What is a theme?
A theme is a collection of files that when installed for WordPress (and other Content Management Systems) changes the look and possibly the functionality of the website. Themes may be free or they may cost a few bucks or a few hundred bucks. The ones that cost are generally referred to as premium themes. Usually it is good to remember that you get what you pay for. If someone is selling themes, there is more pressure for it to be error free and better designed than one that is free.
There are two generic kinds of themes – parent themes and child themes. You can have a parent theme alone but a child theme always requires a parent theme.
What is a parent theme?
Each version of WordPress comes with a couple or three free themes. I’m looking at WordPress version 4 right now and its default themes are called Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Thirteen, and Twenty Twelve.
Only one parent theme can be active at a time. Its purpose is to assist WordPress put together what will be displayed when someone comes to the website where the theme is in use.
Themes that are obtained from the WordPress site, are examined by the WordPress gurus to insure there technical validity and standards. Themes not meeting those requirements will not be okayed by WordPress. Your best bet is to obtain only those free themes that are recommended at http://wordpress.org/themes/.
You can configure it with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). You can use PHP code in the separate modules that control the look and feel of the header, footer, content, sidebar, and others.
But just remember, someday, that theme may and most likely will be updated. If you install the update, it will take the place of the previous version. Any changes you have made will be overwritten and there’s no telling what your website will look like … unless you’ve made all your changes to a child theme.
What is a child theme?
A child theme inherits all the functionality of a parent theme. It will allow you to make changes to your display by modifying existing functionality or adding new functionality. It allows you to make those changes with some assurance that when the parent is updated, all your changes will not disappear. Explicit instructions for creating a child theme for a WordPress parent theme may be found on this WordPress.org link.
Be aware that this is not a job for beginners. Some knowledge is needed of the PHP script language.
- A theme is just a theme unless it has a child theme.
- When a theme has a child theme, it is called a parent theme.
- There can be no child theme without a parent theme.
- Thousands of themes are available – free and for a price.
- The themes recommended at WordPress.org are usually the safest free themes available because they are vetted by WordPress.
- The premium themes we use are the Genesis Framework * and the many child themes developed by StudioPress Themes.*
- The child theme that we use, Dynamik Website Builder, is sold by Cobalt Apps.
* Please be aware that these last links are affiliate links. If you use them and buy one of the products offered, we will get a small refund. The product will cost you no more than if you had found it on your own.