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What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it?

What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it? provides you with in-depth training on W… Show More

WordPress 3: Building Child Themes

with Morten Rand-Hendriksen

Video: What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it?

What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it? provides you with in-depth training on Web. Taught by Morten Rand-Hendriksen as part of the WordPress 3: Building Child Themes
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  1. 6m 59s
    1. Welcome
      1m 6s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 34s
    3. What you need to know before watching this course
      1m 29s
    4. Getting the right tools for theme creation
      2m 50s
  2. 17m 2s
    1. What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it?
      2m 38s
    2. Picking a parent theme
      3m 55s
    3. Making sure you have the Twenty Twelve parent theme
      1m 50s
    4. Creating and activating a basic child theme
      4m 20s
    5. Importing parent theme styles
      4m 19s
  3. 16m 2s
    1. Using the developer tools
      3m 53s
    2. Modifying existing styles
      4m 24s
    3. Adding space between paragraphs
      4m 7s
    4. Changing font family styles
      3m 38s
  4. 31m 47s
    1. Understanding the WordPress template hierarchy
      3m 12s
    2. Modifying existing templates
      2m 33s
    3. Moving the header image
      4m 29s
    4. Adding Related Posts feature to posts
      6m 26s
    5. Creating custom page templates
      5m 43s
    6. Using conditional statements for customized effects
      5m 41s
    7. Creating custom header, footer, and sidebar templates
      3m 43s
  5. 17m 5s
    1. Understanding the different index pages and what they do
      4m 6s
    2. Adding author, date, and time information to the index loop
      7m 15s
    3. Changing the appearance of category index pages
      5m 44s
  6. 43m 5s
    1. Introducing functions.php
      3m 24s
    2. Overriding existing functions
      3m 23s
    3. Adding pagination to index pages
      5m 49s
    4. Adding to existing functions
      3m 21s
    5. Adding a new footer menu to Twenty Twelve
      6m 24s
    6. Adding a new widgetized area to pages
      4m 9s
    7. Adding static content to the sidebar
      7m 44s
    8. Replacing existing functions
      2m 36s
    9. Adding a Google font through a function
      6m 15s
  7. 10m 24s
    1. Adding new featured image sizes
      5m 41s
    2. Adding featured images to posts and pages
      4m 43s
  8. 31m 1s
    1. Adding a welcome message to the front page
      1m 22s
    2. Displaying page content in an index page
      7m 42s
    3. Hooking in a featured image
      4m 34s
    4. Making the welcome message responsive
      6m 27s
    5. Restricting content to the first page of the blog
      4m 22s
    6. Adding a jQuery function to show or hide the welcome message
      6m 34s
  9. 10m 23s
    1. Adding a custom favicon
      3m 58s
    2. Adding a custom screenshot
      2m 29s
    3. Adding footer information
      3m 56s
  10. 7m 14s
    1. What to do when a child theme crashes your website
      4m 38s
    2. Updating parent and child themes
      2m 36s

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What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it?
Video Duration: 2m 38s 3h 11m Intermediate Updated Nov 27, 2012


What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it? provides you with in-depth training on Web. Taught by Morten Rand-Hendriksen as part of the WordPress 3: Building Child Themes

View Course Description

Create a child theme based on an existing parent theme in WordPress and change the functionality, presentation, or styling of your website. In this course, author Morten Rand-Hendriksen shows how to use the default WordPress theme, Twenty Twelve, as a basis for a new child theme and add custom menus; new headers, sidebars, and footers; and index pages with widgets and pagination to your site. The course also demonstrates how to add a responsive welcome message to your front page using PHP and jQuery, and how to edit the many templates found in a WordPress theme. Morten explains how to perform these changes using any code editor, the developer tools in the Chrome browser, and WordPress.

Topics include:
  • Picking a parent theme
  • Creating and activating a basic WordPress child theme
  • Using the developer tools
  • Changing the header image size
  • Using conditional statements for customized effects
  • Adding custom menus to the child theme and/or a template
  • Changing the default footer content
  • Adding featured images to posts
  • Changing the display of meta content (such as date, author, category, etc.)
  • Excluding categories from the front page with custom queries
  • Including functions from external files
  • Identifying and fixing common mistakes

What is a WordPress child theme and when should you use it?

In this course, we'll be building child themes, so it's important to answer that question right off the bat. What is a child theme? If you think about your WordPress site, what decides how the WordPress site looks is your theme. Your theme decides what it looks like and how it behaves, and if you want to change the look or behavior of your site, you change your theme. A child theme is a theme that you attach on top of an existing theme, and the child theme augments the behavior or look or functionality of the original theme.

I like to think of it like one of these modeling kits. You get a kit, you can use it the way it is; right now it's a boat, but in some cases you may want to change it, and you can take the kit and change it into something else, like a helicopter. All I am doing is simply taking the pieces from the boat and reorganizing them into something else. It looks different, but it's all the same stuff. And I know this looks like a really silly comparison, but it's a valid one, because any theme you install is a set of functions and styles and features that are put together in a certain way, and you can take any of these features and remove them or move them around or reconfigure them into something else.

So what you're doing with a child theme is rather than taking features from scratch and building something entirely new, you're taking an existing model and just changing the pieces you don't want, or adding new features where you want them. And that brings us to that important question, when do you use a child theme? The simple answer is you want to use a child theme anytime you have an existing theme you like and you just want to make changes to it, or if you're going to build something new but you have a theme that looks almost or close to what you want.

The reason why you want to build a child theme instead of a parent theme is simple; the parent theme is a complex machine that works really well. If you want to make a new theme, you then have to build that entire complex machine again. But if you build the child theme, you're borrowing all the complex features from the original theme and you're just adding on or changing what you want to change. And if someone ever decides to upgrade the parent theme, you can upgrade it and get all the new features in the upgrade without breaking anything. If on the other hand you took the original theme and you modified it, and upgrade comes along and you do the upgrade, you lose all your modifications.

So by splitting your modifications into a child theme, you protect your own modifications while using the original theme and getting all the upgrades. It's a simple choice; if you want to use a theme and you want to make any change, even if it's a really small one, always use a child theme. Now let's get started.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about WordPress 3: Building Child Themes .

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Q: The 2010 version of this course no longer covers installing BitNami. Can you provide directions?
A: Instructions on how to install WordPress using BitNami can be found at Use the "Installer" option. 
It is pretty straight forward and almost impossible to mess up. also has a dedicated course on WAMP and MAMP (Installing Apache, MySQL, and PHP) that is relevant and you might find helpful.
Q:When looking to download PHP development tool at, as advised by Morten, but when accessing the site via this link, the screenshot in the movie is very different from what it takes you to on the website.
A: Eclipse has a very active developer cycle and updates quite frequently. The interface changes all the time. I recommend using Notepad++ (Windows) or TextWrangler (Mac) instead. They perform the same function but are far less cumbersome to deal with.
Q: This course was updated on 11/27/2012. What changed?
A: This course was heavily revised to reflect changes to the default WordPress parent theme, Twenty Twelve, and updates to WordPress's functionality. The entire course was re-recorded to reflect changes to the interface. Then we added new movies on text styling, the Related Posts feature, and the welcome message features. There are also two brand new chapters, "Modifying and Adding Functions" and "Working with Featured Images." We recommend that members who have seen the whole course start again from the beginning to get the most benefit from this update.





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