Why Use Child Themes?

Child themes are a thing of mystery to some. What a shame. They’re so helpful and they prevent more problems than you will never know.

But what are they and why do they matter to you? That’s what we’ll discuss here as succinctly as possible.

What are Child Themes?

Child themes (in regards to WordPress) are themes that inherit the functionality of another theme. The theme providing functionality is called the parent theme.

Volatyl is your parent theme.

WordPress requires certain things of a theme in order to work properly. Parent themes, which have the ability to function on their own, must meet all of those requirements.

Child themes, on the other hand, have fewer requirements as they “leech” off of the parent theme.

It is important to understand that child themes do not function on their own in WordPress. In order to use a child theme, it must be linked to a designated parent theme that is already installed… period.

Why does Volatyl use child themes?

Good question. It is true that Volatyl itself is a fully functional theme that is more than capable of displaying your content. However, the basic look and functionality of Volatyl will not be enough for most.

This is where child themes come into play.

Child themes are where you make customizations that lay over top of the parent theme. Say, for instance, you wanted your Volatyl site to have an orange background.

Typically, you’d go to Dashboard => Appearance => Editor and edit the Stylesheet style.css to reflect an orange background for your site.

Here’s the problem.

Remember when we discussed said that WordPress requires certain things of a theme? Well, a style.css stylesheet is one of those things.

So when you go to upgrade from Volatyl 1.0 to Volatyl 1.0.1, the newer version will (and must) come with a new style.css file. Yours will automatically be overwritten and you will lose your orange background.

Sure, you could keep note of every single customization you have ever made and re-implement them as quickly as possible after every upgrade… but that’s nonsense.

The same applies to your functions.php file (and all other files in your parent theme, for that matter). Anything you change about a parent theme will be overwritten when you upgrade.

Child themes prevent this from happening. 

When you have a child theme installed, upgrades to the parent theme do not (if done properly) affect the customizations of the child theme. Child themes do not have to be updated along with parent themes.

So, if you were to install a blank child theme, nothing about your site would change visually or functionally.

However, if you added the same CSS to your child theme’s style.css file to make the background orange, that would only apply to the child theme and not the parent theme. On the front end, your site would reflect background change just like normal.

Mission accomplished.

Are you interested in making your own child theme? It’s so easy and it only requires one file.

Read How to Create a Volatyl Child Theme.

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