Thrive Knowledge Base

What is a Child Theme? Do I Need to Create One?

All Thrive Themes come with lots of options that you can use to customise the look, feel and functionality of your web site.  For the majority of users, these options are enough to create a web site that looks as desired.

​However, some more advanced users may want to customise the theme to a greater level than can be done using the set of options that comes with a Thrive Theme.  Examples of this include:-

  • ​Creating a new set of templates
  • Making structural changes to the archive pages
  • Radically altering the CSS of the theme
  • Creating a new header for the site
  • Adding new custom post types to suit the needs of a client

All of these (and a lot more) can be achieved by making coding changes within a child theme.

Why Use a Child Theme?

The main advantage of a child theme is that the code is separate from the parent theme, which means that it's possible to update the parent theme without losing any changes that you've made.

If you modify the theme files directly without using a child theme, and then later you wish to update the theme, you have a problem.  In this situation, you face the unenviable task of updating the theme and then re-adding all the changes that made previously to the new theme version.​  This is not practical and ill-advised.

Do I Need to Use a Child Theme?

You don't necessarily need to use a child theme if you want to add some custom CSS to modify the look and feel of your theme.  You can simply use our custom CSS options in the themes and your changes will also be resilient to updates.

We recommend you use a child theme, however, if you're heavily modifying the theme.  For example, if you require a new header or a new set of shortcodes to be added to the theme, then a child theme would certainly be recommended.​  

While creating a child theme isn't particularly hard, a certain amount of expertise is required in order to be able to build one - therefore this isn't for those people who don't have any coding knowledge.  If you're not technical and don't have experience coding, then I recommend hiring a developer directly and asking them to set this up and carry out the changes for you.

How Does a Child Theme Work?

The child theme works by extending the functionality of the parent theme.  So, for instance, you can take one of our themes (let's say Performag), install it on your site and then create a child theme.

If you set the child theme up without adding any code, then the site would be exactly the same as the parent theme.  The beauty of a child theme is that you can take "bits and pieces" of the parent theme and make modifications as required.  For instance, you could copy the header.php file from your parent theme, into your child theme, and then proceed to change the code.​

You can continue to update the parent theme as updates are released safe in the knowledge that your child theme will remain unchanged by the updates.​

How Long Does It Take to Set A Child Theme Up?

WordPress makes the process of installing a child theme very easy​ - it's simply a case of creating a new folder in your themes directory and adding a single style.css file.  

As this article is simply an overview of child themes and what they are, we won't go into the details of how to set up a child theme here.  Instead you can read our tutorials on the subject.

You can also find more information on setting up a child theme on the WordPress Codex.

Child Theme Examples

As an example of a child theme in action take a look at this screenshot:-​ maintains a blend of core FocusBlog design with some customisations held within the child theme and is a great example of what can be done.