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Using Child Theme vs Parent Theme for WordPress Builds

Parent theme vs Child theme

WordPress themes make it rather easy to start building your website. With minimal knowledge of Html, PHP and CSS you could put together a basic site in a couple of hours by making use of a theme.

What are WordPress Themes

Essentially a WordPress theme is the key to defining the styling of a website, or it's looks and feel. It also has all the functionality already built into the site, so these elements will not need to be coded by an experienced developer. A theme may provide the following guidelines for your site's layout and design:

  • Overall Design and layout
  • Colours
  • Font style and sizes
  • Page layouts
  • Features for specialised sites
  • Plugins for various purposes such as E-commerce, portfolio work, catalogues, appointment scheduling, etc.

Why use WordPress themes

Using a theme cuts down development time and saves you a lot of money. If you have a straightforward website and you not reinventing the wheel, and out of the box theme would be the right fit your websites. 

There are literally thousands of themes available for purchases for all types of niches; you just have to find the right fit for your site and brand. Themes cost anything from $2 up so it won't break the bank by launching your site.

There are also a number of free themes available, so if you are looking to test the waters before you buy, you can make use of one of those. Making use of a theme also means you can probably build the site yourself or get it a frontend developer to put it together for you. Ultimately costing you a fraction of a custom build.

Build methods: parent theme vs child theme

There are two ways of making use of a theme for a site build. You could use the out of the box theme and build directly from there, this is known as the parent theme. Alternatively, you can duplicate the theme files and customise it on the duplicated version, known as the child theme.

A child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, called the parent theme.” – WordPress Codex

If you are new to WordPress and it's your first build, it's generally recommended that you make use of a child theme for your build. In this way, you won't permanently alter the core theme files, and any mistakes you make can be easily rectified by reverting back to the core or parent theme.

What are the pros and cons of using a child theme

Like any methodology, using a child theme also has its pros and cons. It may or may not be the best fit for your website build, so we have compiled a list of the advantages and disadvantages of the child theme method.

Advantages of a child theme

For many, the Pros of using a child theme far outweigh the cons. We take a closer look at the pros below.

Original Theme file remains Intact

No change is irreversible, and you can always revert back to the original theme file if the child theme is compromised. This also ensures that you cannot lose or delete anything from the core files.

Theme updates won't affect customisation

New versions of a theme are often released with improved features or bug fixes. If you purchased the theme file, you'd have access to these updates. Running updates often reverts the theme to default layouts. Making use of child theme methodology, ensure the main theme file will be updated and all customisations you made on the child theme will not be affected.

No Knowlege of FTP client needed

You do not need to understand how to use FTP clients work or understand how the directory system of your website works. However, knowledge of this will help in speeding up the transfer of your files to your WordPress site.

Disadvantages of a child themes

If we were to knit pick we could find many disadvantages, these are the most important ones we have highlighted below.

Slow site speed

Making use of a child theme often requires the site to work a bit harder. The child theme files will have to reference another file from the core theme in order to work. If you have made a large number of customisations to the child theme, it may cause a lag in the site speed. However, this depends on the size of the changes, if they are minor, it should not affect much.

Impeding Growth

In term of your own learning curve, you will be at a disadvantage when using a child theme. However, if you are not a developer and you are looking for a quick fix, this should not be an issue.


The methodology you use purely depends on how comfortable you are in Wordpress and how much coding and technical knowledge you have. If you newbie you may want to play it safe and use a child theme for your build. But if you confident in your skill and don't see yourself making updates anytime soon, then the parent theme build method might suit you better.

Contact us

If you have any questions relating to child and parent themes or have anything, you would like to add to the post, comment below or contact us here.

Tags: website build, Wordpress, web development

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