It’s rare for someone, especially professionals, to use a WordPress theme without modifying it to suit their brand or needs. WordPress themes are fairly simple to customize (depending on the level of customization you want of course). You can customize colors, fonts, layouts, and even add new features and functionality. Virtually anything in WordPress can be modified or customized.
Instead of modifying the original theme, the recommend method is to use a child theme. This method was developed so you can modify a child theme while keeping the original theme intact.
Using a child theme has lots of advantages. This is especially true for themes as powerful as Divi. In this article we’ll take a look at what a child theme is and see why you would want one. Before we look at the advantages of using a child theme let’s answer the first question…
What is a Child Theme?
A child theme is a theme that gets it’s functionality from a parent theme and can then be modified without making changes to the parent theme. It’s not a copy. A child theme will not work without the parent theme. The parent theme is still running with the child theme and its changes visible.
Think of it like placing body panels on a car and then modifying the panels. You can remove the panels and your original car is still untouched. The panels are of no use without the car. The same for siding on a house. These analogies aren’t perfect, but they can help you understand the function and reasons for a child theme.
Let’s look at some of the advantages of using a child theme.
Child themes allow us to change the look and feel of the site while retaining the parent theme. For example, we can modify the theme’s template files without making changes to the original theme. This is important if you want to keep the original. Since you never modify the original theme you don’t run the risk of making mistakes that would harm the original code.
You Know Your Changes
All of your changes are stored in the child theme’s folder, so you can know exactly what has been changed. This is even more important if you’re not the one who made the changes or if it’s been a while and you’ve forgotten what the changes were. It makes the changes easier to track.
Updates and Backups
Without a child theme we could make customization’s to a theme until we get exactly what we want, and then the next update erases the customizations. Child themes allow us to update the theme without loosing our changes. The parent theme is updated and the child theme’s modifications remain in place.
With themes such as Divi we can update the theme and not lose CSS or changes made within the Customizer, but all PHP files will be replaced with the updated theme’s files. Also we have the customizations (you do keep backups, right?) just in case there is a problem and we have to restore the site.
Easy to Change Themes
Without a child theme you would have to customize your theme for the new look and features, but then those customizations are lost if you want to change to a new look. If you’re using a theme such as Divi you might have days or weeks worth of changes to make. With child themes the changes are done without losing previous customizations. They are still available to use just like changing from one theme to another. This lets you have multiple designs using the same parent theme. This is a better and safer choice than restoring theme backups when you want to change themes.
One of the advantages of using Divi is the vast number of professionally designed child themes. If you want to completely change the layout of the site but keep Divi just buy a new child theme.
Easy to Restore
If you’ve made tons of changes to your theme and you want to get the original back all you have to do is deactivate the child theme. This can be handy if you’ve made a mistake in the code or if you just want to change your theme.
Without a child theme you would have to delete your theme (and lose all of the work you did to it) and upload the original theme (assuming you still have it), or you would have to remove your modifications one at a time. Removing all of your modifications could take a lot of time and you’d have to remember what the changes were.
Where to Get Child Themes
There are lots of places to buy child themes. Here is a short list for Divi child themes:
You can also create your own. Here’s a few places where you can create a Divi child theme and then upload it to your site for modification:
Here are a few articles about creating child themes:
- Creating a child theme
Stay tuned to WP Ignitor for our very own Divi child themes coming soon, including Author – the featured image of this post.