As part of our 30 Days of WordPress Par-Tay, we are moving right along to the next question by Christina.  Christina’s question about Child Themes is a great one, specifically with the recent flareup of interest in proprietary themes in the WordPress Community.

Christina asks:

Some premium WordPress themes use child themes, and some just seem to be stand-alone themes. What’s the advantage of buying a child theme like Lifestyle versus something that isn’t built on a proprietary parent theme?

Without getting into the politics of the debate about proprietary themes, let’s take a look at what a Child Theme is and why advantages and disadvantages there are with using Child Themes.

What is a Child Theme?

A child theme is basically a way to re-skin a theme so it looks different.

A lot of times you’ll really like a theme except for one or two things, and creating a child theme (in its most basic implementation) would allow you the change the things about your theme that you don’t like in an upgrade-proof manner.  If you are a developer, this is a great child theme intro.

For normal non-developers, let’s take a look at the benefits of using Child Themes.

Should You Use a Child Theme?

It’s totally up to you.  If you find a WordPress Theme you really like and want to use, it shouldn’t matter to you if it’s a child theme or a standalone theme.  It’s basically semantics to the end user.

The benefits of a child theme are that designers can build upon a good framework.  Many of the best designers aren’t coders and shouldn’t be tasked with creating a SEO-optimized, fast, and perfectly functioning (from a code perspective) theme.  Unfortunately if you wanted to build a theme in the past, you had to do the coding as well as the design.  Child Themes changed that.

Child themes let designers pick up a theme and start making it look great and then sell their designs.  Quick, easy, and you can rest assured as the end user that the framework should be pretty good.

Why Wouldn’t You Want to Use a Child Theme?

There aren’t many reasons to avoid using a child theme as long as it’s built on:

  1. A good solid foundation or framework
  2. You like the look of it
  3. The developer seems interested in keeping your theme up to date in the future.

As long as those criteria are met, I’d say go ahead and use Child Themes to your heart’s content!