One of the primary reasons which makes WordPress one of the leading CMS on the web is the availability of several themes. Irrespective of whether they are free or premium, its difficult to choose one.
In spite of this, there is much lack of a theme which meets all the requirements. Its often a common scenario when users want to customize some aspects of the theme in quest for that special touch. In case, a change is needed in the theme, the task becomes next to impossible. For instance, as soon as the theme becomes updated with certain changes in the footer, all the changes get lost. So, right at this juncture, a WordPress child theme becomes the savior.
Now, what is a WordPress Child Theme?
As per definition, a child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, called the parent theme. Child themes are basically present to recommended way of modifying an existing theme. However, a child theme can inherit all or some properties from its parent theme as well as has its own set of distinct and unique properties.
Theoretically speaking, any WordPress theme can have child themes however its not a mandate that all WordPress themes would be good parent themes. Also, a parent theme with limited functionality and features is not exactly an ideal parent theme candidate in majority of the cases.
Why do people opt for WordPress Child Theme?
Well the usage of child themes more or less depends on the needs. As users, it is advised to use the child theme only if there is a dire need of adding new functions to the theme’s functions.php file and/or constantly adding/modifying the style.css file of the theme. In these cases, a child theme is highly recommend for usage.
Now, in a Nutshell, the Pros and Cons of using the Child Theme:
Safe updates: A child theme automatically inherits the parent theme’s features, styles, and templates. Thus this feature allows to make changes to the site using child themes without ever modifying the parent theme. After this, When a new version of the parent theme arrives, the updates can be you safely updated as all the modifications are saved in the child theme.
Easy to Extend: A child theme built on a powerful theme framework allows a great deal of flexibility even without writing a lot of code. Users can in fact selectively modify only the template files and functions that are needed without hovering much through the other template files, in addition to adding up of new functionality and much more.
No FTP Required: File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, is a common method in which website developers make adjustments. However, here users don’t need to invest a lot of time using FTP while modifying a child’s theme. The process includes, creating a file from cPanel’s File Manager and the rest can be done directly in WordPress. This in fact limits how often users need to dig into the root of your site.
Fallback Safe: While creating a complete theme users just need to consider all the possible scenarios and code for them. However, while working on a child theme, even of users forget the code for something, then there is always the parent theme’s functionality available as the fallback option.
Child Themes might be good but not perfect. So, here remains the Cons:
Learning Curve: Most of the quality parent themes aka theme frameworks have a steep learning curve. Quality theme frameworks come with their own set of hooks, filters and functionalities that users must be made familiar with. Without a deep knowledge regarding them, users can’t learn the tactics of saving time.
Complex functionality: It is an undeniable fact that certain themes are complex, which offer extended functionality. In fact, every time such rich features are also not intended. For instance, while looking for a box shadow to be added to the header, a simple CSS plugin would be sufficient. So, the presence of lots of extra CSS and JS might end up slowing down the site.
Parent theme comes to an end: Things can go horribly wrong if the developers of the parent theme decide to end its support. If users are not very well acquainted with the parent theme inside out, things would definitely turn into a mess in times of a security vulnerability. In such a case, users would have three options, stay vulnerable and hope no one notices it, try and fix it yourself or recreate the entire project with a new parent theme.
To conclude, before start using a child theme, the primary question remains whether the child theme worth taking all the hassle or not. In fact, sometimes a plugin like JetPack would offer more features than one needs. So there is exactly no point choosing a child theme. Users just need to remember that they don’t need parent themes all the time and not all parent themes are good parents actually. So, now it is absolutely clear for the users, what a WordPress child theme is and the advantages and disadvantages of a child theme. Choose wisely and keep working!