The Why of WordPress Themes

Street Sign imageChild themes in WordPress have extraordinary power.

Much has been written about them, and they’re easy to build. The more I create and work with WordPress, the more I see a fine balance between the when and why to build a child theme and the when and why to build a custom theme.

I draw the analogy of selecting your perfect car. Sometimes you just need a solid used car with decent mileage to get from point A to point B. Then, if you’re a car buff, need speed or towing power – you better shop for something custom, or build it yourself. Benefits and drawbacks exist no matter which path you take.

Let’s take a look at when creating a child or custom theme is the right choice.

Driving with Kids is Fun

You might need a child theme when:

  • you’ve fallen in love with a theme, but want to make a few simple customizations.
  • an existing theme will fit the requirements – almost. So like the above case, a few tweaks will do, and a child theme will save you time.
  • you like to work within a familiar framework, like a parent theme you’re used to or an actual WordPress framework.
  • you’re on a tight timeline, so writing an entire theme on your own just won’t due.
  • adding a smidgeon of functionality will improve the theme, like accessibility.

Can I Get Some Sweet Rims on This?

You might want to head to custom route when:

  • you have plans for custom features, like many custom post types, lots of meta boxes or other WordPress functionality that requires heavy modification of template files.
  • you are persnickety about your code. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with having every line of code just they way you like it. Custom themes give you more flexibility for creating everything the way you like it.
  • you have a project with fast-moving code. That can mean many, many things, but what I’m getting at is a project where you’re writing large chunks of custom code in a team project.
  • you’re using new technology. Often times, finding a WordPress theme that employs the latest and greatest (just how you like it) can sometimes be difficult.
  • you have a vanilla starter theme that you’re used to working with a lot. If that’s the case, it can be easier than starting with a child theme.

So you can see that choosing one option over the other doesn’t mean you’re making a right or wrong decision. It just means you’re making the best choice for you – and how you like to ride/drive. 🙂

Image by Statianzo.