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Users and developers often go for powerful premium themes to develop their sites. But as a matter of fact, one theme cannot fulfill all the requirements. So customizations or even adding new features become necessary. But it is not wise to customize the original theme as the customization will be lost on the next updates unless someone decides not to update the theme. The latter will make the theme vulnerable to security threats and prevent the theme from getting new features. Moreover, if the customization somehow affects the site then it will also impact the business.
To solve these problems, we can create a theme in such a way so that it can inherit the functionality of a particular theme, called the parent theme. The newly developed theme is called child theme as it inherits features, property, and functionality, styles and templates from a parent theme. So it makes easier to tweak the functionality of the parent theme while using a child theme as a powerful parent theme offers tons of features so not everything needs to be coded from scratch.
Although WordPress codex offers a detailed and comprehensive way to create a child theme a preferred and time-saving way is to use popular plugins like Orbisius to create the child theme. It is easy, even for a newbie to use these kind of tools to create and manage the child theme.
Advantages of using a child theme :
Safe updates: A child theme automatically inherits the parent theme’s features, styles, and templates. This allows you to make changes to your site using child themes without ever modifying the parent theme. When a new version of the parent theme arrives, you can safely update it as all your modifications are saved in the child theme.
Extend functionality easily: A child theme built on a powerful theme framework allows a great deal of flexibility without writing a lot of code. You can selectively modify only the template files and functions that you need without going through other template files. You can add new functionality and much more.
Fallback safety: When you are creating a complete theme you need to think about all the possible scenarios and code for them. However, when you are working on a child theme and you forget to code for something, then there is always the parent theme’s functionality available as the fallback option.
Disadvantages of the Child Theme:
Though having a child theme is always a good idea but to create and manage a child theme requires a good knowledge of WordPress theme development and your parent theme structure. It involves a good amount of learning and this learning curve may take a while depending upon the framework of the theme you are working on.
When to create a child theme :
It is important to note that even you can always create a child theme to customize or enhance the features of a parent theme but you may not need it all the times. It is suggested that you take a note of the things you need to change in the theme so that you can understand the degree of changes you need to do, if it involves minor changes in CSS then you can use simply any custom CSS plugin for that. But in case your changes involves overriding the theme core files then you must create a child theme.