Welcome to the world of WordPress and its themery haha. Let’s chat about how to properly use a child theme and when and why it's appropriate. Have you ever installed a theme, made all these amazing customizations then when you updated the theme all your hard work disappeared?
Raise your hand (even if its just internally to yourself)
Most likely you didn’t use a child theme and so all that hard work was overwritten. What the heck is a child theme? Ok so keep the idea of a family in mind. The main theme your purchase is called the parent theme. It houses all the DNA and features, so when the features get updated like for instance maybe layouts or core theme changes happen they will get updated causing old files to be overwritten.
In order to prevent your custom features from being overwritten, you need to create a child. The child called a (child theme) keeps the original DNA of the parent theme but now can handle features. It has its own personality. This is great because you can have an update happen to the parent but it won’t eliminate or overwrite the child. Meaning all your customizations remain safe but you will continue to receive the benefits of the parent theme updates.
Regardless of which theme you decide to install make sure you create a child theme for your own customizations. That way you won’t find yourself experiencing the following:
- Having to start from scratch with your design customizations because they disappeared.
- Clients calling you because their design is all messed up.
- Fixing a development emergency at the last minute.
- Calming down a panicking client who needs their site to be corrected before a mass surge of traffic comes their way.
Yes, these type of situations have happened and can happen but can be avoided if using the proper measures in the first place.
A point I want to cover is do you have to use a child theme every time? There are unique situations where a child theme may not be appropriate. For example, you purchased a theme you love and you want to keep the same features as the demo of the theme you saw before purchase. Meaning you are not going to customize your theme but use it straight from the box. In this case, using child theme may not be necessary. If you decide to add customizations later down the road that are not available on the parent theme then yes use a child theme.
I hope you found this helpful as you go on to create epic designs for the web. Protect your hard work so you don’t have to redo it all over again.