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WordPress Essentials for Every Beginner

Are you a novice web designer creating your first blog website for a friend, or perhaps you’re starting a company and want to use WordPress for its ease of use? Maybe you find yourself as the designated webmaster in your company due to some prior web experience. Whatever the reason, understanding the basics of web design and knowing WordPress essentials is important.

Most WordPress beginners start by selecting what they believe to be the perfect WordPress theme.

A theme is a pre-designed set of files that defines the visual appearance and layout of a website. It’s what website visitors see and interact with. It allows you to control the presentation without altering the core software.

Themes typically include style sheets, templates, and sometimes JavaScript files, all of which contain both the aesthetic and functional design of a website.

If you wonder about the role of a template within a theme, templates are specific files that dictate how a particular page or section of the website appears. Whether it’s a single blog post, the homepage, or a contact form, templates serve as the building blocks of a theme. They shape the layout and structure of individual pages.

Besides knowing the difference between a theme and a template, you might find it useful to learn about child themes. To recap, a theme includes all the WordPress required files and assets for the theme to function. A child theme acts as a sub-theme that inherits the functionality, features, and style of the main theme, or parent theme.

Utilizing a child theme is valuable for customizing or modifying an existing theme; as it allows updates to the parent theme without removing the changes you’ve made, thereby preserving the original functionality and style

The advantages of using a child theme include:

  1. Safe Updates: Using a child theme keeps your customizations separate from the parent theme, allowing you to update without losing any changes.
  2.  Easy to Change: If built on a robust theme framework, a child theme can offer great flexibility with minimal coding by simply modifying necessary files.
  3. Fallback: Incomplete coding in a child theme doesn’t break your site; the parent theme’s functionality serves as a fallback.

And the disadvantages are:

  1. Learning Curve: Understanding the complexities of a parent theme takes time, especially with complex frameworks.
  2. Parent Theme Reliance: There’s a risk if the parent theme is abandoned by its developers. However, opting for reputable theme frameworks can lessen this risk.

As you can see, it’s beneficial to understand the relationship between a theme and a template, and then extend this to include child themes. As noted, it’s particularly useful for customization and modifications, as it allows the parent theme to be updated without losing the changes made: maintaining both functionality and style intact. But it is not always necessary to use a child theme.

Here are some reasons when not to use a child theme. 

  1. Minimal Customizations: If you only need to make minor changes, such as custom CSS or basic functionality tweaks, these can often be handled through WordPress’ customizer or additional plugins. For simple CSS changes, you can directly add custom styles.
  2. Highly Customizable Parent Themes: Some themes come highly customizable out of the box and include options panels that allow you to modify aspects without needing to alter the theme files. In such cases, a child theme might be redundant.
  3. Performance Concerns: While the impact is usually minimal, using a child theme can slightly affect performance, as WordPress system needs to load both the parent and the child theme. If performance is a critical concern and your changes are minor, you might avoid using a child theme.
  4. Maintenance Overhead: Maintaining a child theme requires you to keep up with updates for both the parent and the child theme. If you are not making extensive changes, managing a child theme may take more time than it’s worth.
  5. Plugin Solutions Availability: Often, the functionality you wish to add with a child theme can be achieved through existing plugins. For example, if you’re looking to add social buttons, SEO features, or contact forms, there are plugins that integrate these features without the need for a child theme.
  6.  Short-term or Temporary Websites: For projects that are temporary or experimental, such as a landing page for a short campaign, the additional setup of a child theme might not justify the effort compared to using a standard theme setup.

When you’re the webmaster, for whatever reason, try to choose the right theme for your needs. Select a theme around the purpose of your website, blog, online store, and so on. Each category usually requires different features; for instance, a photography portfolio might need a gallery layout with animations, while a content-centric site could benefit from a minimalist design.  To help you define the right theme, create a list of features you desire, like social media widgets, accessibility options, translation support, and eCommerce compatibility. Look for themes that line up closely with your ideal website.  Consider using a child theme if you need additional customizations. And if you need help drop us an email.