If you have ever made the fatal mistake of not using a child theme with your WordPress website like I have, it can be a very expensive mistake to make and one to avoid at all costs.
Some Theme frameworks or premium themes like iThemes Builder automatically create a child theme for you when activated, but others will need to be manually created, thankfully a few minutes creating one will save you a lot of time down the road.
Why a child theme is so important
Once you invest time and or money into the development of your website, there will come a time where you want to modify the theme beyond what it offers out of the box. Custom post types always need some sort of customisation or perhaps you want to take advantage of the custom page templates and finally adjusting or adding some custom CSS to change the look and feel of your website to match your brand.
Let me tell you, if you do not have a child theme in use and you update your theme all the customisations you have made are completely wiped as during the theme update it is completely replaced with the new version.
I hope you keep regular backups.
This process also takes place when updating WordPress plugins. This is why Easy Property Listings contains hundreds of action hooks and filters that allow you, like a child theme, create a “custom settings child plugin” to modify the default behaviour of EPL.
These customisable hooks and filters allows you to update to the newest version without losing any of your customisations. Plus you can re-use this customised plugin on future real estate websites you have powered by Easy Property Listings.
Child themes allow custom customisation while maintaining automatic updates
- Child themes allow you to modify or add custom template files and css to override the default parent theme.
- WordPress looks for files in the child theme directory before using files in the parent theme allowing endless customisations.
- Most importantly you can keep the parent theme up-to-date with new features, bug fixes and security updates.
How to create a child theme
Before you start, search the internet for: YOUR_THEME_NAME child theme wordpress. Also log into your premium theme sellers site as they may already have a ready to go child theme you can start using from the start.
Creating a child theme is a very easy process as WordPress has been built to automatically support a child > parent theme relationship.
The theme doesn’t need any special code to make a child theme work.
Starting your site with a child theme will allow you to make anything work with your site in the future, enhancements you may not have considered yet.
You may read this and dismiss it as not that big a deal especially with a new site. But trust me, I’ve lost dozens of hours especially when starting out many years ago and this initial error is very costly mistake to make especially on an established site.
When you activate your new child theme any widgets you have places around your website will be moved to the inactive area. Not too much trouble if you are only using a handful, but after you have been tweaking and optimising conversion on your website where you may have hundreds of different widgets like you can with iThemes Builder, you are in for a major headache.
Remember, a real estate website should be designed as a lead generation machine that is constantly evolving, changing and improving each month to convert more leads to new business. This machine should be able to adapt at minimal costs… and trust me; a child theme will allow your site to adapt faster.
Do yourself a huge favour and ALWAYS use a child theme, because if you don’t you will regret it. You will only make this mistake once.