Question from Anika G.: Hello Rick. I want to thank you for sharing all of these wonderful tips with us. You have helped so many people by answering their questions, and now I have a question of my own.
A few weeks ago I followed the steps listed in your post explaining how to build a WordPress blog and built one to showcase my photos.
I’m already hooked on WordPress and I’ve been reading everything I can find about it. But there’s something I’d like for you to clear up for me if you don’t mind.
I’ve been reading a couple of WordPress forums and I’ve read several posts where people talked about using “child themes”. I can’t figure out what they’re talking about and I was hoping you could tell me what child themes are? And do you think I need one for my photography blog?
Rick’s answer: Thanks for the kind words about my tech tips, Anika. I’m very glad you find them useful!
In a nutshell, a “child theme” is a secondary theme that is used to alter the style and/or the functionality of a “parent theme”. The child theme inherits all the functionality and features of its parent theme, but it gives your blog a different look and feel than those provided by the parent theme.
You can change the look and feel of your blog by customizing the child theme and leaving the parent theme untouched. That makes installing security and feature updates to the parent theme easy because the changes you have made to the look and feel of the blog don’t get wiped out when you install updates to the primary theme.
Some of the better parent themes also form the backbone of a “theme framework”. These frameworks typically feature their own action hooks and filters that streamline the process of developing child themes that work seamlessly with the parent theme.
I strongly recommend the use a high-quality theme framework when building out a WordPress blog, for the following reasons:
1 – As mentioned above, using a theme framework ensures that you’ll be able to quickly install security updates to your blog’s parent theme just as soon as they are released without having to worry about losing all the customizations you have made to your blog via the child theme.
This is extremely important if you want to protect your blog from hackers without having to repeatedly re-invent the wheel in regards to your blog’s look and feel after every theme update.
2 – You can make your blog look and work exactly the way you want it to by simply making a few changes to the child theme’s style.css and functions.php files. This is so much easier than making changes within the code of your blog’s primary theme. In short, using a child theme makes it a lot easier to make your blog your own by customizing its look and feel.
3 – You can easily install multiple child themes to change the look of your blog to match the current season.
For example, you can have a child theme that reflects the colors and symbols of Christmas, another child theme for Valentines Day, and still another for the summertime. As the seasons change, simply activate the appropriate child theme and your blog changes instantly to match the season!
Note: You can install as many child themes on your blog as wish, but you can only activate one of them at any given time.
Now that you know what child themes and theme frameworks are and that I do recommend that you use them, you might be wondering if I use them on my own blogs. The answer is yes, for all the reasons mentioned above.
RicksDailyTips.com and all of my other WordPress blogs were built using the powerful Genesis Framework. There are a number of excellent WordPress theme frameworks available, but I prefer Genesis over all the rest. Here’s why:
1 – In my humble opinion, the Genesis Framework offers the best combination of power and simplicity. Simply purchase and install the Genesis parent theme, then choose the Genesis child theme that best matches the type of content you plan to feature on your blog.
For example, you have a photography blog so you could choose from a variety of Genesis child themes that were specifically designed and optimized for featuring high-quality images.
2 – The Genesis Framework is very affordable. Simply purchase the Genesis parent theme once, then you can use it on your current blog as well as on any blogs you happen to build in the future (and yes, that includes blogs you might build for other people).
Once your blogs are up and running you can purchase an appropriate child theme for each of them. You can stick with a single child theme and use it on all of your blogs (at no extra cost) or choose a different child theme for each blog. The choice is yours to make.
Genesis child themes typically cost about half what you’ll pay for the Genesis parent theme, making them quite affordable even when buying more than one.
3 – StudioPress (the company that makes the Genesis Framework) offers plenty of support options. Personally, I have found that the answer to most any question or the solution to most any problem can easily be found with just a few mouse clicks in the various Genesis forums.
Bottom line: If you want to ensure that your blog always has the latest security updates without losing the customizations you have made to the theme every time the parent theme is updated, you need to use a theme framework such as the awesome Genesis Framework.
Bonus tip #1: Read this post to learn how to keep hackers from logging into your WordPress Dashboard and taking over your blog by enabling Two-Factor Authentication on its login page.
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