What is a child theme and do I need one?

Written by Leigh Scott

Heads up – this post only applies to you if you have a website built on WordPress or if you are planning to build on a website on WordPress.

What is a WordPress theme?

If you have done any research about WordPress, then you’ve probably heard a lot about themes. There are countless free and paid themes out there, and just like anything else…they all have their advantages and disadvantages. According to WordPress, “A WordPress theme changes the design of your website, often including its layout. Changing your theme changes how your site looks on the front-end, i.e. what a visitor sees when they browse to your site on the web. ”

Selecting the right theme in the beginning is very important because switching a theme in WordPress requires a lot of work and can sometimes require an entire site redesign.

One of the key factors to examine when selecting your theme is whether or not the theme creator releases regular updates to ensure that the theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and PHP. If the provider is not regular updating the theme then there is a high potential that there will be code issues that will break your site on the frontend and/or backend.

So then what is a child theme?

Even with the most robust theme, there is a high potential that you may want to make additional code customizations. The risk with making changes directly to the parent theme is that when the theme creator releases an update, it will overwrite the code and therefore overwrite all of your customizations.

Creating a child theme enables you to make customizations to the parent theme without losing them when there is a parent theme updates.

Okay, so then how do I make a child theme?

Depending on the parent theme you have selected, there are usually a few options for creating the child theme. If you’re tech savvy, then you may want to create the child theme manually. If you’re fine with adding a new plugin to your website, then you can use a plugin to generate the child theme.

There are also many theme-specific child theme generators available:


Regardless of the theme you’ve selected and the amount of code customizations you’re anticipating, the safest route is to implement a child theme from the beginning. This will protect you from losing any code and also set you up for success if you decide to do any additional enhancements in the future.

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Hi! We’re Zainatain

Zainatain is a web design and conversion rate optimization company fueled by coffee ☕, adventure ✈️, and a healthy dose of humor 🤣. We believe in the power of digital interfaces to accelerate business growth and help our clients achieve their business goals.

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