WordPress Child Theme:
If you use a pre-packaged WordPress theme, take precautions to prevent your custom styling additions from breaking during updates by creating a “WordPress Child Theme.”
Here at Digital Canvas we do a lot of website work using WordPress.
One of the great things about using WordPress for your website is that it’s pretty easy to work with, and there are so many ready-made themes. Themes are what give a website it’s distinct look and feel. With WordPress, there are thousands of free themes and thousands more that can be purchased for just a small up front cost.
With so many options to choose from, there are lots of people who have become do-it-yourselfers, building their own websites and opening up shop online.
We love that and applaud those who have the courage to strike out on their own! But there are a couple pitfalls that we see over and over.
Most Pre-Packaged WordPress Themes will get you 90% there
See, you can very often find a theme that does 90% of what you want it to do. But then, you have to do a bit of customizing to get that last 10% just right. So you dig into the online message boards and forums, and you find a bit of code that you can insert here or there in your theme, and it gets closer and closer to what you really want. Maybe even just perfect.
The Update that Breaks Everything
But then, the theme gets updated. You get a notice about the update in your WordPress dashboard that you should update your theme. And, YES, you should update your theme. Updates take care of security issues and any number of other things that keep your site in top shape.
So you click “Update Theme.” It seems to go as planned. You get a “Success!” message. But then you go back to look at your site and (GASP!) all your changes have been wiped out and you’re back to the original theme with your 10% to perfection gone!
Enter the WordPress Child Theme
What many beginners don’t realize is that the whole Theme Update Disaster scenario can be avoided by making all of your customizations inside a **WordPress Child Theme**.
A Child Theme, simply put, is a mini theme that inherits most of it’s characteristics from a parent theme. Simple enough. Just like your real kids are chips off the old block. Only children are never *exactly* like their parents, are they? They have their own individuality.
By using a child theme, your website inherits the “code genes” of the parent theme, but can re-mix or mutate those genes to do it’s own individual thing. You get the best of both worlds, a site that has all the major stuff taken care of, but has the ability to keep that 10% difference you need to make the site truly your own.
Best of all, if something changes or gets updated in the parent theme, you get all the benefits of the update without losing all the hard work you’ve done to get things just the way you want them. If you decide to change your customizations in your child theme, you don’t have to worry about breaking something in the parent theme.
Do Yourself a Favor
We’re all for you getting out there and doing your thing online. And, if you choose to build your site with WordPress, we’re confident you’ll find it’s one of the easiest ways to get started.
Just keep in mind: you’ll save yourself a lot of time and heartache if you start using a child theme from the beginning. You’ll find easy to follow instructions for getting your child theme started on the WordPress Codex.
Of course, as fun and exciting as *we* think it is to build websites, we know it’s not for everyone. If you’d rather work with a team that’s built lots of websites, loves doing it, and has the experience to avoid the pitfalls — well, we’re here to help. (And if you get started and then get stuck, we’d love to help with that, too!)