possible will rely on that parent theme’s files for functionality and appearance.

To do this, a new theme folder has to be created, with a new stylesheet and functions.php. The purpose of these to is really just to call upon the same information from the parent theme.

From there, it’s time to customize. You can use your child theme to either entirely overwrite an existing parent theme file, to create additional or altered styles comparative to the parent theme, or to use modular hooks to make changes within a particular section of your site. Each of these has their own applications, and even for those who only have a limited experience with coding, you can achieve great results.

Most importantly, you’re free to play around with a child theme, because you aren’t risking losing the proper functionality of the parent theme if you make a change. Therefore you have more leeway, and you have the ability to continue to make necessary theme updates without losing the customizations you worked so hard on.

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