When should you not use a child theme

I’ve been going on and on about how Theme Hybrid themes are meant to have child themes. I even made a few things so hard to alter, that it forces some to make use of this concept.

Before going any further, let me clearly state: Theme Hybrid themes are parent themes. Well, at least Bliss, Options, Structure, and Visionary are (current parent themes).

When is it okay to not use a child theme?

It’s only okay to not use a child theme if you plan on making no modifications to code.

For example, if you plan on modifying the background color of the Visionary theme, then you should create a child theme. Yes, even if that’s the only change you plan on making.

Hey, I need to draw the line somewhere, right?

Options theme users don’t have this problem of deciding when to use or not use a child theme. It has never had a default style (the old system was just a child theme within a theme).

Why must we use child themes?

I get pretty hardcore about this but for good reason — you, the users.

As WordPress and my own personal coding skills advance, there are often major changes between versions of the theme (parent). There were a lot of people just sticking with the beta version of Options, even up to the point of the version 1.2 release because of all the changes.

So, I had to make a decision that would best benefit both me and you, which lets us all easily upgrade the parent theme with all the new features and bug fixes.

This way, I spend less time supporting multiple versions of the theme, confusing users with different versions on how to do things. It keeps everyone on the same page. Plus, you’ll always have the latest and greatest features of each version of WordPress.

How to create a child theme

Well, there are multiple tutorials around the site. The first place you should go is the page of the theme you’re using. Each theme has its own documentation section clearly labeled. There’s usually a section labeled “Modifying your theme” or “Child theme” for you to read through.

Plus, there’s a sticky post in the support forums that explains in even greater detail.

I hope this post gives you a little more insight into the ideas behind the themes here. There’ll be more posts explaining the great uses of child themes.

I’ll be happy to explain in greater detail about how the system works if you have questions.


  1. Hi Justin,

    Personally I was looking a solution to separate the PHP hooks and the design, and of course child themes gives me that functionality. But, saying this, I don’t mean mixed PHP code and CSS and images raise a problem. Only I say this because I feel life easier when those two (design and PHP) are apart.

    However, I like to make everything work as I need.

  2. Yes, child themes really start letting folks separate content from design and PHP from CSS.

    When you’re forced to start using only CSS to modify your site, it becomes much easier to maintain.

  3. thanks for the clarification 🙂 interesting to to see a set of themes meant to be “parent themes” 🙂

  4. I honestly believe using child themes is the best route, not only for themes like mine, but for custom jobs as well. Plus, WordPress 2.7 will make things a lot easier.

    Imagine having to maintain the sites of 50 different clients (not all at once but occasional cleanup and edits). With a solidly coded base theme, 90% of the work is taken care of for you. OK, maybe not 90% but a huge portion.

    It also gives you a good starting point for new projects. Once I officially release Hybrid (the theme that runs this blog and the Theme Hybrid Showcase), I hope to really set the standard for the WP parent/child theme concept.

    The really great thing about child themes is that the parent can be continuously developed with code tweaks, new features, and updates to keep up with new versions of WordPress.

  5. Hi Justin,
    I have shared before how much I love what you’re doing with WP themes. I echo again!

    I have modified the Options Light theme and want to release my modification as a child theme for free on my blog. Much of the Options Light child theme remains in tact, so I don’t want to do something that you did not intend to happen. I credit Options Light as the progenitor, and leave all the license and Readme (except the header part) in tact.

    Please let me know if this is acceptable and in the spirit of what you are trying to accomplish. I’m sure others will probably want to do similar stuff after they have tweaked around their masterpieces, so they will probably be interested in your thoughts as well.

    Thanks again for the awesome work.

  6. You’re welcome to release the child theme on your blog, just not the parent theme (Options), so you’d want to point potential users to the Options theme page.

    Also, you can share it over on the support forums for others. I’m hoping to continue adding to our Extend section to allow for users to share their own child themes. Currently, we’re only using it as an ideas forum.

    This is definitely in the spirit of the Theme Hybrid community, which also just happens to be in the spirit of the WordPress community.

    I encourage users to do this type of stuff. Heck, if you wanted to, you could even sell your own child themes, which is the idea behind the business here — release high-quality parent themes for free and monetize some of the child themes.

  7. Justin, thanks for the clarification. This child theme process should make it so much easier for the non-coder to contribute to the community. The Extend section idea sounds great too. I’m looking forward to seeing what all people come up with.

  8. This child theme process should make it so much easier for the non-coder to contribute to the community.

    That’s part of the plan. There are a lot of great designers out there, but some of them don’t know how or have the time to code an entire theme.

    I’m hoping to have my Hybrid theme out at some point. It’s a complete theme framework, which should allow all kinds of customizations through child themes. It’s much more powerful than anything I’ve built before.

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