Why you should use a WordPress child theme

WordPress themes define your website’s look and feel. One of the best things about using WordPress is that you can take advantage of a huge number of ready-made themes. In this article we’ll cover what to look for when choosing a theme and how you can modify an off-the-shelf theme using child themes.

WordPress is an excellent tool that can be used to build everything from personal blogs to enterprise business websites. Because of this wide variety of applications, not all websites require or can afford to have bespoke design and development. In these cases, there are a huge range of free & paid themes available; you can use one as a starting point and then customise it to match your branding and content.

There are a number of free themes available in the WordPress.org theme repository which you can use to create fully functioning websites, however these themes have limited functionality and usually only have the most basic customisation options available.

Premium WordPress themes are generally more visually appealing and professionally designed. They’re often bundled with a range of features, functionality and customisation options that are designed to make the theme more versatile and easier to use. You can find premium themes available on theme marketplaces like ThemeForest. These marketplaces have a huge number of themes available. So, how do you pick a theme for your brand?

Choosing a ready-made WordPress theme

Themes are available in a range of prices and features, but generally speaking the more expensive ones will include more features and support from their developers. As always, you need to do your research to make an informed choice.

The visual appeal of a theme is obviously an important factor to consider when choosing one for your site. A good theme will have a clean, modern look that’s easy on the eye and works well with your brand identity. It should also be responsive so that it looks equally good on all types of devices, from desktop computers to smartphones.

The ThemeForest marketplace shows the number of buyers and provides customer ratings and reviews. It also has a comments section, which is often used for support issues. This can help you assess the quality and responsiveness of support provided by the theme developer.

Picking a theme that is fairly popular and well reviewed goes someway towards ensuring that you’ll get support for your theme. With themes that are more niche or are only used by a small number of people, the developer is less likely to be in a position to offer comprehensive support. This can be a big problem if you run into problems with your theme and need help with it. The developer isn’t incentivised to continue improving the theme, fixing bugs and adding features over time. These themes are more likely to be left abandoned, to rot in the digital wilderness, and to become obsolete as time passes.

Once you’ve decided on a theme, you’ll want to customise it to give your website the exact look and feel you need. Each theme has its own options for customisation. These may include choosing from various colours, backgrounds and fonts.

If you want to make more extensive stylistic changes or to add new functionality, then it will be necessary for you to become familiar with some basic PHP, HTML and CSS. WordPress provides a built-in interface that allows you to edit your theme’s files directly.

WordPress themes are updated from time to time. Updates can include patches to fix security vulnerabilities, bugs and add new features. If you make changes directly to your active theme, the update will overwrite those changes and you’ll have to make them again.

What are child themes?

A child theme is a way of creating a new version of an existing WordPress theme without affecting the original. By using child themes, you can make changes to your website’s appearance without having to worry about losing those changes when updating the parent theme.

A WordPress child theme is really nothing more than a separate theme that relies on its parent theme for most (if not all) of its functionality. In its most basic form, a child theme is just a separate CSS stylesheet that WordPress displays instead of the styles in the parent theme. This allows you to make changes to your theme without losing the custom styling you’ve created each time the parent theme gets updated.

How to create a WordPress child theme

To create a child theme, you first need to create a new folder and add it to your WordPress wp-content/themes directory. The built-in editor in WordPress doesn’t allow you to create new folders and files. So you’ll need to either access the underlying files through a file manager via your hosting provider or use FTP. If this is a business website, name the folder after your company’s name, all in lowercase, with no special characters or spaces (use dashes instead).

Next, create a file called style.css in your new folder. Your style.css file must contain the following required header comment at the very top of it:

Header comment – required information

This header tells WordPress basic information about your theme, such as that it’s a child theme for a particular parent. Replace the values as needed. The only required ones are:

Below the header comment at the top of your style.css file, you should be able to add additional CSS rules to change how elements on your website look or behave.

How to activate the child theme in WordPress

To activate the child theme, you’ll want to go to the Themes page which lives under the Appearance menu in WordPress. This will take you to a list of all installed themes—both parent and child themes. From here, select your newly created child theme from the list and click on Activate.

Override and expand on the functionality of your parent theme

The power of child themes comes from the ability to override and extend the functionality of your parent theme. This means that you can make changes to the PHP, HTML and CSS of your site without having to modify any files in your parent theme.

Your child theme can override template files within the parent theme. To do this, copy the file from the parent theme and then create a new file with the same name in your child theme. For example, if you wanted to override the index.php template file from your parent theme, you could copy it from that theme and paste it into your child theme’s directory structure. You’d then need to make any necessary changes to this file so that it works with your new design.

You can create new custom page templates within your child theme. A good starting point is the Template Hierarchy page for more information about how WordPress determines which template to use when serving a particular request.


For beginners, those with little to no budget, or for smaller side projects, ready-made WordPress themes can be a great choice. If you’re just starting out with creating your own WordPress themes, I hope this article helped you learn about the benefits of a child theme and how to create your own.

Although many simple coding tasks can be accomplished by beginners and hobbyists, it takes a lot of practice to become a skilled coder. To save a lot of time and effort you might consider partnering with an experienced developer, or agency such as our own.

We’re a UK-based web development and marketing agency. With over 27 years experience, we’re experts in creating beautiful websites and marketing campaigns that drive results. Over the years, we’ve worked with a variety of clients—from small businesses to global brands.

Where the budget allows, we’d recommend a fully bespoke design and build. A fully bespoke website design means that your site will be designed specifically for your business—it’s the best option if you want to stand out from the crowd. Our team will work with you to scope out your exact requirements, including your target audience and goals. From there, we’ll create a design that’s tailored to your specific needs. Once the design is agreed upon, we’ll begin crafting your site. With a custom theme, you can get exactly what you want—and if something isn’t quite right, our team of skilled developers will take care of it.

But for a simple website, sometimes it makes sense to consider using a ready-made theme. Our developers are equally comfortable creating child themes and working with you on the customisation process.

Ultimately, the decision to use a ready-made theme or a bespoke design is down to you. There’s no right answer, as both approaches have their pros and cons. But whichever route you go down, keep in mind that we’re here to help. If you’d like to discuss your website needs, contact us today.

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