Add Child Theme Support to Any WordPress Theme

photo credit: Leeroy
photo credit: Leeroy

If you’re a developer, you may take for granted how easy it is for you to create a child theme for storing customizations separate from the parent theme. This one seemingly simple task can pose a significant hurdle for your average WordPress user. Without understanding the best practice of creating a child theme, users resort to cramming all changes into the active theme. This puts them in a vulnerable position when security updates are available but they cannot update without overwriting their changes.

Matt Gibbs, lead developer of FacetWP, has created a little project to help users with creating child themes. “Use Child Theme” is a simple drop-in PHP class that theme developers can use to alert their users to activate a child theme and automatically create one for them.

“Normally, themes have to point users to a child theme documentation page or link to a pre-built child theme zip,” Gibbs said. “Most users don’t even bother.”

Gibbs said the Use Child Theme project was built to make it easy for theme authors to support it. The project was also an offshoot of his experiences supporting FacetWP.

“I do a lot of plugin support, and this issue keeps coming up over and over,” Gibbs said. “Users are on super old theme versions and they’re afraid to upgrade because they’ve modified the parent theme at one point, and don’t want to lose changes.”

The idea behind Use Child Theme is to automatically create a child theme for someone who otherwise might not know how to create one. It’s not a plugin but rather a tool that theme developers can opt to include with just one line in functions.php:

include( dirname( __FILE__ ) . '/use-child-theme.php' );

WordPress theme developers, is this a method you would consider using to prompt users to activate a child theme? Or would you rather rely on links to documentation and/or a download link to a pre-built child theme?

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