This post follows up on the tech tip I recorded for Episode 277 of the Just the Books podcast. This continues the series about websites and how they’re made, looking specifically at WordPress. This series is not intended to deeply explore the topic, the primary goal is to build a foundation for understanding how websites are put together, the tools that can be used, and how innovation is changing and advancing this topic.
WordPress child themes allow you to quickly build and extend upon a framework theme. Additionally, a customized child theme simplifies core file updates.
The only required file in the directory for a child theme is the style.css. It tells WordPress that it is a child theme, where to find the parent files, and should import the parent theme style sheet.
Child themes also reduce the time needed for customization. Theme development requires significant work. To do it right takes time. Also, if your child theme breaks the site, you can easily switch to the parent theme to restore site functionality. I’m an advocate for always using child theme unless you’re building a new framework.
WordPress Codex (documentation): Child Themes and Theme Frameworks
and a few links about them Lorelle, Justin Tadlock, and theme shaper.
Another voice echoing the benefits of a child theme.
The current challenge (as of version 3.4.2) to WordPress Child themes is that you need to be comfortable connecting to the files of your web server, creating a new directory, and placing new files there. A growing collection of plugins can assist in parts of this, but I have not yet found a suite that work seamlessly with the WordPress theme editor. The Jetpack plugin allows for custom CSS editing from the dashboard but it’s not always enough, for example, if you need to introduce a new page template.