WordPress Parent and Child Theme Development Beginner Guide

Want to know what is a WordPress theme, why child themes are important and difference between parent and child theme. We have covered it all.

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WordPress not only makes it simple and easy to publish content online, but it is very developer friendly as well.

Creating themes for WordPress is very simple and easy. In this WordPress theme development beginner guide, you will learn about WordPress parent and child themes. There are so many premium and free WordPress Themes available.

If you are not familiar with WordPress and never heard of it, WordPress is a free and open source Content Management System (CMS) or a blogging tool. You can build 35+ type website with WordPress.

To start a blog with WordPress, you need web hosting and to make your blog look great you need a WordPress theme with elegant design and useful features.

To learn more about WordPress hosting read How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting Provider at FancyThemes.

There are two common ways to create a website with the custom design. Buy a Powerful, Highly Customize-able and Very Popular WordPress Theme or create a unique design for your website or blog yourself and convert your design into a WordPress theme.

What is a WordPress Theme?

According to WordPress Codex

A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software. WordPress Codex

There are many online Market Places and shops to Buy premium high quality and highly customize able WordPress Themes. But you can download 1000’s of free themes from WordPress Themes Directory.

In simple words, you can say WordPress themes are used to design websites and blogs, but remember WordPress themes can do much more than that.

WordPress Parent Themes and Child Themes

There are two ways to create WordPress themes.

  • Create a WordPress theme from scratch (Difficult and complicated especially for beginners)
  • Create a Child Theme (recommended and easy way)

Recommended Reading: How To Create Child Theme In WordPress Step By Step

Creating WordPress themes from scratch can be very difficult and complicated for beginner web designer and developers. Every theme developer has their own ways to create WordPress themes from scratch.

  • Some developer create a design first, Adobe Photoshop is very popular software to create design for websites.
  • In next step Theme developer will convert their design into HTML and CSS. It is called PSD to HTML conversion.
  • In 3rd step developer will convert HTML templates into WordPress Themes.

Converting HTML templates in to working WordPress theme can be complicated and difficult process. Some developer use their own custom build WordPress theme frameworks to create Themes, Some use starter WordPress themes. Underscore, HTML5 Blank, Roots  , bones are few free starter themes.

Getting started with WordPress starter themes will be difficult for you if you are new to theme development and don’t have a good understanding of HTML and CSS.

If you are new to WordPress theme development, I will say don’t go with this approach to build WordPress themes. Creating themes from scratch is very difficult and complicated process for beginners.

Knowledge required to build WordPress Themes from scratch

If you want to create WordPress themes from scratch, then you will have to learn following languages.

  • Good knowledge of HTML and CSS 
  • PHP (Basic to advance knowledge, depend on your theme development features )
  • JavaScript (Optional)

Child theme Development : is second method to build WordPress themes. It is much simpler and easy way to build themes, as a beginner theme developer you can start creating child themes.

What you need to build WordPress Child Themes

  • Parent Theme
  • Child theme directory (folder)
  • style.css, index.html and functions.php files under child theme directory
  • HTML and CSS skills

To create child Theme only basic knowledge of HTML and CSS is required. But if you want to change a design completely and want to change a lot of things, then advance knowledge of HTML and CSS will be very helpful.

You can also use front end development frameworks to create child themes. For example at the time of writing this article, I am using twenty sixteen child theme. Parent WordPress theme is Twenty Sixteen. If you have seen the design of WordPress 2016 theme, then you can see the difference between 2016 and design of this website.

You can also use CSS Frameworks to create child themes very easily, with out learning advanced HTML, CSS, and PHP.

Bootstrap is a free front end development framework to create responsive websites quickly and easily with ready to use HTML, CSS and JavaScript components. If you know how to use HTML and CSS then you can start using Bootstrap framework.

You can also use Bootstrap framework to build Parent and child themes for WordPress. I often use the Bootstrap framework to create WordPress themes.

Resources to learn WordPress Theme Development

If you are a beginner and want to know how to create custom WordPress themes from scratch or how to create WordPress child themes, there are so many online resources that will help you to be a master WordPress theme developer.

Here are few resources to learn WordPress Theme Development

Official WordPress Theme Development Documentation  good for understanding what are WordPress Themes, what they do and how to get started, but can be difficult to create themes from scratch. Must read to understand the basics of theme development.

Official WordPress child theme documentation : introduction to child theme development and why you should use WordPress child themes.

Creating a WordPress Theme From Static HTML: Releasing Your Theme : This is step by step series published on TutsPlus network,

Making the Perfect WordPress Theme: Introduction : this is another series published on TutsPlus network, written by Baris Unver.

Tools and Habits of Quality WordPress Theme Developers : This is another good  article for theme development published on TutsPlus by

Adaptive Blog Theme: Beginning Theme Development: This is video series by Adi Purdila for TutsPlus. This video series is highly recommended by me. This video series helped me to learn theme development from scratch.

25 WordPress Theme Development Tutorials to Get Started : This is list article published by Rockable themes. They have published a list of some awesome online resources to learn WordPress theme development.

A Guide To The Options For WordPress Theme Development This article was written by Rachell McCollin for SmashingMagazine, one of the most popular blog for web designer and developers. This article is not for a beginner but will be very helpful after learning some basic Theme development skills.

WORDPRESS THEME DEVELOPMENT TOOLS To get started with WordPress theme development you need some essential tools, ThemeShaper has listed some awesome tools that will help you to get started with WordPress theme development.

Final Words

These are few resources to learn WordPress Theme Development, there are many other online resources, video series and tutorials as well. But I believe if you will follow these tutorials and series you will be able to build themes from scratch yourself.

Want to say something share your views in comments.

About Author: Muhammad Shahid

I love to share my knowledge with others. Writing about WordPress and blogging is fun because you can learn from and share it with the community. I love to help my brother Tahir with this site.

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