Custom Child Themes: Solving A Common Dev Dilemma

I see it all the time. The angst that comes from that age old question…should I use a Child Theme for my WordPress web design projects? And the answer is about as long as it is multifaceted with many caveats. But I think I can tackle the basics in about a paragraph or two, so let’s jump right in.

Not A Yes Or No Answer

Clearly this is not a black and white matter. It really just depends on what kind of web development project you’re working on, as well as the kind of theme you’re using, and even your development style and preferences. For one, if you aren’t using a traditional theme framework, but something more unconventional like some of the “All-In-One” theme solutions out there, then it may just be redundant to use a Child Theme. Or if your needs are very basic then a Child Theme might be overkill. But if you’re working on a WordPress powered website and plan on creating code and template customizations then you’re likely to run into the need for such a sub-theme.

I would say that in most cases it’s simply a good idea to build your web design projects on top of the foundations of a Child Theme. It can’t hurt and if you do run into the need to compartmentalize your customizations then it will be there, ready to go. But before I get into our solutions for Child Theme creation and development let me list off a few notable points:

  • Child Themes provide custom coding and template compartmentalization, keeping your dev work separate from the theme framework.
  • Child Themes keep your customizations safe when the parent theme is updated.
  • Child Themes allow you to semi-white-label your theme for clients, by using custom naming conventions. Not quite a white labeled setup, but close enough for most scenarios and better than tweaking the parent theme’s core code and breaking future auto-updates.
  • Child Themes encourage conventional development “best practices” such as direct interaction with theme files/code, the use of actual template files, etc…

How Cobalt Apps Addresses This Need

There are several solutions to be found here at that provide WordPress DEVS of all skill levels with the ability to work more efficiently and customize more effectively.

  1. To start we have our free Child Themer Lite Plugin which simply provides the ability to create custom Child Themes in seconds.
  2. Next we have a premium solution that not only houses the Child Theme Creation feature found in Child Themer Lite, but many other Child Theme development solutions to enhance your customization capability while inside your WP Dashboard. From a full blow theme editor, Child Theme Image Manager, hooks map, and front-end Dev Tools, our Themer Pro Plugin is a must have for those serious about Child Theme development!
  3. Finally, our Extender Plugins would be my one serious suggestion for those seeking a way around the need for a Child Theme. These framework extending DEV tools offer pretty much everything you need to get some serious web development done, all without the need for a Child Theme. From the powerful custom styles, functions, and script editing tools, to the custom template creator, as well as front-end CSS Builder and custom content functionality, these Plugins allow for all kinds of DEV work to be accomplished without the presence of a Child Theme, yet fully independent of the parent theme, meaning your customizations remain safe and sound!

So it’s not always a matter of right and wrong, but simply knowing your options and then deciding on the best tools and techniques for the job at hand. Here at Cobalt Apps we try and provide solutions for just about any scenario and need, so it’s really just a matter of deciding your preference and then going from there.

A Few Notable Closing Points…

  • Child Themer Lite and Themer Pro don’t just create generic Child Themes for the activate framework, but specifically support certain framework themes so they can create exactly the same Child Theme as offered by the framework developer. This ensures that you’re working with the intended Child Theme codebase and not some kind of “one size fits all” solution. To see which framework themes these Plugins support checkout THIS PAGE.
  • Though our Extender Plugins were presented above as an alternative to using a Child Theme they also work great WITH Child Themes. This means that they also work very well with our Child Themer Lite and Themer Pro Plugins.
  • If you want to learn more about these conventional “best practices” approach to WordPress web design, you should checkout our Freelancer Framework. It’s a simple, yet rock solid approach to pure framework goodness!
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